Sometimes fixing aches and pains in our bodies is as simple as being mindful of our habits. Here’s a few things you can do in your day-to-day life that can help alleviate or prevent back, shoulder, and neck pain.
1. Sit on the edge of your seat.
Most of us in modern society take advantage of having backs on our chairs. We tend lean all the way back with our bums a bit forward. This causes the lumbar spine (or the lower back), which is naturally supposed to curve in towards the front of the body, to round out in the other direction. This posture also causes the shoulders to round forward and the head to be forward of the spine. Sitting like this for hours on end causes all the muscles of the trunk, which help us hold ourselves upright, to become weak. This can cause pain anywhere from the low back up to the neck.
Try instead sitting at the edge of your chair with both feet flat on the floor and not using the backrest at all. Here you can sit on the tips of the sit bones which will allow you to align your spine so that it maintains all of its natural curves above the pelvis. It also allows you to keep the shoulder heads rolling back, stacked above the hips, and the head in line with the spine.
2. Sit close enough to the steering wheel so that both legs are even when your foot is on the gas/brake pedal.
As cool as it may be to ride with that gangsta lean, it’s definitely not cool to cripple yourself in the long run! Not only does driving with your seat too far back present all of the same problems as slouching on a couch or chair, but there’s also the added factor of having to reach for the gas pedal, which throws the pelvis out of alignment even further by putting one hip in front of the other. The solution is simple. Channel your inner grandma and move your seat up just enough so you can reach the pedals without having to shift your pelvis.
3. Change the cross of your legs.
Most of us have a dominant/habitual side of our body. When sitting cross-legged on a chair or on the floor, we usually have one leg that goes more comfortably on top or in front. This stretches that top hip while the other one never gets any love, causing an imbalance. Imbalances will speak to us as aches and pains. Be mindful of little things like this and you can easily balance yourself out. Your low back will thank you!
4. Stand evenly on both feet.
Often times when we’re standing around, we cock one hip out to the side and shift more weight onto one foot than the other. Usually it’s the same foot all the time. This causes yet another imbalance; and what do imbalances show up as? Pain.
Notice when you do this and adjust your posture when you correct yourself. Stand with your two feet hip distance and parallel, a slight tone in the lower abdominals, and the shoulders stacked directly over the hips, shoulder heads rolling back, allowing the head to float into place at the top of the spine. Mom knew what she was talking about when she said good posture was everything!
5. Hold your phone up in front of your face when texting.
Nowadays we text more than we talk on the phone. This comes with its own set of problems. In addition to our already slouchy natures, now we bring a cell phone into the mix! We hold this small device in our hands as we curl our bodies around it, hovering like Gollum over his “precious.” (We all saw how Gollum got around. Is that how you want to start having to move?) Again with the forward head posture, the slumped shoulders, the reversing of the natural curve of the lower back, placing undue strain on the upper back, all leading to back, shoulder, and neck pain.
The solution is another simple one. Hold your phone up in front of your face instead of looking down into your lap. This will prevent unnecessary strain on the upper trapezius muscles, helping you to keep an upright posture and a pain free neck and upper back.
6. Look at computer/TV screens straight on.
When we turn our head to look left or right, the muscles on one side shorten while the others lengthen. If your television or computer screen is situated in a place where you have to look to one side to see it, then those same muscles are always shortening and lengthening on the same sides. Yet one more thing that creates an imbalance, which, as we see time and time again, creates pain. Are you sensing a theme here?
Situate yourself or your furniture so that you can look at these things without having to turn your head, and voila! No more neck pain.
7. Get up and move!
Have you ever seen what happens to a stagnant body of water? Now relate that to what happens to a human body that doesn’t move. Pretty scary, right? You don’t have to be a gym rat to counter this. You can simply get up and do some sort of movement for about 5-10 minutes every hour or so. It doesn’t even have to be all at once, and you can do stuff right at your desk. Maybe you stand up and do 10 squats real quick. 30 minutes later you stand up and stretch your arms overhead and stretch from side to side for a minute or two. 40 minutes after that you might stand up and do a quick shoulder stretch using your desk, or maybe you do a quick 30-60 second rag doll. Take a 10 and go for a brisk walk around the block or walk a flight or two in your building. Moving your body keeps your joints lubricated, your muscles supple, and your blood and lymph circulating. Not to mention it jump starts your brain and your endorphins, which elevates your mood. You can’t get better than that!