Old “Doc” Plume, the local hardware store owner, who was known for his miraculous cures for arthritis, had a long line of “patients” waiting outside the door when a little old lady, completely bent over, shuffled in slowly, leaning on her cane. When her turn came, she went into the back room of the store and, amazingly, emerged within half an hour, walking completely erect with her head held high. A woman waiting in the line said, “It’s a miracle! You walked in bent in half and now you’re walking erect. What did Doc do?” She answered, “He gave me a longer cane.”
It’s funny; most of the people with bad posture or pain syndrome I run into want to know a miracle exercise that will cure their dysfunction. Sure, exercise can help and be a big part of a program designed to deal with pain and posture. But more often than not, it is the little things in our everyday lives that could use some adjusting. With that, here is a short list of activities to be mindful of.
Driving: Do you slouch, lean to one side more than the other? Maybe you keep one hand high on the steering wheel and the other low, causing you to shrug one shoulder more than the other. The point: try to shift and change positions often if you spend lots of time in the car. The best position will always be hands at 10 and 2. And holding your back tall and flat against the seat.
Desk: You should know by now that posture at the desk is important. You’re in this position for several hours at a time and it can have BIG repercussions on your health. Get up often and be aware of any favoritism to any particular positions you might find yourself in. Reaching and twisting from a seated position is a big no-no. Try to organize your desk to be more spine friendly by putting often-used folders and materials within arm’s reach.
Sleeping: Our sleep posture is one of the most overlooked aspects of our life. You spend 8 hours (hopefully) a night in either one or various positions that could have a large impact on your posture during the day. Do you pile the pillows high? This leads to excess stretching of the extensors in the neck, possibly contributing to a forward head posture. Do you pull the bed sheets tight over your feet, pulling your toes into a pointed position? This can lead to limited ankle mobility, which then affects your entire body mechanics, from walking to sitting. Do you sleep on your side with one leg bent and across your body? This can lead to an imbalance between your left and right spinal erectors, which then could be contributing to your back pain. This is can be even worse if you’re a woman with generous hips. Paranoid yet? I didn’t even mention how sleeping on your stomach can contribute to an excessive lordodic curve ,which then may lead to extra compressive forces for your lumbar spine to handle. So which is the best position to sleep in? On your side, knees bent, pillow between the knees and your head resting on a single pillow. Or if you prefer, on your back with a pillow under your knees, sheets loose, and again, a single pillow for the head.
The point I’m trying to drive home here is that we need to pay more attention to our bodies when they’re NOT in motion. It’s the little things like these that add up and contribute to a life of constant and nagging pains. Practice a technique known as mindfulness. Every once in awhile turn your attention inwards and ask yourself; have I been in this position for too long? Could I do something to make my current posture or situation more comfortable and back friendly? Before you know it, the pain that once prevented you from doing normal everyday tasks will have disappeared and become a thing of the past.