There are things we can do in our daily lives to help prevent neck and back pain like exercising, stretching and improving our posture while standing, sitting, sleeping and using handheld electronic devices.
Besides keeping us in shape, will regular exercise and strength training help prevent neck and back pain?
Dr. Edward Camacho: Absolutely, exercise and strength training is one of my favorite outside the office activities. Increasing the strength of joints and muscles surrounding the area absolutely help prevent different types of injuries. When you have proper range of motion and strength to move the body in those ranges of motion, pain is most likely not going to be bothering you.
For those of us sitting at a desk all day, what easy adjustments can we make to help prevent neck and back pain?
Dr. Edward Camacho: A lot of the patients we see lately, mostly have a lot of desk jobs computer development and everyone sits for too long. They commute in a chair, or in a car, or in a bus, they get home for dinner, they sit down they watch TV, they sit down. Something I tell most patients is keep your chest up, a little mantra I have for myself is chest up strong back. If you sit upright and you have your chest presented and you sit nice and tall with very good posture, your backs in a safer position, you’re using the muscles properly, and the postural muscles are able to actually hold you in a safer position. Now what happens is normally your body takes shape of what you repeatedly do, if you’re always sitting you start to adapt to that type of chair and that position. Another thing is stretching the anterior hip muscles called the hip flexors, which are often contracted while you’re sitting. The hip flexors have a huge part in low back pain, as well as the glut maximus or the glut muscles, they actually shut down from being not used because of long periods of sitting. Activating and using the glut muscles while stretching your anterior hip muscles can make a big difference in someone’s low back pain and help them sit up nice and tall.
Will constant hunching over phones and ipads eventually cause back and neck pain?
Dr. Edward Camacho: Yes, and this is a huge epidemic we’re now seeing in kids and most patients under the age of fifteen. Everyone is looking at technology in their belly button, and I always tell patients bring the phone, bring the ipad up to your face, don’t bring your face down into the pad. Everyone is looking down at their thighs, we see a lot of rounded backs which is called kyphosis in our office. Just walking around on any street going down the street, everyone’s looking down. The head and the neck are put at a disadvantage every few degrees where the head is forward, anterior to the body, there is a large amount of stress that’s put on the posterior structures of the back and the upper neck area. These technologies are making a big difference in our lifestyle, but it’s also effecting everyday activities for most patients and everyone can almost have something in common, see similarities. All we have to do is bring the screens to our face. While we sit up and we use the technology devices in a little bit of a better position, can prevent neck and back pain.
What adjustments can we make to our sleeping conditions to prevent neck and back pain?
Dr. Edward Camacho: Sleeping is hard for a lot of people to make adjustments because it’s their comfort. A lot of people like sleeping on their stomach, on their side, on their back, it really depends on each patient. What we look for when we’re addressing a sleeping position is neutral spine, meaning the spine is straight. We don’t want the spine, the neck, the low back twisted to one direction while the upper part of the body is rotated to a different direction. We want the spine to be straight, which means the stress on the body should be balanced.
We don’t really recommend people sleeping on their stomach, however a lot of people do. If you can stay off of your stomach that would help the neck tremendously. Sleeping on your back is not always the most comfortable and hard to get used to for some people, but we recommend just putting a little bit of, like a small towel, rolled up t-shirt at the base of your neck so you maintain what’s called the cervical curve while you’re resting. For people who sleep on their side, or side sleepers, what’s really important is the space between your ear and the side of the bed. If the pillow is too small or too low, the head bends down toward the bed. If the pillow is too large, it pushes the head upwards towards the ceiling. Like I said before, we want a neutral spine. You need to find a pillow that is comfortable and fits perfectly between the outside of your shoulder touching the bed and your ear.
Are there any other lifestyle changes that we can make to prevent neck and back pain?
Dr. Edward Camacho: The one thing I would recommend to everybody is to improve their posture. Whether sitting, whether standing, whether sleeping, whether having a conversation with a friend, small changes make a large difference. It’s something as simple as just standing upright or sitting up taller can have a big part in preventing neck and back pain.
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