Does your job find you sitting most of the day? While sitting can seem restful, staying in one position for long periods of time can cause strain and injury to your muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments. Sustained sitting can take a toll on your neck and lower back where continued compression on the spinal discs restricts their nutrition and can contribute to premature degeneration. Also hanging off your body as you get tired and slouch takes the same toll on the bodies structures.

Therefore, if you do have to sit at work, what things can you do to stay pain free? Try to take the stress off your back and body with these simple and effective tips:

Take frequent breaks.

Try to take regular breaks from sitting. Get up and take a short walk outside or around the office. Stretch every hour or two even if only for a couple of minutes. Just enough to affect the tissue and keep stress off the joints.

Maintain good posture as much as possible.

Pay attention to your posture as much as possible. Sitting incorrectly puts strain on your back and neck, decreases blood flow to your muscles, and accelerates fatigue. Practice “active sitting” when you are sitting unsupported with your feet flat on the ground in front of you, your back straight, your shoulders down and back, and your chin parallel with the floor. This type of posture will strengthen the “core” muscles of your abdomen, sides, and back to reduce the strain on other areas. The stronger your core muscles, the easier it will be to maintain good posture. When you are using a good office chair make sure that you sit right into the back of the chair in order for the back of the chair to support you spine in a neutral position and you do not hang off the structures of your spine. That way you can sit comfortably for longer without as much fatigue.

Choose a good office chair.

An important aspect in preventing injury and strain to your body is to be able to alter your sitting positions throughout the day. An investment in a good office chair is a must. The right chair should:

  • Be easily adjustable to conform to your specific size.
  • Adapt to support your spine in various working positions.
  • Have a backrest that supports your lower back.
  • Have armrests if they are appropriate for you desk and type of work. Your shoulders should be relaxed with the elbows lightly resting on the armrests. Try not to lean on the them.
  • Have a front edge to the seat that curves downward to promote proper posture.

Are stability balls good at the desk?

I hear more and more patients asking about using a stability ball at the office desk. A ball is a great exercise tool to help you workout at home or at the gym; however, it should not replace a quality ergonomic chair at your workstation. If you do try the ball to work be sure to:

  • Use the ball only for short periods. Try 20 minutes at one time to start. As you build up some stamina you can add 20 minute chunks as you progress.
  • Use your core, back, and oblique abdominal muscles to maintain straight “active” posture as described above.
  • Stop when your muscles feel tired as you will start to slouch and hang off the structures of you spine.

Be warned, sitting on a stability ball instead of a chair can actually increase the pressure on your back, especially if your core muscles lack endurance. Therefore, sitting a long time on the ball may lead to greater discomfort in your lower back, especially if you slouch and do not realize it. Please do not use a ball if you have osteoporosis, balance, or low back problems. Stability balls are not for everyone. Consult a chiropractor if you have any pre-existing injury or health problems that could impact your balance or stability.

Having a safe and productive work environment does not have to be difficult. Try to take the necessary steps to ensure good posture at all times and practice, practice, practice maintaining it. : )

Your physical health can affect your risk of tripping, slipping and falling. For instance, some medications can affect your alertness, judgment and co-ordination. Skipping meals and not drinking enough water can make you lightheaded and unsteady on your feet, especially in the hot summer months and after exercise. Poor eyesight can lead to dangerous stumbles. The good news is there are many simple things you can do to reduce your risk of falling and causing injury.

Medications

Talk to your medical doctor or pharmacist about any prescription medicines, over-the-counter products or herbal supplements you may be taking. Products can interact with each other, so it is important to talk to your health professional about all of the things you are taking. Some medicines and supplements can cause dizziness, weakness or other side effects that may increase your risk of slipping, tripping and/or falling. Advice from a health professional can reduce your risk.

Eyes and Ears

Your eyes and ears protect you from falling. For instance, your eyesight and hearing help alert you to hazards such as traffic and other dangers. Have your eyes and ears tested at least once every two years, preferably every year. Please remember to take off your reading glasses when you are walking and wear your hearing aid if you need one.

