Low back pain and neck pain account for about half of the patients that I see in physical therapy. Back and neck pain can be complicated and there are many possible causes. Each cause has an individual course of treatment, but I tend to work on posture and body mechanics with a vast majority of my patients. Here are some things you can work on and apply to everyday life.
When You Work At A Desk
This is especially important for people who work a desk job. Try and get up and walk every 30 minutes to an hour or look into a sit-to-stand workstation. (Learn more about the effects of sitting in this article.)
Here is a checklist to allow for best sitting posture:
- You should be able to sit upright with your knees and hips at 90-degree angles and feet on the floor.
- Your computer monitor should be at eye level.
- Keep your shoulders at your sides and not rounded, your elbows bent at approximately 90 degrees and wrists near neutral (not hyper extended).
- Keep commonly used items within arm’s reach (i.e. telephone, pens, calculator) and move other objects away (i.e. calendar, pictures, clutter) for a better set-up.
- Also, if your chair doesn’t have a good lumbar support, add a lumbar pillow. This can also be useful in your vehicle.
I’m sure everyone has heard “Bend with your legs!” This is truly important. Many back injuries are caused from flexing the trunk, especially when combined with lifting and/or twisting.
Whether it’s a heavy box or your child, when lifting, remember:
- Keep the weight close to your body and feet near shoulder-width apart.
- Avoid twisting when carrying excessive loads; pivot at your feet instead.
- Do not bend at the waist, rather bend at the hips and knees.
- Keep your abdominals tight for support, but be sure to not hold your breath.
We practice the hip hinge technique with a lot of our patients and this is something you can do at home to reinforce good body mechanics.
- To practice, start by sitting down and placing a stick at the small of your back and between your shoulder blades.
- You should be able to lean forward and keep the stick against both contact points.
- If you’ve got this down, add a little knee bend as if you would pick something up.
- This is now the way you should bend and lift.
- This can also be practiced with a lunge technique if a squat is too difficult and the weight is not too heavy.
I hope this gives you a good understanding of proper posture and body mechanics and can help alleviate some of your daily back and neck pain.
I encourage you to ask questions, share your experience, and leave suggestions for future topics in the comments below. I will do my best to respond to each as timely as possible!