Our bodies are designed for regular movement. We evolved to spend our days walking, running, climbing, squatting, lifting, and reaching. Unfortunately modern society requires that most of us spend a large portion of our day sitting, whether that’s in the car, at our desks, or at home relaxing on the couch. This excessive sitting can lead to a multitude of health problems, including increased blood pressure and blood sugar. Excessive sitting also causes muscle tightness, joint dysfunction, and increased load on the spinal discs. Our top tip for preventing back pain is to incorporate regular movement into your daily routine. We’re big proponents of having a regular exercise routine, but incorporating small amounts of light movement throughout the day is equally important. Take the stairs instead of the elevator when possible. Park a bit further away in the parking lot to get in some more steps before and after shopping. Get up several times throughout the work day to stretch and walk around a bit. Take a short walk during your lunch hour. Walk your dog for 5 minutes longer each day. These small activities add up over time and help to counteract the effects that prolonged sitting has on our bodies.
We are always telling our patients to make sure they are drinking enough water throughout the day. Staying hydrated is important for overall health, and it is especially important for maintaining the health of your muscles, joints, and spinal discs. Dehydration can lead to decreased flexibility, increased stiffness, and decreased rates of tissue healing. Dehydration increases the risk of disc, muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries. The spinal discs are largely composed of water and function as shock absorbers in the spine. When the discs are dehydrated, they are unable to support the spine properly. Ideally you should aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, a 150lb adult should drink a minimum of 75oz of water daily. More water is needed during warmer weather and with rigorous activities.
Improper sleep posture is a common culprit for neck and back pain. One of our top tips for preventing back pain is make sure your sleep posture isn’t straining your back. The best positions to sleep in are on your back or on your side. If you are sleeping on your back, it’s important to place a pillow beneath the knees to decrease strain on the low back. Likewise, when sleeping on your side, placing a pillow between your knees will keep your pelvis in a neutral position and decrease strain on the spine. Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Medium to firm mattresses are usually better to support the spine. Make sure your pillow is holding your head in a neutral position, and avoid using multiple pillows if possible.
As we mentioned before, sitting at a desk all day long is tough on the spine. Making sure that your desk and workstation are set up correctly is important for preventing back pain. Your chair and desk should be positioned so that your elbows, hips, and knees are all bent at 90 degrees. Your feet should be flat on the floor. If your chair does not have good lumbar support, then using a lumbar roll can help to support proper seated posture. Make sure your shoulders are able to relax when typing or writing. Your computer monitor should be close enough that you don’t have to lean forward or strain your eyes to read. The monitor should be positioned so that the top line of text on the screen is about 15 degrees below eye level.
Occasional mild pain or stiffness is normal, and can often be alleviated by gentle stretching and light exercise. If you have ongoing or worsening pain, though, it is important to get it checked out sooner rather than later. Addressing muscle and joint injuries early on can prevent them from worsening and becoming a bigger issue. A proactive approach is always better than a reactive approach when it comes to your health. Listen to your body and don’t hesitate to take action is something doesn’t feel right.
We are happy to be a resource when it comes to preventing back pain or other muscle and joint pain. Please contact our office today to learn more about our services and how we can help you.