Our spine is easily overlooked, yet it contributes in some form to everything we do.
Regardless of the activity, our spine works in conjunction with our muscles and joints to help us maintain our body’s posture, protect our spinal cord, and enjoy mobility and flexibility. However, just as our back attributes to movement, back or neck pain can stop us from doing the things we love.
As the weather warms up and spring begins to encourage activity for all – whether it be indoor cleaning or outdoor recreation – I want to share a few tips to help prevent pain, protect your spine and give your back a break.
• When standing, keep one foot slightly in front of the other and keep your knees slightly bent.
• Sit with your knees slightly higher than your hips to provide support for your lower back.
• When attempting to reach something above shoulder level, stand on a secure stool or platform to assist you.
• Pushing heavy items places less strain on your back than pulling. Remember to ask for assistance.
• When lifting, use proper body mechanics: Bend and lift with your legs, not with your back.
• When carrying items, be sure to keep them close to your body.
• Modify repetitive tasks if possible, and alternate physically demanding tasks with less demanding activities.
• Change positions often.
• Take frequent short breaks to relax and stretch your back.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Exercise regularly to strengthen muscles and bones.
• Stop smoking; Tobacco restricts blood flow to the bones and discs of the spine.
Pay attention to your posture. Posture can do more than you think in preventing spine problems.
Balance your weight on both feet while standing. When sitting, choose a chair with proper height and keep both feet flat on the floor, knees even with your hips. Support your lower back with a rolled towel or pillow. Remove anything from your back pockets that would shift your weight more to one side. Routinely engage in exercises that build and maintain abdominal and back muscle strength. Strengthening these muscles makes proper posture easier and takes the work off of your spine.
Being cognizant of your spine now in order to prevent problems later will ensure that you can remain active and enjoy the things you love for a long time to come!
Registered nurse Mindy Forsman is the clinical coordinator for the North Mississippi Medical Center Spine Center.