In this day and age, people are just too busy working and living their daily lives that they tend to dismiss certain habits that can cost them their health and well-being, including bad habits leading to pain and discomfort in the back that most of us don’t even realise.
We spoke to Dr. Brenda Tan from Flourish Healthcare who is a chiropractor trained in Australia and also a registered member of the Chiropractic Board of Australia and Malaysia. We asked her about the things we may be accustomed to that could lead to spinal problems in the long run, and some of them could be what you’re used to every day!
1) Sitting for too long
Did you know that sitting takes a bigger toll on your back than standing? This position actually puts a lot more pressure on your spine compared to when you’re standing.
The average working adult spends up to eight hours or more a day sitting at their desk. So, if we hold this working posture for long hours, it will be only a matter of time before we start feeling pain or discomfort in the lower back, neck and shoulders.
“Your body isn’t designed to hold prolonged positions or perform repetitive movements for extended periods of time,” Dr. Brenda said.
Tip: Keep a mental note to reduce the time spent at your desk (we don’t mean not doing work). Try to take breaks every 45 minutes to one hour. Go for washroom break, take a short breather outside for some fresh air and stretch your back, just to reset your posture.
2) Unsupported sitting
Not everyone is fortunate (or rich) enough to have a study at home, equipped with a sturdy work table and ergonomic desk chair. So, if you’re one of the lucky ones who get to work from home, it basically means working in bed or on the couch with your laptop literally slapped on your laps.
However, unsupported sitting actually causes your spine to twist in a bad way, ultimately leading to muscle strains and sore back.
Dr. Brenda warned that if your body starts to adopt bad postures that you are too used to, it may accelerate the wear-and-tear process of the back.
Tip: Invest in a good ergonomic chair and work desk at home, or at the very least, work from the dining table. Don’t take the function of laptops too literally.
3) Sleeping on your stomach
It has been said that sleeping on your stomach can reduce snoring and some cases of sleep apnea, a common disorder in which the person stops breathing for a brief moment or take short breaths while sleeping. But that is probably the only thing that is good about sleeping on your stomach.
“This sleeping position flattens the natural curvature of the spine and will very likely cause neck strains from looking one way all night long”, Dr. Brenda explained.
Sleeping stomach-down may be comfortable for some of you, but it can also lead to poor sleep and discomfort throughout your day.
Tip: If you suffer from constant snoring or sleep apnea, try to reduce sleeping on your tummy. There are many other methods out there that can help cure your problems, but curing back problems is not as easy. If you’re not a snorer, then just avoid sleeping on your stomach altogether!
4) Sleeping on old mattress
While we’re still on the topic of sleeping, ever thought about the last time you replaced your mattress? Can you even recall when you first bought it? If you don’t, your back might be in trouble.
We don’t mean changing a new mattress every six months like how you would a toothbrush. A good mattress can actually last up to 10 years. But it is better to consider replacing your royal bed every five to seven years, especially if you find yourself not sleeping well or your back is starting to hurt.
Tip: Always choose a mattress that is neither too soft not hard. Mattresses that are too firm can in fact cause more pressure on the spine. Besides that, you can also place a small pillow under your knees (if you sleep on your back) or between your knees (if you sleep on your side) to ease the pressure on your back.
5) Heavy bags
Many of us, especially ladies, are guilty of having our whole lives in our handbags. Yes, it is very convenient to have everything we need within arm’s reach, but carrying around a heavy bag is very taxing for your shoulders.
A stuffed bag can cause back damage that is almost equivalent to a sports injury because your shoulders become imbalanced and your body would have to support that weight. Seriously, you’d be surprise how much damage those few packets of tissue and the millions of receipts in your handbag can bring!
Tip: Carry the lightest bag possible. If you can, opt for a smaller bag so you don’t end up stuffing everything in life in it. You can also try to distribute the load more evenly by alternating between different shoulders to carry your bag every day. Ladies, you really don’t need to bring everything in your room with you everywhere.
6) Driving long hours
Who ever thought that driving could eventually lead to back problems in the long run? Similar to sitting at your desk for long hours, sitting hunched over the steering wheel while you’re stuck in the daily rush hour traffic can tighten your chest muscles in a bad way and cause your shoulders to curve inwards too excessively. Driving with your legs extended too straight also puts your back in a compromising position.
Tip: The next time you drive, sit in a 90-degree angle closer to the steering wheel to avoid overstretching. Also, pull your seat slightly closer so that your legs are bent slightly. It may be difficult to get used to in the beginning, but your spine will thank you sooner or later.
7) Cracking your own back
If you have a friend who loves helping others to crack their backs just like those videos you see online, or if you’re one of those people, it is high time you stop doing that.
According to Dr. Brenda, this habit decreases the stability of your back and reinforces the imbalance between the free moving joints and the restricted joints. In time, this can produce a vicious cycle of returning pain and discomfort in your spine.
Tip: It’s pretty straightforward: don’t crack your own back!
Nevertheless, exercising is a good start to help reduce spinal problems. Contrary to popular belief, working out actually helps those who suffer from back pains heal faster. For example, frequent walks can ease stiffness in your back.
“Identifying key tight muscles and using the correct technique to stretch them out is always a good place to start. Core engagement and strengthening will also help support your spine better and prevent back pain,” Dr. Brenda said.
Of course, you should pay a visit to the physician or chiropractor for more professional help and don’t ever attempt treating your own problems!
What does a chiropractor do?
In case you’re not familiar with chiropractic care, according to Dr. Brenda, this practice treats the musculoskeletal and nervous systems “based on the knowledge that tension and misalignments of the spine can interfere with the flow of information throughout your body”, which in turn causes negative effects on your health and well-being.
And so, what a chiropractor does is help improve your posture, function and help you cope better with daily stresses. Dr. Brenda also shared that many people were happy to report back citing relief from neck and back pain, sciatica (the largest nerve in the body), disc and nerve-related issues, poor posture, and headaches after chiropractic adjustments.
At your first visit, the chiropractor would evaluate your spine through observation as well as specific orthopaedic and neurological testing. The chiropractor will then discuss possible methods to help you manage your issue whether at home or work.
“The chiropractic adjustment with me involves work with your muscles, the use of specific chiropractic tools and protocols, spinal manipulation and some recommendations for exercises you can work through at home,” Dr. Brenda said.
Chiropractic care may not be the most ideal treatment for everybody as the situation varies from person to person. But it is extremely crucial to take good care of your spine because it supports our weight, holds us upright, allows movements in our body, and most importantly, protects our spinal cord and nerves.
So guys, please take good care of your back as much as you can!