Spinal health continues to be one of the most important aspects of your wellbeing. Millions of people experience neck and back pain every day. According to Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, back pain is a leading cause of work limitations and one of the costliest conditions in the U.S. People miss work, lose income, and experience pain, which are all great reasons to practice good body mechanics at work and at home.
With mobile devices in every hand and laptops and tablets in others, more young people report “text neck” or “tech neck,” which is a repetitive strain injury in the cervical spine. This newer problem underscores the importance of proper posture, ergonomics, and stretching.
Proper Body Mechanics Begins with Posture
One thing everyone can control is their posture, but not everyone attends to it like they should. Improving your posture can go a long way to achieving proper body mechanics and avoiding aches and pains caused by bad sitting and standing habits.
When standing, the spine should be upright, from the top of the head to the tailbone. The chin should be slightly tucked to keep the neck in line. Knees should be relaxed, not locked, and the weight should be balanced over all parts of the feet. This should create a feeling of ease throughout the body.
When sitting, the most important aspect of good posture and body mechanics is that the hips should be positioned slightly higher than the knees. Again, the back should be straight with the feet touching the floor. If a chair is too high or too low, it may cause back pain or back strain. A chair that is too low will not only place the knees higher than the hips, but it is also difficult to get out of a low-slung chair, causing strain on the knees, as well as the back.
When standing or sitting, avoid leaning on nearby surfaces, shifting to one leg, or placing one elbow on a chair arm. These bad postures can create an imbalance between each side of your spine and cause strain on one hip, elbow, or shoulder. Leaning back in chairs or soft couches can also have a negative effect on your back. When sitting for long periods, you can stand up and stretch to help keep your spine balanced and supple.
Practice Good Ergonomics at Work and at Home
Another step you can take to prevent back pain and neck pain is to practice good ergonomics. Ergonomics is your relationship to objects that you interact with, such as your desk or equipment.
If your workplace has someone who can optimize your workstation, take advantage of it. They will provide tips and tricks for placing your computer components in the right positions for your height and arm length. Computer screens should be a certain distance from your eyes, while your keyboard and mouse should be within easy reach and a proper height.
There are many ergonomic devices that can help prevent strain on the body, such as vertical mice and split keyboards. Footrests can be procured if a desk chair is too tall or if you need a place to prop one foot while standing for long periods.
When you do physical work, such as lifting a laundry basket or box, remember to keep the item close to you, set your core, and bend and lift with your legs. Do not bend over at the waist to lift an item! Never lift something by yourself that seems too heavy for you. Ask for help. Always be mindful when lifting, as it is a common cause of injury.
Do You Stretch?
If you’re feeling more frequent aches and pains, one simple solution to try is stretching every hour. Regular stretching is beneficial as a mental and physical break, as it increases blood flow. It also helps keep muscles from becoming stiff and activates the joints.
Always stretch gently and mindfully. It should never hurt to stretch! For example, a simple neck stretch, bending the head to each side, is a good place to start. Take it to the point before you feel any pain, and hold the stretch for 10 counts. Breathe through the stretch. Repeat the stretch three times on each side and see how it feels. It should feel better!
Treatments for Neck Pain and Back Pain
As a practitioner of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Stemmerman has experience using non-invasive manipulation techniques to relieve pain. These hands-on treatments often involve massaging and stretching the areas where you feel pain. Osteopathic techniques complement traditional treatments to help get patients out of pain more naturally.
Studies have indicated that people who are in fair or poor physical condition are more likely to have back pain. Regular exercise and stretching, under a doctor’s direction, can help minimize back pain by strengthening muscles and improving blood flow to promote healing. Improving your physical condition doesn’t have to be difficult. Walking is one simple exercise that can help your posture and your back. Consult your doctor if you’re new to exercise. She can guide you on the steps to take to begin an exercise routine.
When you come to Dr. Stemmerman for an injury, she will present you with your treatment options, which may include over-the-counter or prescription medications, Osteopathic techniques, topical analgesics, or other therapies.
To avoid musculoskeletal pain, remember to take care of your neck and back with gentle stretches, proper posture, and good ergonomics. If you have pain or want to start an exercise regimen to improve the strength of your back and core, contact Infinity Medical Clinic for help.