Eat Well

Skipping meals can cause dizziness and weakness. Eat regular, nutritious meals to stay alert and steady. The Canada Food Guide to Healthy Eating is a good source of information for adequate nutrition. You can find the Food Guide on the Health Canada website. It is also very important to drink enough non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages, namely water.

Foot Pain

Foot problems such as bunions, calluses, ingrown toenails and plantar warts contribute to unsteadiness as you have to compensate. If your feet hurt, you are probably walking gingerly to avoid the sore spots. A chiropractor can assess your gait, which is act of walking, and prescribe orthotics for your shoes if needed. Always wear good fitting and supportive shoes with non-slip soles.

Current Health Problems

Health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia and low blood sugar can contribute to feelings of dizziness and faintness. Talk to your health professional about what you can do to manage the symptoms of these types of conditions.

Stay Active

Being active is one of THE best ways to reduce your risk of falls. Active people get more physical exercise and are more mentally alert. Social activities, sports and clubs all keep you on the move and that is good for your physical strength, balance and perception. Try to get at least 15 to 20 minutes of exercise at least three times a week, preferably every day. The Canada Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Older Adults is a good source of information. You can also find this on the Health Canada website.

Moderation is a Key Element

Know your limits and watch your alcohol consumption. Alcohol affects your sight, hearing, balance and judgment. Alone or in combination with medications, drinking too much can lead to serious falls.

Remember, paying attention to a few simple details can really reduce your risk of injury due to a slip or fall. : )

When you are experiencing back pain there are many other things that suffer. Your energy is lower and your favorite activities can become difficult. Activities of daily living such as getting in and out of the car, lifting a child, or carrying groceries can become painful and tiring. Even if you are not feeling sore, your back may be stressed and headed toward injury. See how well your back scores below.

Indicators of a Healthy Back

  1. Good posture. A healthy back can hold itself up straight with relatively little effort. Slouched posture, on the other hand, puts stress on your spinal joints and discs, and even your lungs and stomach.
  2. Ease of movement. Ease of movement means lack of stiffness or limitations when doing things like getting in and out of a chair or car, or bending over to pick something up. If you are usually stiff, your back may need treatment to gain function back.
  3. Range of motion. Range of motion is about your ability to bend and turn your spine and body. For example, can you:
    • Turn your chin to your shoulder?
    • Go past your knees when bending forward to touch your toes?
    • Reach your knees with your fingers when bending sideways?
    • Tilt your head far enough back to see the ceiling without bending your back?

    Reduced flexibility may be a sign that your spine isn’t moving properly. This can be corrected with chiropractic care.

  4. Performance. A healthy back should be able to sustain physical activities such as gardening or spring house cleaning, without being so sore the next day that you can hardly function. It is ok to be a little stiff, but not to the point where you have trouble moving.

Tips for a Healthy Back

  • Always, be posture conscious when sitting, standing, and even sleeping – sleeping on your back or side is best for your spine.
  • Build core muscle strength. That means the muscles in your abdomen, back and sides. Your muscles hold your spine upright and supports you joints.
  • Stay well-hydrated to keep the discs of your spine healthy, so they can do their job in providing shock absorption.
  • Practice good nutrition for healthy bones and muscles, and to prevent osteoporosis.
  • Take frequent stretching breaks to keep your back mobilized.
  • Practice safe lifting techniques. Keep your back straight, bend your knees and use your leg muscles to lift. Bend at the hips and not the lumbar spine.

Think about the health of your back before it hurts. A lack of pain does not mean everything is working properly. A spinal assessment, especially after a fall or sprain, is a good investment in your back’s health.

Abdominal, hip, and back muscles are at the centre of every move you make, whether you are walking, unloading the dishwasher, or dancing. These important core muscles provide balance and stability, and they also reduce strain on the spine. Thus, a strong core helps reduce the risk of low back pain and injury as it helps move your body through routine movements in a safe manner.

Exercise moves

Building a strong core means doing exercises regularly that target the abdominal, hip, and back muscles. Here are three simple exercises that can help keep your core muscles strong.

