Nearly everyone will experience minor back pain or problems in their lifetime. Nearly all of these problems are preventable if we just take the time to care for our backs properly. The majority of back stiffness and chronic back pain can occur while we are sleeping. Apply the following ideas to maintain a healthy back.
SITTING AND STANDING
- Your pillow should support your neck, but too many pillows can cause neck strain. Sleep on a contoured pillow to avoid neck strain - you want to keep your neck and spine in-line while you sleep.
- Try putting a small pillow between your knees when you sleep. This will help keep your hips in-line, avoiding lower back stiffness.
- Ensure your mattress is big enough for you and your partner. If you are sharing a small mattress, you may sleep in awkward positions because you are being crowded out.
- Buy a better mattress. How old is your mattress? A saggy mattress contributes to muscle stiffness and chronic back pain.
- If you have trouble sleeping, try lying on your back with a pillow under your knees, or sleeping on your side with your knees bent and a pillow between your knees.
- Your bed should be a height that makes it easy to get into and out of. When getting in, sit on the edge, lower your body on to one elbow and shoulder, and draw up your knees and then feet. Reverse the procedure to get out.
- Your bed should allow ease of movement but mold to the contours of your body.
- Don't assume that a bed marked 'orthopedic' is what you need - the word can just be used as a marketing tool.
A lot of chronic back problems are rooted in poor posture. When sitting, try and choose a firm backed chair. Sit with your buttocks well to the back of the chair and your back will naturally fall properly into the backrest of the chair. When sitting in a chair without a backrest, strive to sit up straight. Drop your shoulders down and bring your chest up, like there is a string coming down from the roof, pulling your chest up. This technique for good posture should also be applied when you are standing.
When sitting at a computer, make sure that the monitor is situated directly in front of you. If sitting for a long period of time, get up and stretch often. If standing at a counter for long periods of time it is a good idea to place one foot on a small stool.
You should analyze your footwear. Replace running shoes every 6-8 months since they are made from soft materials and flatten after repeated use, causing your foot to lose support, which in turn will cause back problems. Consider buying orthopedic inserts for your shoes, these will aid in proper foot support, reducing back pain.
BENDING AND LIFTING
Incorrect lifting can harm your back. Always bend your knees when stooping to pick something up, don't bend at the waist. If you are doing a lot of lifting or physical work, one of the best ways to protect your back is to wear a weight lifting belt. This will give your back support when doing activities such as heavy yard work or moving furniture and help to prevent back strain and pain.
It is important to do some strengthening exercises to keep your back muscles strong. Weight lifting and stretching exercises will increase muscle tone and make your back healthier. It is also beneficial to strengthen your abdominal muscles. Having weak abs will cause strain on your back. Consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program and work with a personal trainer to start, so you understand the proper technique. Trainers are often a free service with your membership to a gym or local recreation center.
If you follow the tips listed here then you can help alleviate minor problems and back pain and will help you avoid missed days from work, trips to the doctor or chiropractor and stop you from missing out on family play time. Enjoy good health!
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