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Top tips to break your bad back habits

March 2nd, 2024 by
Category: Back pain Dr Ruchi Adams

Man stretching back

In today’s fast-paced world, where hours are spent hunched over screens, and physical activity often takes a backseat, bad back habits have become a common plight for many. These habits can lead to chronic pain, reduced mobility, and a significant decrease in quality of life. However, the good news is that it’s never too late to make a change. In this blog post, we’ll explore top tips for breaking those bad back habits. From ergonomic adjustments at your workstation to incorporating back-friendly exercises into your daily routine, we’ll guide you through practical and effective strategies to support your spine’s health. Whether you’re dealing with occasional discomfort or ongoing issues, these tips are designed to help you create a stronger, more flexible back and ultimately, a happier, healthier you.

Roll your shoulders back

For many of us, having our shoulders forward has become a habitual stance, largely due to poor posture while working at a desk or driving. This common habit, which we’re all prone to, can easily lead to long-term stiffness and pain. By simply rolling your shoulders back, you can open up your chest, allowing for deeper breaths, reduce muscle tension between the shoulder blades, and enhance the overall function of your upper back.

Maintain proper neck posture

The prevalence of poor neck posture among most of us isn’t surprising, stemming from extended periods spent scrolling through social media on our phones, focusing on screens for work, or binge-watching engaging series in one go. Ensuring correct neck posture is key to avoiding long-term neck stiffness and pain. It supports a continuous, healthy alignment of the entire spine, enhancing your overall comfort and well-being.

Take breaks from sitting

Sitting for extended periods, whether working at a desk, driving long distances, or spending a chilly evening engrossed in a compelling documentary series, can make it easy to lose track of time and remain immobile for hours. Incorporating breaks from sitting is crucial as it interrupts the compressive forces exerted on the spine, offering a chance to introduce movement in the back. This, in turn, helps relieve tension and promote mobility in the lower back.

Optimise your space for ergonomics

The setup of your workspace plays a vital role in both your productivity and comfort during working hours. Adjusting key elements of your workspace not only enhances your work environment but also safeguards your back’s health. Ensuring that screens are at eye level can mitigate neck pain and help maintain proper neck posture. Keeping elbows bent at your sides while using a keyboard is also crucial. Additionally, the adoption of standing desks by some companies has proven beneficial, as they encourage full back engagement, minimize the risk of back pain, and promote posture awareness during work.

Choose a chair with strong back support

A chair offering robust support is something many of us value highly; it allows us to comfortably settle in while working. While a plush, cushioned chair might feel luxurious, the importance of adequate lumbar support cannot be overstated for maintaining lower back health and integrity. Chairs lacking proper support can encourage poor posture habits, as they make sitting upright a challenge without anything to sustain your back. Additionally, it’s crucial to adjust the chair’s height so that your knees are bent at a right angle and aligned with your hips, ensuring optimal posture and comfort.

Incorporate mobility exercises to maintain back movement

Ensuring your back remains mobile is crucial for its proper function, which, if neglected, can lead to significant problems affecting both your capability and overall well-being over time. To prevent such issues, it’s beneficial to adopt a routine of mobility exercises. These exercises help continuously engage the back’s joints and muscles, promoting correct movement and safeguarding the health of your back. Regularly practising mobility exercises can be a proactive approach to maintaining spinal health and preventing future discomfort.

Engage your core muscles

Strengthening your core plays a pivotal role in supporting your posture and reducing the tension or stress that may build up when these muscles are not actively engaged. Upon hearing this, you might wonder if achieving perfect posture necessitates sculpted, six-pack abs. While many might desire such an aesthetic, it’s not essential for maintaining a strong core. What matters more is how you engage your core in everyday activities, which can significantly contribute to breaking bad back habits. Proper engagement of core muscles supports the spine and ligaments, helping to maintain proper posture and preventing the forward shift of weight that can compress spinal discs. This repetitive stress can gradually wear down these discs, diminishing their effectiveness. Thus, regularly activating your core muscles is crucial for spinal health and longevity.

Strengthen and stretch the muscles of the upper back, chest, and shoulders

Integrating stretching and strengthening exercises into your daily routine is crucial for enhancing function and mobility. By doing so, you enable your body to build and support itself towards its optimal potential. A balanced regimen of these exercises not only bolsters the support for the joints in both the upper and lower body but also facilitates the maintenance of good posture. Moreover, enhancing the strength and flexibility of these joints can significantly improve your overall comfort and reduce feelings of restriction, whether you’re sitting or standing. This holistic approach to physical well-being can lead to a more active, pain-free lifestyle.

Prioritize sitting upright while driving, avoiding a reclined seat position

Many of us have, at some point, reclined our car seats to enhance comfort or adopt a certain driving style perceived as cooler. However, maintaining an upright posture is crucial while driving, as reclining can restrict your field of vision and slow down your reaction time in critical situations. An upright position allows for a continuous spinal alignment from the neck to the hips, ensuring that your knees remain in alignment with your hips to avoid overstretching or strain. If you find your lower back sore after driving, consider using a cushion or a lumbar support accessory to mitigate stress on your lower back, enhancing your comfort and safety on the road.

Ensure a proper, comfortable sleeping position

After a busy day, diving into bed feels like the ultimate comfort. However, the significance of our sleeping posture often goes unnoticed, overshadowed by the immediate need for rest and comfort. To counteract poor back habits, starting with an improved sleeping posture is essential. This includes choosing a pillow of the right height to avoid overextending or twisting the neck, which can lead to stiffness or strained ligaments. For those who sleep on their side, placing a pillow between the knees can help maintain a neutral pelvis, preventing it from tilting and potentially exacerbating hip pain. Above all, the quality of your mattress plays a critical role, as it must provide comprehensive support for the spine. Considering we spend about a third of our lives sleeping, investing in a well-made mattress that supports spinal health is imperative.

In today’s lifestyle, marked by long hours of sitting and limited physical activity, poor back habits are increasingly common, resulting in chronic discomfort and a decrease in quality of life. By adopting the above-mentioned tips (and keeping consistent), individuals may significantly enhance their spinal health, leading to improved overall well-being and a more vibrant, pain-free existence.

Sources:

  • https://www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/is-it-too-late-to-save-your-posture
  • https://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/ss/slideshow-posture-tips

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