Arm and Leg Raise

Starting position: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms raised straight out in front of you. Maintain an abdominal hollow by tightening your stomach and buttock muscles.

The move: Lift one knee up toward 90 degrees and extend the opposite arm over your head to the floor. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Return to the starting position and switch sides. Repetitions: Repeat 6-8 times. Gradually work up to 3 sets. Rest for 30-60 seconds between sets.

Leg Extension

Starting position: Kneel down onto your hands and knees. Keep your back flat and again maintain an abdominal hollow by tightening your stomach and buttock muscles.

The move: Extend one leg behind as much as you can where even a little raise makes a difference. Be sure to keep your upper body stable. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Return to starting position and switch sides. Repetitions: Repeat 6-8 times. Gradually work up to 3 sets. Rest for 30-60 seconds between sets.

Cross Crawl

Starting position: Kneel down onto your hands and knees. Keep your back flat, tighten stomach and buttock muscles to create an abdominal hollow.

The move: Slowly extend one leg behind you while extending the opposite arm out in front until parallel with the floor. Be sure to keep your torso square and stable. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Return to starting position and switch sides. Repetitions: Repeat 6-8 times. Gradually work up to 3 sets. Rest for 30-60 seconds between sets.

Your core muscles are a natural weight belt that supports your spine and your body as a whole during activity. If you pay a little attention to these often forgotten muscles, you will help to prevent unnecessary injury and remain productive and healthy in everything that you do.

Being active can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce blood pressure, build strong bones, relieve stress, and maintain flexibility, and promote good posture. Recreational sport is one great way to enjoy the many benefits of physical activity no matter what the sport is. The important thing is to get moving and keep moving. Here are some tips to help you avoid injury and get the most from your favorite sport.

The warm up.

Before jumping in the pool, hitting the field, or picking up a golf club, take a full 20 minutes to warm up. Your warm up should include deep breathing exercises, gentle stretching and range of movement exercises, as well as a brisk walk or easy jog to loosen and warm the muscles and joints of the body.

Learn proper technique.

Learn the right technique for your sport from the beginning. Using the wrong technique can create incorrect muscle memory and can make it difficult to break bad habits. Poor technique can also cause injury to your joints and muscles due to less efficient movements.

Use the right equipment.

Make sure your equipment is the right fit, height, and capacity for you to avoid a sport related injury. All recreational athletes should have their equipment professionally fitted and checked before starting out.

Try to avoid overtraining.

This means too much, too fast, and too soon. Overtraining is one of the most common causes of recreational athletic injuries. Take your time and work up to it slowly before pushing yourself too hard. Remember, rest is just as important as training. Try to take a training break and give your body a chance to recover.

The cool down.

Cooling down after a workout is just as important as warming up. Take 20 minutes for a brisk walk or slow jog, and stretch your muscles and joints before heading for the change room or the car.

Drink plenty of fluids.

Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after physical activity. Even in cold weather. Remember that once you are thirsty, you are already starting to dehydrate. Dehydration affects your energy level and your physical functioning.

Strength training.

Strength training can help you keep your spine and other body joints functioning as best they can. It will also build muscle that is an important shock absorber that helps to prevent strains and sprains.

Check your attitude.

Not every competitor brings home a prize, but they are all winners. The right attitude is good for your performance and your overall health. Make sure you have fun.

Optimize joint and muscle function.

Maintaining good muscle and joint range of motion and mobility will contribute to your athletic performance and help prevent injury. Restrictions in muscle and joint functioning can hamper your technique and may lead to painful strains and sprains.

Treat injuries in a timely manner.

If you suffer an injury or experience pain that lasts longer than your usual post-workout soreness, ice the area to reduce swelling and inflammation, and consult a chiropractor. We are here to help.

Everyone is familiar with the feeling of complete energy drain. Those times when no matter how enticing a new movie, fabulous shoe sale, or friendly barbecue, you just cannot pull yourself together to go. What can be a bit harder to recognize is chronic energy drain. In this case, you may not necessarily feel the classic signs of exhaustion; for example, achy muscles or that an all-over tired feeling. What you will experience is an increasing lack of determination for performing many of the activities you used to love. Simply try the following tips and strategies to help increase your energy production.

