You wake each morning and, instead of jumping out of bed with exuberance, you move gingerly thanks to back or neck pain (or both). It may be of some comfort to know that up to 23% of adults around the world are experiencing the same chronic spine discomfort.
Since entering a New Year is such a popular time to make healthy changes, the team here at Texas Spine Consultants, including Michael Hennessy, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Robert Viere, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, urge you to consider your spine among these changes.
To give you a little encouragement, here are five easy steps that you can take to protect your neck and back this year.
1. Sleep support
Since we started this blog with a reference to waking with pain in your back or neck, let’s start there. If you want to minimize this morning pain, it’s helpful to reassess your sleeping situation.
First, you should ensure that you have a mattress that’s not too firm, nor too soft. You want the mattress to support your spine in a neutral position.
Next, choose a pillow that doesn’t wrench your head too high — you want your entire spine straight when you sleep, which includes your neck.
Last, do what you can to sleep on your back or your side (your back is best). Sleeping on your stomach isn’t doing your spine any favors.
2. Watch your sitting
If you spend a good deal of your day sitting, you’re placing an enormous amount of pressure on your spine and on the surrounding muscles. To offset the effects of this prolonged sitting, you should set an alarm that reminds you to get up and stretch at least once every hour. Even if you just stand for a minute or two, you allow your spine to stretch out and critical resources to flow freely.
3. If you must sit
Since sitting is unavoidable for many of us, let’s take a look at how you can protect your back and neck while you’re sitting. We know the computer is called a laptop, but sitting hunched on a couch staring down at a computer screen is one of the worst positions for your spine.
When you’re seated, be sure that you sit with your back straight, your shoulders back, and your head up. A great tip for getting the right spine position is to sit down, arch your back, and then release the arch by about 10-15%, which should give you a straight spine. Last, make sure both feet are planted on the ground.
4. Stretch daily
We know your day is already jam-packed with must-do items, but we want you to add stretching to the mix. Whether you devote 5-10 minutes in the morning or in the evening, stretching out your spine is one of the best ways to protect against stiffness and inflammation. To get started, here are some great stretches for your lower back and here are some for your neck.
5. Think twice to avoid strains
We know it’s faster to simply lift something heavy or reach for something up high, but we want you to think twice before performing these maneuvers. The minute or so that it takes to fetch a ladder or someone to help you lift something is time well spent as you can avoid painful muscle strains. And, remember to always lift with your knees and not your back, so the burden falls on your already strong quad muscles.
If, despite your best efforts, you’re still struggling with back or neck pain, our team is here to help. We offer a wide range of solutions to remedy discomfort anywhere along your spine and, once we find a solution for you, you can get back to these great tips.
For more information on back and neck pain, please contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to schedule a consultation today.