9 Postures and Positions To Prevent Back Pain

In this article, we encourage you to take a closer look at your body in daily life. You’ll likely discover some adjustments you can make to help reduce back pain and reinjury by keeping your body in better alignment. It’s not hard to do; you just have to be aware of what you are doing, how you are doing it, and what adjustments you need to make.

Three Keys

A simple approach to proper alignment is to think about maintaining your natural spinal curves during any task or sedentary position. When your spine is aligned, you don’t need much muscle strength to maintain it. Conversely, when you are sitting with poor posture, the muscles supporting you are chronically contracting. That exhausts your body and can lead to muscle spasms. We’re going to talk about three key concepts:

  • Posture: How you hold yourself in static positions such as sitting or standing
  • Body mechanics: The alignment of your body when you move
  • Ergonomics: Modifying an environment to align with your body

All three help evenly distribute your weight, which keeps your spine happily aligned.

At Work

Every job has its unique physical challenges. Those that involve prolonged sitting can be as hard on the back as those that require lifting. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions. Of course, life and jobs don’t line up perfectly into the following categories, but we think you’ll gain a good perspective on how best to move your body for the variety of positions that your job may require.

Computer and Desk Jobs

Both posture and ergonomics come into play here. If you constantly lean in toward the monitor because you can’t see well, both your neck and back will be unhappy. The following illustration outlines how to make your work space back-friendly.

Every decade, a new kind of chair makes the rounds for back pain. In the 1980s, the fad was those kneeling chairs; in the 1990s, exercise balls were big. Now the mesh support chair is popular. Any of these are good options, but sitting on the exercise ball is probably the best for overall core strengthening. Still, don’t think you can or should be sitting on the ball all day, that would probably be fatiguing. Instead, alternate between the ball and a conventional chair.

Prolonged Sitting

Cab drivers, truckers, and airline pilots all sit for long periods, which wreaks havoc on the back. If your seat doesn’t provide lower back support, lumbar support cushions are helpful (you can use them on office chairs, too).

Other ways to avoid risk of back strain while driving include sitting upright, placing both hands on the wheel, and keeping the back pockets empty. Sitting on a wallet stuffed to the brim will misalign your hip position. Not a happy place to be! Shifting your weight and using the cruise control option are also helpful in reducing excess pressure on the spine.

If you have tilt options for your seat, be sure that you angle the seat to distribute the weight evenly on your hips and legs. Set the distance to your pedals so that you can press them while your knee remains slightly bent when you extend your leg.

Jobs That Require Lifting

To reduce risk of injury when lifting, you want to bend your knees (not your back), hold the object close to your body, and avoid lifting any higher than shoulder level. This is as true on the job as it is at home. You should lift a child or a bag of groceries the same way.

Prolonged Standing

Teachers, restaurant staff, factory workers, and many health-care professionals work on their feet all day. Many of them (a surgeon, for example) also have to bend forward and look down. When we stand, we want to keep the spine aligned as much as possible.

Avoid slouching the shoulders when bending forward and also avoid the opposite. Thrusting the chest forward can hyperextend the lower back and cause strain. Try using a foot stool and alternate your feet to shift weight between the hips.

Large-breasted women should wear a properly supportive brassiere. Some women undergo breast reduction surgeries, which may be covered by insurance if that is believed to be a component of their back pain.

At Play

The days of swinging from the monkey bars may (or may not) be long gone for you, but you probably do enjoy many leisure activities. Whether you watch sports or participate in activities, keep the following tips in mind.

Moving It

Sports, like jobs, all have their unique demands. We talked a bit in previous chapters about the importance of training your muscles to support your favorite activities. You also need to pay attention to your posture and biomechanics while doing these activities, too.

Tips from pros are always useful. A few lessons with a golf or tennis pro, for example, will help you get your game on and correct common posture problems, too.

Believe it or not, among the most popular activities in the United States is power walking, and it’s a great, back-friendly exercise choice. But again, it’s one of those innocent-looking activities in which back pain may be lurking. Here are a few walking tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your body upright (don’t lean forward).
  • Align your head atop of your shoulders, eyes looking forward (not down). Keep your neck relaxed.
  • Keep your elbows bent (no more than 90 degrees) and hands relaxed. Don’t excessively swing your arms; instead, allow a natural swing to occur.

Your heels should reach the ground first and your foot should simply roll through the stride.

At Home

Every day you wake up, wash your face, brush your teeth, have breakfast (we hope), and continue your day. Come evening, it’s relaxation time, for most people on the couch or in front of a computer. When it comes to lights out, falling asleep may be a challenge if you have back pain. And you’ll want to be sure that your sleep position doesn’t make you wake up grouchy with pain.

Sleeping and Waking

We’ve all seen those mattress commercials promising a good night’s sleep. We’re not going to advocate any particular brand, but we are going to agree that a good mattress that supports your spine’s natural curves is best for your back. If you have trouble falling asleep, limit or eliminate caffeine and alcohol. Your room should be dark and quiet. As far as your best back-friendly sleep positions, here are some tips. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips in a neutral position. If you’re most comfortable on your back, a pillow under your knees relieves pressure on your lower back by gently flexing your hips. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as it can hyperextend your back and neck.

When you wake, roll over to the side of your bed, boost your self up with your arm as you release your legs over the edge. Don’t just pop up straight out of bed. If you’ve ever watched a cat or dog, they leisurely stretch a bit then get up. We’d be wise to do the same.

Intimacy

If your back pain has you concerned about your love life, you’re not alone. But your relationship does not have to suffer. You may have to put it off for a little while, and when you return to physical love, you may have to take it easy and try some new positions.

But why not make the return a good excuse to experiment playfully with new positions? Talk about fun! This is your chance to truly make lemonade from lemons. Of course, get your doctor’s approval regarding when and how to return, especially if you’re recovering from back surgery. Get your pillows ready! The next chapter details back-friendly ways to maintain your intimate life.

Washing Up

Slouching is every back’s enemy, so check yourself when you’re at the sink. When washing your face, don’t bend your back; bend your knees. When you shave or apply makeup, bring the mirror to you instead of leaning into it. Wall-mounted magnifying mirrors that swivel are perfect for this. If you have to bend over the sink, support part of your weight with one outstretched arm. Stand close to the sink as well so you don’t have to lean into it. Most kitchen and bathroom cabinets have a kickboard cutout designed to let you stand closer. Use it!

Watching TV

There’s nothing like being a couch potato after a long, hard day. But as we’ve already mentioned, you want to keep your back happy when watching your favorite shows. That means supportive cushions. If you’re sitting, be sure your lower back is supported with a lumbar roll or pillow and keep your feet flat on the floor. If you want to kick your feet up, they should not go higher than your hips. A little elevation is good, but you can get too much of a good thing and strain your back needlessly.

And if you’re looking for a way to sneak more exercise into your day (we’re all for that), use the time during commercials to get active instead of getting another handful of potato chips. You can stretch or do sit-up or push-up competitions with others in the room. Of course, be sure you’re using proper form in any exercise you do.

Summary

  • How you walk, sit, stand, and sleep can create or reduce back pain.
  • You can adjust your work and home environments to better fit your body.
  • Incorporate back-friendly items into your life, such as lumbar support rolls, magnifying swivel mirrors, and supportive mattresses.
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