Things You Can Do Every Day to Keep a Healthy Spine : With all the hustle and bustle of daily activity, concerns for our bodily health, including the health of our spine, gets left behind, somewhere at the back of our minds and our heads. Often enough, the consequences of this chronic neglect will start to manifest in our middle age, through various back problems accompanied by excruciating pain.
All this has some element of the tragic to it — in the classical sense of the word – because of whether or not we’re going to develop spine conditions is somewhat dictated by our genes; but the modern misappropriation of the word still applies, since it’s not hard at all to take the necessary precautions to keep this from happening.
Keeping a straight back at work
Maintaining proper body posture while seated goes a long way towards keeping your spine in good shape. This is especially true today, when most women tend to work at a desk with a computer screen and keyboard in front of them.
Slouching for eight or more hours a day doesn’t just leave us with a sour back when standing up afterwards, but can have some serious repercussions in the long run. Everyone seems to agree that keeping a straight back is crucial for proper sitting, even if it might not come naturally at first.
We can achieve this very comfortably by propping our buttocks against the chair’s backrest, so that our lower spine comes in full contact with the back of the chair. Our feet should be flat against the ground, with ankles at 90 degrees. Our hands will naturally rest on the desk, and ideally, these should be in line with the surface.
So, the stereotypical schoolmarm telling her young pupils to “sit straight” is basically correct, apparently. She might be right with this one, but she’s wrong in other respects.
Do be restless in your chair!
Maintaining proper body posture might be a good general directive, but this doesn’t mean we should always sit at attention like we’re some Prussian military cadre. Keeping the same posture for long – even the proper one – can hurt our backs just the same.
If we have to stay seated for a long time, we should also remind ourselves to change position once in a while. This might seem like a no-brainer, but many of us tend to get so glued to what we are doing that we end up freezing in place for hours on end. Our bodies do cry out in pain when finally standing up afterwards, but the thought of changing our seated position never seems to come to fore.
Well, that pain might add over time to a serious health issue. Futzing around in your chair does a lot to prevent that, so moving your torso about while having to stay on your sit is always a good idea.
Exercise after idleness
While it might always be a good idea when at work to rise up from your chair, get in front of your manager, and with a decisive voice tell him “Hey, how’s it going!”, this will hardly be a sufficient workout as the daily requirements of your spine are concerned.
A number of studies, some of which drawing upon data collected from cohorts ranging in the tens of thousands of call center employees, concluded that people who exercise after work are a lot healthier that those who don’t. The causal relation can go either way; but following basic common sense, we might be better off hitting the squash course after a long day of sitting at work than doing some more sitting in front of a TV after a long day of sitting at work.
There are about three sleeping positions we can think of: on our backs, on our bellies, and on our sides. The back sleeping position is all well and good for the spine, but few of us actually practice it. Meanwhile, sleeping 180 degrees turned over, while it may feel comfortable at the time, can leave us with some serious middle-back soars in the morning.
That’s because our spines don’t align to the natural “S” positions while we’re belly-down with our heads on a pillow and our bodies following the down curvature of a soft mattress. If you just have to keep that posture to stay dormant, simply do away with the pillow and go for a stiffer mattress.
The side sleeping position agrees with our spines the most. This should seem obvious, as it gives us more freedom to arch our backs, and we can place some hands between our torso and the bed to control for the X-axis when needed. The only obvious drawback of side-sleeping is maintaining head support.
We generally do that with our upper arms, but after falling asleep, that position often changes into a spine-straining belly down. The best way to keep minimize the stress on our upper vertebrae when sleeping on our sides is to invest in a pillow that is at least as thick as either one of our shoulders is broad.
Correct lifting techniques
Judging by the high numbers of athletes that require spinal surgery, it is little surprise that physical strain can seriously damage our backs. In day to day life, this generally means lifting heavy objects.
In a nutshell the key to lifting well is to engage your hips, very much like when doing a squat. The back should be straight, with your chest kept forward and your arms engaged.
Brittany Elmore is the marketing department manager at Marina del Rey Hospital, a center specialized in spine services, rehabilitation, surgery and recovery.
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