Five Everyday Practices to Keep Your Client’s Back Healthy
Back pain is common in our society, and perhaps for some, even expected. If you have experienced back pain, you know it can wreak havoc on everyday activities making everything more difficult. So how do you “back proof” your life to either proactively minimize the risk of getting back pain or resolve current back pain? You can implement these five tips into your or your client’s day to improve back health.
Minimize Sitting Time
Unfortunately, the use of technology has turned us into a sedentary, seated society. This has led to poor posture and back pain due to the stresses these positions place on the spine. When we sit, we place our body into bi-flexed position (flexion at both the hips and knees), leading to shortening of the flexor groups at these joints and poor mobility and compensations in the opposing extensor groups. To combat this, set a timer every 20 minutes or so to stand up, reach high up over head (think about elongating the spine) for 10 seconds and then relax and walk around for a few seconds before sitting back down. If possible, try getting a standing desk if you are required to be at your desk for the majority of the work week.
Be Mindful of Your Sitting Posture
Not all work spaces are created equal, but we can adjust what we have at our disposal to put us in a spine safe position. When you are positioning yourself, you should have a mild curve in the lower back (lordotic curve). So what is the right amount of curve? Well, more important than the amount of curve (as this will vary between people) is that your position is pain free and allows the musculature in the lower back to relax. It is recommended that you have some level of support for this area. If it is not built into your chair, use a small hand towel – roll it up and position it just above your lower back. For your shoulders, do not slouch or reach forward. Keep your shoulders back against the seat rest and your elbows at your side.
Use Proper Lifting Technique
Many people experience their back pain when they are lifting objects from the floor or reaching for objects. This can be a result of micro movements between the vertebrae due to weakness in the local stability system or over-activation of a specific muscle group caused by imbalances. Therefore, it is crucial to teach your body how to move properly and build it up to withstand the stresses of everyday life. Learn how to hip hinge properly and work on spinal stability to help minimize compressive and sheer forces on the vertebral disks and save your back while you lift.
Move With Purpose
The best thing you can do for your back is to move often using purposeful movement. This means that you need to find active ways to fill your time during the day. When you are at work, avoid sitting for eight hours straight. When you get home from work, don’t head straight for the couch to watch TV. Go for more walks, climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator, play with your kids on the floor or outside, work out, play sports, anything. Move during the day, and rest at night.
Be Cautious With Stretching
Many of us have been taught that pain in our back is due to tight hamstrings and tight back extensors, so we constantly try to stretch these muscles to relieve the tension because it feels good. The truth is that we may be doing more harm than good. When you perform a static stretch, the stretch reflex is activated and then habituated, reducing the signaling to the muscle and causing it to relax. This gives you 15-20 minutes of relief before the tightness then returns as the stretching does not address the true issue.
If you do not currently suffer from back pain, ensure you keep it that way by continuing to focus on proper posture and using purposeful movement throughout your day. If, on the other hand, you do have back pain, focus on using pain free movements and positions to desensitize the back first and then slowly begin to add proper movement patterns to your routine in order to expand your repertoire of pain-free movement.
By: Adam Jongsma, R.Kin, M.Sc., CSCS
canfitpro PRO TRAINER (PTS & CPR) and Owner of Kinetic Performance