Keep moving

Increasing physical activity actually increases energy. The key is to focus on daily physical activity and not just the idea of exercise. Scrub, dig, shovel, walk, play, ride, or wheel through your day. Small steps like turning off the TV after dinner to go for a walk with your partner, dog, or children can make a big difference. Start with 15 minutes.

Sleep well

Making time for sleep is essential to feeling alert and ready to make a difference in your day. Most people need at least 7 to 9 hours every night. To help create a restful atmosphere, try to fully darken your bedroom (turn your alarm clock away if the display gives off too much light), regulate room temperature (too hot or too cold, and you’ll wake up), and use white noise (a fan or quiet music) to help induce sleepiness.

Nourish yourself

Meal timing is another important factor in maintaining energy levels. People often skip meals, and wonder why they are tired in the afternoon. Skipping meals can cause blood sugar swings, often resulting in fatigue. You should eat at least three nutritious meals each day with the last meal well before bedtime. Having a very light snack in between these meals can also help to moderate energy swings.

Decompress and reduce stress

One of the biggest energy reducers is stress. Stressors like worry, anxiety, or fear can leave you mentally and physically exhausted. Counter these energy killers by programming more relaxation activities into your day. For many individuals, increasing exercise burns off the chemical effects of stress and anger, while others find relief in quiet pursuits such as listening to music, reading a great book, meditation, or even just talking on the phone with a friend or family member.

Get some sun and vitamin D

The body makes vitamin D after exposure to sun, which can help with higher physical performance and improved mood. Try to get 10 minutes of unprotected exposure to the sun at least three times a week. Vitamin D supplementation can be an important part of your supplementation program if you live in a area with limited solar strength for most of the year.

At least 50 per cent of pregnant women experience back pain where 10 per cent of those report discomfort severe enough to disrupt their daily routines. Good news, however, is that there are steps you can take to care for your back during pregnancy.

What causes pregnancy-related back pain in the first place?

Average healthy weight gain in pregnancy is more than 30 pounds. This extra weight places considerable stress on the back, feet, ankles and knees. As your baby grows, core abdominal muscles become stretched and weak. Thus, you cannot stabilize your posture as well as you were able to before.

In the third trimester, levels of a hormone called relaxin increases by ten times the amount. This also contributes to back pain where it relaxes or loosens your ligaments to allow the pelvis to accommodate the enlarging uterus. These loose ligaments and joints force muscles of the back and pelvis to work overtime in order to keep you upright and balanced.

Try these tips to help minimize your risk of back pain during pregnancy:

  • Exercise can help increase muscle support for your aching back. Always consult a health care practitioner before participating in a new exercise regimen. Low impact cardiovascular activities such as swimming, walking, or stationary cycling can help relieve pain and maintain fitness.
  • Sleep on your left side to reduce pressure of the uterus on large blood vessels in the abdomen. This helps optimize blood flow to both mother and baby.
  • Place a pillow between your knees to take pressure off your lower back and pelvis when sleeping on your side. Bend your knees and place a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back.
  • Try to take frequent, short breaks with your feet elevated.
  • Remember, adequate rest restores your energy and gives your body, and back, a chance to relax.
  • Wear flat based, supportive shoes and use a lumbar support pillow in your chair at home or work. If you do sit at a computer or desk, take frequent breaks and walk around for a few minutes each hour.
  • Always ask for help if you can, especially when lifting heavy objects, including other toddlers and children.

When aching joints and muscle pain are affecting your ability to get through the day and keeping you away from your favorite activities, consider chiropractic care. Workplace duties and ergonomics, accidents, sports injuries, household chores, repetitive strain, and even the stress of daily living can cause painful joint and back problems. Even if you do not have painful symptoms, chiropractic care can help you maintain healthy spine and joint function.

