Most people will experience back pain during their lifetimes. In fact, the incidence of neck and back pain is continuing to rise and is now considered an epidemic in most industrialized nations.
Many people continue to experience back and or neck pain that persists for weeks, months, even years, which can have a significant financial and social impact on them, not to mention a decreased quality of life. Most alarming is that spinal pain is increasing in children and adolescents.
Why do I have neck and back pain?
While everyone is different, there are several risk factors that contribute to neck and back pain, including:
- Prolonged sitting
- Sustained awkward postures
- Repeated or heavy lifting
The good news is that you have control over most of these factors. Evidence is emerging that implicates poor posture and faulty lifting mechanics in causing or perpetuating neck and back pain.
The road to a healthier spine starts with good posture
When seated, avoid slouching, jutting your head forward, and rounding your lower back. Instead, sit in a chair with your hips slightly higher than your knees, keep your head and shoulders lightly pulled back, and maintain the natural curve in your low back (sometimes placing a rolled up towel between your low back and chair can help).
Lifting body mechanics: posture is key!
Before you go picking up something heavy, keep these basic posture tips in mind:
When picking an object up from the floor, position yourself close to the object, bend your hips and knees (not your low back) in order to bring your body to the object. Then grab the object, keeping it close to you, and raise it off the floor by straightening your hips and knees. Lifting in this way avoids placing excessive strain on your low back.
If you have to repeatedly lift objects above your head, which places strain on your neck and shoulders, stand on a stool or a riser so that you do not have to lift the object overhead.
Exercise’s role in neck and back health
Some studies suggest that neck and low back pain are more common in industrialized countries where desk jobs are the norm. Exercise has been shown to improve mood, and to promote weight loss and quality sleep, factors that also promote spine health.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week.
In order to have a healthy spine, some lifestyles changes may be necessary. Learning and implementing good posture and lifting mechanics may help prevent spinal pain. Many have sedentary jobs, and simply setting an alarm every hour as a cue to take a quick stroll around the office or at least re-establish good posture can go a long way in promoting optimal spinal health.