As the saying goes, “If you have spine you have at one time or another felt back pain.” Most people feel back pain due to inactivity or lack of proper back movement throughout the day. Over time this lack of motion can create tension, tight muscles, shortening of spinal ligaments, muscle weakness. So how does one keep the back healthy for a lifetime?
Ergonomics is usually associated with your work desk. But lets think of ergonomics in any situation where you perform a sustained task. Sleep, driving, a pillow, your shoes, positions you relax in.
Your sleep surface should support your hips and shoulders giving you a neural posture on your side and on your back. There are many different mattresses, some without a box spring support (sleep comfort and tempurpedic). Look for a mattress at a store that assesses you, gives you choices and a 30 day return policy.
Your pillow should support your neck, not lift your head. A side sleeper needs a slightly thicker pillow due to a bigger distance between the neck and shoulder. I recommend a water filled pillow for most sleeping situations because you can adjust this pillows height and firmness.
Your company should offer you an ergonomic assessment to assess your desk-chair, keyboard-mouse, monitor arrangement. You want a basic arrangement where your chair can get close to your desk so your arms are bent and relaxed. A keyboard tray is a must as this assists in keeping the arms/shoulder relaxed and back upright in the chair. The monitor is set to eye level and centered, if you use duel monitors then you may want a “standing” Desktop as an option.
Your shoes are your foundation and support your feet and three different arches, contribute to you standing posture such as neutral pelvis and body lean. If you are wearing out the inside edge of your shoes you are tilting in or pronating your foot/feet (up to 80% of the population). This can contribute to knee pain, ITB band pain, hip pain, plantar pain, low back pain. If you are wearing the outer edges of your shoes then you are tilting outwards or supinating your feet. This can give you low back pain, ITB Band pain, shin pain, sacroiliac joint pain. Have your feet assessed by a chiropractor for proper shoe support or even active orthotics. I use Comfort Fit orthotics when necessary because they are reasonably priced, last 2-3 years, and are inexpensive to refurbish.
When driving your arms and legs should be bent to relax your shoulders and keep your back in the seat. A lumbar support should be used to keep you pelvis neutral. If you are sitting in your care seat and you feel as if your bellybutton is being pulled in then you need more anterior pelvic tilt. Increase your lumbar support.
How you relax
Your posture when you relax can contribute to your back pain, If you sit all day, sit when you commute, then sit when you come home, you poor spine has basically not moved all day. This leads to back deconditioning, shortened spinal ligaments, compressed spinal discs. When you relax on a couch you are probably still tilting the pelvis backwards and rounding the spine. When you sit all day you are constantly flexing the spine, the hips and the knees. You are not using 1/2 of your body!
MOVE AND STRETCH
When you come home in the evening you need to spend some time stretching and moving. The health of your spinal joints, hips, and knees is dependent on movement for circulation and lubrication. The old saying goes “if you don’t use it you lose it” holds true here. During the work day follow a simple rule: 3-4 micro-breaks a day. A micro-break is a series a few simple stretches performed for 30-60 seconds, that’s it. OSHA recommends micro-breaks to elevate strain and stress placed on joints, muscle, ligaments when they don’t move for sustained periods.
Here is an example of 8 simple stretches for your low back and hips. These could be performed 5 days per week for benefit and consistency. Remember these stretches are not a diagnosis or a cure for your individual low back pain. If you have not stretched on a regular basis, have current spinal disc problems these PLEASE consult your primary care doctor FIRST! Before you perform these stretches.
- From <http://www.msn.com/en-us/health/exercise-browse?Filter=category%7C1~equipment%7C4&cluster=fitness>
REMEMBER: If you have a specific low back condition such as spinal stenosis, disc herniation, severe arthritis THEN CONSULT your primary healthcare provider BEFORE starting these exercises.