Here are some of the most common reasons why more than 4 million Canadians visit a chiropractor each year:

  • Upper and Lower back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Whiplash
  • Strains and sprains from daily activities
  • Repetitive strain injuries
  • Work and sports-related injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Restricted movement in the back, shoulders, neck or limbs
  • Extremity pain

Neck pain is a very common problem that has many possible causes. Poor posture, hunching over a computer, arthritis, whiplash, and muscle strain from simple things like reading in bed or grinding your teeth can all trigger neck pain. Your neck is the top part of your spine that runs from the base of your skull to the bottom of your back. Therefore, keeping your back safe, strong, and healthy also protects and keeps your neck healthy.

In rare cases, neck pain can be a sign of something serious. Be sure to seek immediate medical attention if your neck pain is accompanied by severe headache, shooting pain in your shoulder or arm, or numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands. Remember, serious symptoms possibly indicating stroke include trouble speaking, trouble swallowing or walking, blurred vision, or loss of balance requiring an immediate emergency visit.

Prevention Tips.

  • Warm up before and stretch out after physical activities such as sports, gardening, or other busy and laborious household projects.
  • Stretch after an hour of television viewing or sitting at the computer.
  • Work on your posture both in standing and seated positions to keep your spine properly aligned and tension off of your body.
  • Make sure your work station is ergonomic with good low back support.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep the disks of your spine and muscle tissue properly hydrated.

Some things to avoid.

  • Cradling a phone on your shoulder.
  • Falling asleep on the arm of the sofa or with your head propped up to high.
  • Thin and soft pillows that do not provide consistent and adequate neck support.

Consistently taking a few preventative measures will help reduce your chances of neck pain and keep you healthy and discomfort free.

It is very easy to confuse myths with facts when it comes to back pain. Back pain is one of the most common health complaints out there today. Over 80 percent of the population will experience some form of back problems at some point in their lives. Rather than rely on hearsay about what causes back pain and what treatments work best, it is important to consult a health professional. Here are some common myths and facts about back pain, along with spinal health tips that can help prevent problems in the future.

Back Facts

If you did not already realize, your back is an amazing body part! It allows you to stand and it supports your arms and legs. It also protects your spinal cord, which sends messages between your brain and the rest of your body. Thus, knowing what to do when you have back pain is extremely important. Remember, back pain is one of the most common ailments today. A sedentary lifestyle, injuries, arthritic changes, and aging can all lead to back problems. What do you do when you have back pain? Have regular spinal check-ups, practice recognized self-care, and see a chiropractor. Prevention can be a powerful health strategy to function as best you can.

MYTH: Bed rest is a great treatment for back pain.

FACT: At one time, many people believed this to be true. But in fact, bed rest may worsen your back pain unless it is so severe that you cannot move. See a health professional such as a chiropractor about chronic or new back pain.

MYTH: Applying heat is recommended for a sore back.

FACT: Applying heat might worsen the inflammation of the joint and surrounding muscles and ligaments of an acutely injured back. You should use ice on an acutely sore back. Use a commercial cold pack, a bag of frozen vegetables, or ice in a dampened towel over the first two to three days of acute pain. Limit ice pack treatments to 10 to 15 minutes at a time with at least 45 minutes in between applications. Always place a damp towel or cloth between the sore area and the ice. After the acute period you can start applying heat to improve blood flow and healing.

MYTH: Pain is the main indication that something is wrong.

FACT: Pain in your back is definitely an indication that something is wrong, especially if the pain is chronic and stops you from doing everyday chores and activities. However, you will not always feel pain in your back when there is a problem. Restricted movement or discomfort in your arms, legs, and shoulders are also indications that something is not right with your spine and nervous system.

Posture

One of the most important facts about back health has to do with proper posture. It is a fact that good posture and a properly functioning spine, in everything you do, can help prevent back and neck pain. Exercise can then help keep your back and spine fit and healthy. Flexibility stretches help keep you limber while core exercises such as those involving balance, Pilates, yoga, or a stability ball will help to strengthen your spine. If your body is functioning the best that it can, it will be able to handle daily stress much better.

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© Dr. Robert J. Evans 2010