To Your Health
August, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 08)
2. Practice Proper Ergonomics
Think safety: When you make your everyday activities safe to perform, it will help reduce the undue stress on your body.
This includes having your computer work stations at home and at your office set up properly for your body. Generally speaking, the keyboard height should be the same height as when your arms are comfortably at your side with the elbows bent. The mouse should also be close to your dominant wrist while your arms are at your sides.
Avoid poor posture: Whenever you sit, it is safest to sit on a full-back chair with plenty of support. Crossing the ankles is fine, but do not cross your legs. This puts tremendous pressure on the lower back, contributing to back pain. Also, if you are experiencing low back pain, it's a good idea not to sit on the couch or sofa, since they are typically too soft and unsupportive for the low back.
Low Back Pain:
One Symptom, Many Potential Causes
(Including the Following)
• Strenuous activity, overuse or improper use (repetitive or heavy lifting, vibration, pressure, etc.)
• Physical trauma, injury or fracture
• Obesity (often caused by increased weight on the spine and pressure on the discs)
• Poor muscle tone in the core or stabilizing muscles of the back
• Tightness, spasm, injury and strain of back muscles
• Joint problems (e.g., spinal stenosis - narrowing of the spinal canal, which compresses the spinal cord and nerve roots)
• Protruding or herniated (slipped) disk
• Arthritis or degeneration of vertebrae due to stress and the effects of aging - osteoarthritis, spondylitis (inflammation of the spinal vertebrae), compression fractures, etc.
When lifting items, use the legs and the trunk of the body rather than the arms. Always bring objects closer to your abdomen or chest, as that is the center of gravity and support for most people. Try to avoid bending the back while you lift.
Sleep well: The most supportive position for the body during sleep is on your back with a pillow under your knees. The next best position is on your side with a pillow between your knees and your head on a pillow that is thick enough to span the distance of your neck to the shoulders. A neck pillow that is too thin will kink the neck and could lead to neck and upper back pain down the road.
3. Exercise Regularly
We all know how important it is to participate in some type of regular exercise. Some of you already do that. Whether it be walking, playing sports or going to the gym, make sure you set up a program that keeps you consistent. Exercise helps the human body in so many ways, but one of the most important aspects involves stretching and strengthening of your back muscles. Often these muscles are referred to as core muscles of the body because they are located very close to the spine.
The core muscles help move and protect your spine when it is stressed or strained. By keeping them flexible and toned, you prevent pain and injuries from happening. When you are developing an exercise plan, talk to your doctor for ideas on what areas of the body you should specifically focus on to get maximum results, both in terms of overall fitness and protecting the back from injury.