Tight, sore shoulders and a bad back are just part of everyday life for many Americans. It might be a common problem for older adults, but not taking good care of your back can leave you with a host of health issues at any age. Take a look at these tips for taking care of your back and see if you can improve your health habits!
Do you often wake up stiff and sore? Having the wrong support for your spine won't do your sleep or your back any favors.
If you're a side sleeper, you may want to use extra pillows to support your head, side, and/or leg. The goal is to keep your spine resting in a straight, balanced position. For back sleepers, avoid craning your neck at an odd angle with too many pillows or a too-thick one. Stomach sleepers also need to take care not to hurt their backs. Sleeping on your stomach can force your head to turn at uncomfortable angles or leave your lower back unsupported, so be sure to compensate for areas where your spine is bent when you sleep.
Ditch the Chair
If, like many Americans, you spend many of your waking hours at a desk, make sure that time is spent in a good position. Sitting for long periods of time isn't healthy, especially if your posture is poor. Keep your back fairly straight. Slouching weakens core muscles and can degrade your spine over time. Also, make sure you have as much lumbar support as your body needs. Your desk should be arranged at the correct height for you to use it without hunching or reaching upward.
If you have the option, using an exercise ball chair or a standing desk might be a healthy alternative to a normal chair. Both of these options engage your core muscles and help your circulation while you're working.
Take stretch breaks often! Momentarily stepping away from your desk to relax and realign your body is healthy for both your back and your brain. You may not be able to avoid long sitting times, but you can help offset them by moving and stretching throughout the day.
Similarly, avoid looking down at your phone or similar device for long periods of time. "Text neck," also called Anterior Head Syndrome, is an increasingly common issue for heavy technology users. Text neck is a potentially painful bent-forward posture of the head, caused by damage to neck muscles and vertebrae. Other activities like reading and drawing can also contribute to this issue if you're spending time hunched over, so make sure you're not building poor posture habits with your hobbies.
Not only can you avoid texting-and-walking accidents by putting the phone away, but you'll also be improving your posture.
A Weight off Your Shoulders
Another culprit of back pain may be the way you carry things. Heavy bags and backpacks can do a surprisingly large amount of damage to your spine and shoulders if carried improperly. If you're leaning to one side to carry a hefty bag or briefcase, consider cracking down on the amount of stuff you're hauling around. Your back and shoulders will thank you for eliminating unneeded clutter.
Another strategy for managing what you carry is better centering the weight. Avoid building a long-standing habit of carrying things exclusively on one side, and wear both straps for backpacks whenever possible. For jobs involving a lot of heavy lifting (such as moving, construction, or shipping), always follow safe lifting protocols.