Most people do not seek medical attention or treatment for their ailments until they become a burden on their lives and are almost unbearable to live with. In the world of chiropractic care, simple actions can be taken every day to ensure you’re not being your own worst enemy and potentially creating future pain problems for yourself. Every decision we make – from what we choose to wear or how we sit and observe – can and will have an impact on your body. Following some of these basic yet essential tips can help you avoid unnecessary neck and back pain down the road.
According to the New York Post, Americans check their phones an average of 80 times a day. That is a lot of strain on your neck and back. Bending or tilting your head down to look at your phone can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on your spine. Limit phone time when possible and make it a point to find other activities to do. Not only will your neck and back thank you, but your friends and family will, too. When you are browsing, keep your phone at eye level as much as you can.
Setting aside 5 minutes for stretching during your morning routine can make a world of difference, especially if you’re rushing out the door to sit in traffic on the way to work, only to sit at a desk all day. Fluid increases between joints and spinal discs overnight while you’re lying horizontally, causing stiffness and pain. Stretching can warm your body up and alleviate both. Stretching will also have positive long-term effects on your posture; maintaining a stretching routine every morning will loosen up tight muscles, resulting in better posture over time. It can also increase blood flow which will improve your overall performance throughout the day.
Cracking your neck can do more harm than good if you do it incorrectly or too frequently. The neck is home to many nerves and blood vessels. Incorrectly cracking it can lead to pinched nerves, punctured blood vessels, and blood clotting. It can also strain the muscles and joints around your neck.
If you’re a frequent neck cracker, you run the risk of permanently stretching out and damaging the surrounding ligaments. This permanent damage is called perpetual instability, which puts you more at risk to develop osteoarthritis down the road.
Fresh injuries should always be treated with ice or cold therapy – not heat. The ice can reduce swelling and inflammation, whereas heat therapy can increase your pain from a new injury. Cold slows blood flow, while heat stimulates it. Slowing the blood flow to an injured area reduces the fluid buildup, the pain of the injury, and the symptoms that go along with it. Ice therapy can also slow down the conduction velocity of peripheral nerves, which can somewhat mask the sensation of pain.
Most of us have heard this expression countless times, especially in the workplace. Now this while this rule of thumb applies to everyone, it especially applies to those who have back injuries or who need an adjustment or alignment. If your load-bearing joints are stacked and functioning properly, bending at the waist won’t do any harm if you do it sparingly. However, since most injuries or issues don’t reveal themselves for some time, you could be battling an injury and not even know it. It’s better to be safe than sorry and practice good lifting and bending techniques. You also wouldn’t necessarily know if your spine is stacked and functioning properly unless you just left a chiropractic office.
The first step in making a healthy change is making yourself aware of what good posture is compared to your regular posture. Even when you’re sitting at your desk or lounging on the couch, gravity exerts a constant force on your joints, ligaments, and muscles. The concept of good posture is to evenly distribute the force or pressure throughout your body, so that certain areas are not overstressed. Bad posture usually happens while sitting by slumping, slouching, and protruding your head and necks forward, disrupting the S curvature of the spine. Correcting your posture now will help your body to be more efficient and less fatigued while avoiding related pain and permanent damage in the future.
Exercise and a healthy diet boil down to eating foods that fuel your body and maintaining a healthy weight. Excessive weight puts extra strain on your various parts of your body and forces the systems of your body to work harder. It also puts you at a higher risk of developing heart disease. If you are physically able, you should be getting at least 30 minutes of continuous exercise every day. Fortunately, 30 minutes of exercise can be achieved without an expensive gym membership in a number of ways, such as going for a walk around your neighborhood.
Incorporate more natural raw foods into your diet such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts. If you’re not sure which foods are right for you, discuss the best options with your doctor. Try eating several small snacks throughout the day to keep your metabolism going and avoid eating late at night. Many people opt to meal prep for the week so they’re not tempted to hit the fast food drive-through on the way home.
Sleeping positions are hard to manage since you’re asleep and may be moving around unconsciously. A simple trick is to fall asleep with good posture and hope to avoid restless squirming since your body will be aligned and comfortable. Sleeping on your stomach puts added stress and pressure on your spine and can lead to herniated discs in your neck as a result of your head being turned to the left or right. If you can manage, sleeping on your back or side with a small knee support pillow are your best options.
Our skeletal structure already has to support our body weight and daily movements without any added load. When you have to carry something, keeping the load small and lightweight is the best way to decrease your chances of neck and back pain. The key is to distribute the weight evenly across your body. Use a lightweight bag or backpack and bring only the essentials. Make sure if you’re using a backpack, the straps are adjusted correctly and are even on both sides.
Many minor injuries can occur without notice and not make themselves apparent for quite some time. Lack of pain or symptoms does not equate to lack of injury. The spine is the foundation of our bodies and one of the most crucial powerhouses of movement that we have. It is critical to keep track of your spinal health and seek care for potential problems before they worsen or lead to irreversible damage. Contact one of our local offices and schedule an appointment today to put your mind and your pain at ease!