A healthy spine is an often overlooked and essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Approximately 80 percent of the population in the United States suffers from back pain at some point. People who are overweight, smoke, lift heavy objects, or have had a previous episode of back pain at greater risk of experiencing back pain.
It’s important to keep your spine as healthy as possible. Following simple posture, lifting, and healthy lifestyle guidelines can help you keep your back in good shape. Here are some basic spinal health tips:
- When standing, keep one foot slightly in front of the other, with your knees slightly bent. This position helps to take the pressure off your low back.
- Keep your head level. Your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders. Do not push your head forward, backward or to the side.
- If you’re standing for a long period of time, shift your weight from your toes to your heels, or one foot to the other.
- Always avoid twisting when you’re lifting. Twisting is one of the most dangerous movements for your spine.
- If an item is too heavy to lift, pushing it is easier on your back than pulling it. Whenever possible, use your legs, not your back or upper body, to push the item.
- If you must lift a heavy item, get someone to help you.
- Keep your knees slightly lower than your hips, with your head up and your back straight.
- Avoid rolling your shoulders forward (slouching).
- Try to maintain the natural curve in your low back.
Reaching & Bending
- When reaching for something above shoulder level, stand on a stool. Straining to reach objects may not only hurt your mid-back and neck, but it can also cause shoulder problems.
- Do not bend over at the waist to pick up items from the floor or a table. Instead, kneel down on one knee, as close as possible to the item you are lifting, with the other foot flat on the floor and pick the item up. You can also bend at the knees, keep the item close to your body, and lift with your legs, not your back.
- Place a pillow under your knees while lying on your back to reduce the pressure on your spine.
- Lying on your side with a pillow between your knees may also reduce the pressure on your back.
- Never sleep in a position that causes a portion of your spine to hurt. Most often, your body will tell you what position is best for you.
- When texting, bring your arms up in front of your eyes so that you don’t need to look down to see your phone screen.
- When using a computer or mobile device, look down with your eyes and make sure you can scan the entire screen without moving your head.
- When sitting at a computer, make sure your feet are flat on the floor with your knees lower than your hips. Make sure you can use your mouse and keyboard without reaching.
- Never pinch your phone between your ear and shoulder. To work hands-free, opt for a headset or Bluetooth device to avoid neck and shoulder strain.