Even the fittest individuals know the inconvenience of back pain. Though it seems to pop up out of no where sometimes, more likely than not your household and work environments could be contributing to the demise of your poor back.
Luckily, Leah Hennen of Prevention Magazine provided some possible daily culprits and subsequent solutions that could make a world of difference in your back health. Read on…
The Culprit: Harmful housework
Cleaning high windows or tub corners can be murder on your back. “Bending, reaching, and twisting all at once is the worst thing you can do,” says Ann Brinkley, DC, a holistic chiropractor in San Francisco; it can actually herniate a disk.
Cheap fix: Think of chores as a sport “Spend a few minutes warming up beforehand to protect against injury,” suggests Gerald Silverman, DC, a chiropractor in New York City.
Cheap fix: Use proper form To lift heavy objects, bend at the knees rather than at the waist. Push furniture with your entire body; don’t pull with just your back and arms. And when vacuuming, step forward and back instead of using your upper body to move the machine.
Money well spent: Gadgets that take the strain off Work in a more relaxed position with extralong handles, telescoping arms, or handle extenders for mops, window squeegees, and the like, available at home improvement stores. Pick up some furniture sliders (small padded disks that slip under large pieces) when the urge to reposition the sofa strikes; they make moving large objects a breeze. Hiring a cleaning personâ€“even once a monthâ€“can also cut down on back strain.
The Culprit: Pillow preference
A pillow (or stack of pillows) that’s too high or too flat leaves your neck at an awkward angle.
Cheap fix: Strategic pillow placement The aim is to keep your ear, shoulder, and hip in a straight line, no matter what position you’re in. If you’re a back sleeper, tuck an extra pillow under your knees and a smaller one under your lower back. Side sleepers, wedge a flat pillow between your knees; stomach snoozers, under your hips. And when you read in bed, sit up straight with pillows behind your back, under your knees, and on your lap to bring your book closer to your face and prevent neck strain, suggests Brinkley.
Money well spent: A custom sleep aid If a few weeks of pillow shuffling doesn’t help, consider a cervical pillow ($20 and up; medical supply stores) or one made of memory foam; both are specially contoured to support the neck. Throwing an arm and a leg over an extra long body pillow ($30 and up; bedding stores) can also help keep the spine in line.
The culprit: Logging hours on a laptop
Sure, you can surf the Web from bed and draft PowerPoint presentations on the couch?but you’ll pay for it. “I want to throw laptops right out the window,” Brinkley grouses. They force you to tuck in your neck, hunch over, and type with arms akimbo, which can lead to back and neck strain and repetitive stress injuries, she explains.
Cheap fix: A laptop tray When you must do your computing at the kitchen table or in front of the tube, a portable laptop desk (hard-top lap cushions, available at office supply stores) will raise the computer slightly, improving ergonomics and comfort. Better yet, reserve your laptop for on-the-road use, and stick with a desktop model at home. A handy tip for using your laptop on the plane: fold up the airplane blanket and put it under your laptop to raise it up.
Money well spent: An at-home workstation If you use your laptop a lot at home, re-jigger it for comfort: Elevate its screen to eye level, which will help keep your back and neck straight. Make sure to have the screen about an arm’s length away from your head, and tilt the screen for the best possible visibility to lesson eye strain. Then plug in a full-sized keyboard and mouse (or hook up wireless models) to use on a surface where you can keep wrists straight and elbows bent at a comfortable 90-degree angle.
Make sure your home office includes a chair that has good lumbar support, but most importantly, sit all the way back in the chair so that your lower back touches it completely. Then make sure to bring the chair as close as possible to your desk so that you can comfortably reach your keyboard and mouse. And then consider the most back-friendly computing solution of all: Save the work for the office, and get moving instead.
Sleep Deeply Tonight: A Good Mattress
We spend a third of our lives in bed. But a mattress that’s too soft or firm won’t support your spine properly. Here’s how to fixâ€“or upgradeâ€“yours so you prevent pain and sleep better every night:
Firm up a squishy bed. For quick relief, slide a sheet of 3/4-inch plywood (at home improvement stores) between the mattress and box spring.
Know when to shop. If you wake up sore every day, or if your mattress is saggy, lumpy, or more than 7 years old, it’s time to invest in a new one.
Test-drive several models. Lie in your preferred position for about 10 minutes on each mattress. You should feel comfortable and supported and your back muscles should be relaxed.
Buy for durability. Choose a coil count of at least 400 for a queen mattress, 480 for a king (models without springs can vary widely, so research them carefully). Make sure the retailer has an exchange policy, too: You won’t know for several nights whether you’ve found the right one.