The motions of daily life, if done incorrectly, can result in injury to the spine. The following tips can help you steer clear of that kind of pain and inconvenience and keep you feeling your best.
- Choose a chair that is firm enough to support you comfortably, and don’t slouch!
- Sit with your feet flat on the floor or on a low footstool so that your knees are slightly higher than your hips. Sit firmly against the back of the chair.
- La-z-boy chairs don’t bend where you do; choose a rocker instead.
- Avoid crossing your legs at the knees, which can aggravate existing back conditions and interfere with circulation to your lower limbs.
- Stand with your head level. When you have to stand in one place for long periods of time, put one foot on a 4-6-inch stool to help keep pressure off your spine.
- Avoid wearing high heels if you are going to be on your feet for long periods of time.
Working at a Desk
- Take frequent stretch breaks if you have to sit for a long time.
- Sit with your knees at a 90-120-degree angle. An angled footrest may help you feel more comfortable.
- Make sure your chair fits correctly. Allow for two inches between the front edge of the seat and the back of your knees.
- Choose a chair that tilts back so you can rest while you’re reading what is on your computer screen.
- Elevate materials or your computer screen to avoid neck fatigue.
- Avoid twisting and turning motions when you lift. If you have to turn to place the object, step in the direction of the turn, don’t just twist at the waist.
- Always bend at your knees, not your waist, when lifting anything heavier than 10 percent of your body weight (e.g., a child or heavy box).
- When lifting an object, plant your feet about 12-18 inches apart, kneel or squat in front of the object, and lift as you straighten up. Be sure to lift with the big muscles of your thighs, arms, and shoulders, not with your back.
- In some situations, it is difficult to lift correctly. Getting grocery bags out of the car is one such situation. The car bumper doesn’t allow you to bend your knees. Bring the bag to you first and then lift carefully.
- When engaging in repetitive lifting, use good lifting form, take frequent breaks, and use equipment to help whenever possible.
- To avoid tripping, be sure your path is clear before you lift the item.
Physical Activity / Household Chores
- Warm up and cool down before and after physical activity like playing sports, raking, gardening, and shoveling snow.
- When working with hand-held yard equipment, make sure that the machine you are using has a strap. Place the strap over your head and shoulder on the opposite side of your body from the machine and switch the machine from one side of your body to the other as often as possible. Use electric rather than gas-powered machines whenever possible; they are much lighter.
- When washing dishes, open the cabinet beneath the sink, bend one knee, and put your foot on the shelf under the sink. Lean against the counter for support.
- When ironing, place one foot on a small stool or a book.
- When vacuuming, put all your weight on one foot, then step forward and back with the other foot as you push the vacuum. Use your back foot as a pivot when you turn.
Using the Telephone
- When using the telephone, avoid cradling the receiver between your neck and shoulder.
- Hold the phone in your hand or use speakerphone instead.
- If you use the phone a lot, use a lightweight headset.
- Switch hands frequently when on the phone.
- Don’t use a sofa arm as a pillow or watch TV in bed with your head supported only by pillows; this strains your neck.
- Avoid sleeping on a soft mattress or sofa.
- Lie down in bed when it is time to sleep. Don’t sleep in a chair or in cramped quarters.
- Sleep on your side with your knees bent or on your back with a pillow under your knees. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
- Use a pillow that supports your head so that your neck and vertebrae are level with the rest of your spine as you sleep. Avoid sleeping on two pillows.
- Be sure to get plenty of sleep every day to allow your body to rest and recuperate.