How to Use Your Spine Safely
Good spinal alignment, i.e. good posture, keeps the structures of the spine in their safest and strongest position, thereby protecting you from injury, optimizing your capabilities and guarding against arthritis.
The strongest and safest position is standing up and sitting up straight with the spine elongated. A tip for maintaining good posture is to visualize what it would feel like to have your spine lengthened upwardly as if a bungee cord attached to the crown of your head were pulling you toward the ceiling, stretching you vertically. This works for both siting and standing posture.
In good posture, what we call neutral position, the spine will have three prominent curves. Maintaining these curves keeps the spine strong. View the diagram below to see these important contours for a healthy spine.
The weakest positions for the spine are bending forward, both bending the neck forward and looking down, or bending the body forward and reaching down.
Using good body mechanics means moving and using your body in ways that avoid these weak and high risk positions.
Principles on how to MOVE
Bend forward from hips, not at the waist (low back). If you bend your knees a little it facilitates bending at the hips. Bend in a squat-like movement. If you push your tush backward, then you are correctly bending from the hips!
Maintain the inward curve to the lower spine. Keep and hold the hollow to your lower spine during all activities and as much of the time as possible.
When leaning forward, support your weight with your hand or arm resting on your leg or other support.
When twisting, rotate from the hips, keeping your pelvis and spine moving together as one.
Move symmetrically, alternating sides. For example, switch sides regularly when raking, sweeping, or shoveling.
Health Tips and Facts to Keep in Mind
Smoking damages your joints! Smokers are 4 times more likely to have degenerating disc joints.
Movement is essential. Prolonged static (non-moving) postures can cause strain.
Move symmetrically, try to balance movements to both directions (like raking, sweeping, etc…)
Muscles cannot protect against compression loads (like lifting, jumping down and landing on your feet, or having something fall on your head).
Sitting jobs cause weakness of the postural muscles along the backside of the body.
Do not store heavy items on the floor, keep heavy objects at least two feet off the floor so that when you have to lift them you can maintain good lifting position and avoid injury.
Do not sit on couches and soft chairs. You cannot maintain good sitting posture on soft living room furniture.
When you sneeze, sit up straight, or stand up straight and bend your hips and knees slightly to prevent the sneeze from injuring your spine. Avoid bending either your head or your torso forward as you sneeze.
Do not hold in a sneeze. This causes massive sudden pressure within the spinal column!
If you feel a twinge or tweak in your low back while working, stop! Quit your project and go ice the back for 30 minutes. Follow that with gentle movements such as walking. Avoid sitting and DO NOT use heat. It may feel soothing when applied, but heat increases swelling in the injured tissues and joints. If you expect to go to work the next day, take care of yourself. Stop your project and ice. Otherwise you may not get out of bed the next morning!
Sitting at Your Computer
This page is to provide tips for preventing neck and shoulder pain from use of computers and other devices of our mobile technology world.
Proper Sitting Posture
Areas of pain commonly experienced with prolonged poor sitting posture.
Exercise and Spine Health and Safety
Principles of exercise for the back and neck. Although lots of emphasis historically has been placed on strength and flexibility (stretching) for preventing back injury, this has not proven to be effective. The most important types of exercise to actually protect and prevent injury are:
- Endurance capacity of the spinal support muscles
- Coordination training and precise control of vertebral joint movement
For effective exercises for the spine, consult with the specialists at Complete Care for guidance.
Yard Work Without Back Pain
It’s that time of the year when we all get out and start working in the yard, garden and flower bed. Associated with that, for many, is back pain as an aftermath.
So here are some tips to reduce your risk of overdoing:
- Bending over and reaching down is the absolute weakest position for the spine, the more time spent in the bending forward position, or the more times you do it repetitively, the more strain is imposed on the joints and muscles of your back.
- Keep the natural inward curve to your lower spine as much of the time as possible, make all movements like you are” lifting from your legs”. In other words, bend or hinge from your hips instead of your back, making all movements some variation of a squat. Pulling weeds, planting, pushing the lawn mower, trimming bushes, whatever the activity, attemptto use your hips and knees in a squat to lower your body into the needed position to perform the task.
- You CANNOT “pull a muscle” or strain the muscles in your back without it disrupting the movement of the spinal joints. For example: there are eleven spinal joints in the low back area that control the normal flexibility of the region, there are sixteen muscles (on each side of the spine) that must precisely coordinate the movement of the spinal vertebra (bones). If even one of those muscles gets tired and doesn’t operate normally, then the coordinated precise motion of the vertebra is distorted which then overloads the joints of the spine. This leads to back pain, stiffness and tissue swelling.
- If your back does get sore after working in the yard: DO NOT USE HEAT!!!!!!!!!! Always use ice after the onset of any new muscle or skeletal pain, whether it is a sprained ankle, neck pain, a knee or your low back. The RULE is ALWAYS USE ICEfor the first 5 days. The sooner you get ice on the area of injury or strain the faster it will recover. If you feel a distinct “tweak or twinge” in the low back as you are working, STOP! If you do not immediately go ice it, it is very likely the next morning you will not get out of bed or go to work! I know that is a hard thing to do, stopping what you are doing and not finishing your project, but even if the tweak only lasts a moment, you just injured your back.
Mow Like This!
Don’t do it this way!