Spinal Wellness Tips

For a healthy spine, keep these tips in mind!

Standing

If you know you will be standing for an extended period, it is important to wear supportive shoes and use good posture. When standing, the head should line up with shoulders, hips, knees and ankleswith the the chin, level, and shoulders, back. Also, keeping abdominal muscles engaged protects the low back. Knees should not be "locked" and feet should carry weight equally, feet positioned about shoulder­-width apart.  Good posture and proper spinal alignment reduce the potential for injury and slow wear and tear.

Working at a Desk

When seated, it is again important to keep the head over the shoulders, the shoulders pulled back but relaxed, and the shoulder lined up with the hips.  A chair with lower back support or a pillow behind the low back can prevent slouching and reduce strain.  The chair height should be adjusted so thighs are parallel to the ground, knees are at a 90 degree angle and feet are resting flat on the floor.  Forearms should also be parallel to the ground with wrists supported and in a neutral position for typing.  Computer screens should be at eye­-level and positioned in front of you to prevent neck strain .  And finally, it is important to a few minutes at least every hour to walk and stretch.

Lifting

Lifting objects is one of the most common ways people get injured. To reduce this risk, always lift while keeping the back straight. Squat down to the object with one foot slightly in front of the other, hold the item close to the body, and then lift by straightening the legs. Never twist while picking up or setting down an object. Instead, once fully upright, turn the whole body by moving your feet to face the area where the object is to be placed.  Keeping the object close to the body and back straight, bend the legs to lower it all the way down. Special note, some items are just too heavy for one person to lift safely. 

Warming Up for Physical Activity

Before extended work, sports or other physical activities, it is often helpful to be "warmed up."  This can include a warm shower and a short walk or gentler movements before the more intense activity. Even when only performing light activities, like gardening or pushing your child on a bike, it's easy to pull something if you don’t prepare your body.  Keeping the body primed with regular exercise is another important way to provide the strength and flexibility needed for all physical activity.

Phones

If using a phone for a long period of time, a speaker or a headset is a must. Do not cradle a phone between your head and shoulder as this can cause neck pain and muscle tension.   Additionally, when using a cell phone, remember to keep your body upright and phone closer to eye level. Having the head bent forward will also strain the neck and shoulder areas.  

Sleeping

It is important to be properly supported during sleep. It is ideal to rest with the head in a neutral position. A pillow that is too high or low or an angled head position can cause stress to the neck.  A poor mattress can also contribute low back pain.  Some people find it helpful to use extra pillows to keep the body supported.  When on the back, a pillow under the knees can reduce low back tension.  When lying on one side, a pillow between the knees can reduce knee and hip joint stress. Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended due to the increased strain it puts on the neck and low back.

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