Vertebrae – the interlocking bones that form the spinal column – drive the momentum of our movement. But shortened hip flexors and tight muscles, particularly those in the hamstrings and chest, can affect the spine’s alignment… as can slouching in front of the computer!
Unfortunately, our modern-day lifestyles can often be the cause of our back pain and stiffness. Here’s how you can work towards a stronger spine and ultimately, a pain free back!
We tend to associate exercise with good heart health, but exercise can also support your spinal health. This is because aerobic exercise can help you stay within a healthy weight range, while also keeping your joints strong and moving as they should; two factors which contribute to good spinal health.
Forgetting to stretch before and after your workout can counteract the benefits of exercise for your spine. Pilates or yoga-style twists, either sitting or on your back, are a great way to stretch out the muscles surrounding your spine. Standing side bends can work well too.
Sit and Stand Up Straight
While many of us start our work day with our backs straight on the desk chair, it’s easy to start slumping without realising as the day goes on. Check yourself every hour or so and imagine that you’re looking at yourself standing side-on. You want your ear and middle shoulder to be in a straight line; along with your hip, mid knee and ankle.
Watch How You Sleep
Sleep is also incredibly restorative. Aim for 7-8 hours of shuteye so that your body has sufficient time to rest and repair.
Although it might feel comfy, sleeping in the fetal position isn’t ideal, as it can reverse the curves of your spine. You’ll also want to avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this can twist your neck. This is easier said than done if you’re inclined to moving to this position in your sleep but make a point of lying on your side when you get into bed. Or lie on your back with a pillow under your knees to alleviate the pressure placed on your spine.
Be Conscious of Your Phone Habits
Cradling your phone between your neck and shoulder might allow you to multitask while you’re on a call, but it will also put pressure on your spine’s vertebrae, affecting their alignment. Put some earphones in instead or put your phone on loud speaker when you’re alone!
Don’t Sit Still
In a world where many of us have jobs requiring us to sit for hours on end, plus a commute in the car, bus or train; our lifestyles are setting us up for back problems.
Sitting for long periods of time on a daily basis can cause the hip flexors to shorten, and the shoulders and neck to hunch forward. This isn’t a natural position for the spine, and it can result in the tightening of the hamstrings and gluteus muscles which can result in a slanting of the pelvis which is just an invitation for a sore back.
The best way to avoid this? Get up from your desk every hour or two. Set a reminder to move on your Fitbit, Apple Watch or an app like Standup! A bit of movement every few hours can make a world of difference to your back – be it going for a walk around the block, walking to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, or standing up and doing some shoulder rolls.
Strengthen Your Core
A strong core means a strong back. Pilates in particular can help switch on your ‘powerhouse,’ being the muscles in your abdomen, lower back, pelvic floor, and the muscles surrounding your hips and legs. Together these muscles are like a ‘corset’ for your trunk, providing interconnected strength in movement that helps keep the spine stable.
Pilates can also teach you the foundations for lifting heavy items properly and safely; switching on your core can help protect your back when lifting those groceries.
Check Your Chair
A desk chair that you can’t adjust can be all it takes to throw your spine out, especially considering that an average office worker will sit for the equivalent of 30+ years in their lifetime! An adjustable desk chair or laptop stand can help to ensure your computer is just above eye level – which means less slumping.
A pillow and mattress that provide adequate support for your neck and back is also worth investing in.
Keep Your Bag Light
If you carry an overloaded handbag or duffel bag each day, you’ll be familiar with the strain it can place on the one side of your neck, shoulders and back. If you’ve got a lot to carry (a laptop, your sneakers and a heavy wallet) a backpack that balances the load is more ideal.
If you carry your wallet in your back pants pocket, make a point of taking it out your pocket when you’re sitting, be it at your desk or whilst you’re driving.
Invest in a Nubax
The final piece of the puzzle, this portable therapeutic traction device is no gimmick. Using a clinically tested and proven technique for lower back traction relief, the Nubax lets you independently create a decompression force that’s right for YOU… no hanging like a bat needed!
Simply face frontward, lean forward, and you’ll feel a good back stretch! When you feel like you’ve had enough, or after three minutes, just stand up using your hands to help you up. Try this three times a day in the comfort of your home – perhaps before work, after work and before you go to sleep, or whenever works for you!
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the significant difference this can make to your range of motion… you might just find yourself twisting and bending in every which way, minus the back pain!