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Tips to Maintaining a Healthy Spine

Posture - Standing, Sitting and Work Station

Believe it or not there are ways to help prevent back and neck pain.  Research suggests that many spine problems are preventable because they result from poor posture and body mechanics, which subject the spine to abnormal stresses.  Over time abnormal stresses can lead to structural changes in the spine, including degeneration of disks and joints, lengthening and shortening of the supportive ligaments and muscles, and wear and tear of cartilage.  All of these structural changes can lead to pain and discomfort.  However, there are many things that you can do each day to minimize current spine pain and prevent furture episodes from occurring.

Good posture is the foundation for good neck and back care.  Incorrect posture can be the cause of spinal pain and even make existing pain worse and increase the duration of spinal pain.  Poor posture can lead to chronic headaches, TMJ dysfunction (jaw pain), shoulder pain and lower back pain. 

The majority of us spend our days sitting, or performing tasks that require bending forward, or lifting.  Try to think about the postures that you go through each day and how they are affecting your spine.  The basis for good posture is maintaining a "neutral spine."  A neutral spine retains three natural curves: a small hollow at the base of the neck, a small roundness at the middle back, and a small hollow in the low back.
 

Ideal Standing Posture:

  • Keep your head directly over your shoulders and your shoulders over your pelvis.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and tuck in your bottom.
  • Place your feet slightly apart with one foot in front of the other.
  • Move around and take breaks whenever possible
Good    Bad
•    Straight head, held high * Tilted Head
•    Shoulders back  * Protruding head (too far forward)
•    Chest out  * Retracted head (too far back)
•    Stomach tucked in  * Rounded Shoulders
•    Bottom tucked in * Rounded Upper Back
•    Feet slightly offset * Arched lower back
•    Knees slightly bent  * Protruding Bottom
  * Distended Abdomen
  * Locked Knees

Ideal Sitting Posture:

  • Keep your head directly over your shoulders and your shoulders over your pelvis.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and tuck in your bottom.
  • Place your feet slightly apart with one foot in front of the other.
  • Move around and take breaks whenever possible
Good     Bad
•    Straight head, held high * Tilted Head
•    Shoulders back  * Protruding head
(too far forward)
•    Chest out  * Retracted head
(too far back)
•    Stomach tucked in  * Rounded Shoulders
•    Back supported * Rounded upper back
•    Legs supported * Rounded lower back

Work Station Posture:

  • Chair Height – adjust the height of your chair so that the work surface is even with your elbow.  This will help to prevent strain in the neck, back and wrists.
  • Back Support – the backrest should be high enough to support your upper and lower back.  It should have an S-curve to help you properly maintain the natural curves of your spine as you sit.
  • Screen and document height – your gaze should be aimed at the center of your computer screen.  This will help to prevent neck and shoulder strain.
  • A footrest under your desk – this will raise your knees level with or slightly above your hips and take strain off your lower back.
  • Chair location – sit close enough to your desk so that your upper arms are perpendicular to the floor.  This will prevent neck and shoulder strain.
  • Work breaks – even if you are sitting with correct posture at the perfect workstation, holding the same position slowly takes the elasticity out of the tissues, and stress builds up and causes discomfort.  Try to remember to stand, stretch and walk for at least a minute or two ever half hour.