Spine issues are some of the most common musculo-skeletal problems, especially among sedentary office workers. Lower Back Pain (LBP) affects 40% of people in general, and its prevalence is considered to be as high as 80% among office workers in particular. Majority of LBP does not have a specific cause, but is the result of sprains and strains. The economic costs of a painful spine are quite high as it is the most common type of pain in adults, but the emotional costs are steep too. Prevention, as we note often, is the much, much better than cure, especially when the cure is elusive and not easily tracked. In this blog, we explore the things you can do to keep your spine healthy and happy.
The Right Posture
“Don’t Slouch!”, is a refrain we often hear from parents and teachers. In fact, this much valuable advice is often ignored because it is so ubiquitous. We often think that good posture only makes cosmetic sense, that we can afford slouching in informal situations. This complacency is dangerous since posture is the number one cause for LBP and other spine issues. Since we spend a lot of our time sitting in chairs at the office, we will focus on proper sitting posture.
So here are do’s and don’t’s for proper sitting posture:
- Don’t: Slump forward over your desk
- Don’t: Cradle a phone receiver (or a smartphone) between neck and shoulder
- Do: Choose an ergonomically designed chair
- Do: Align your back against the back of the chair. Never slump forward. If you feel you’re too far away from your computer, pull the chair forward.
- Do: Keep your feet flat on the floor. Use a footrest if you can’t reach the floor.
- Do: Keep your shoulders straight, and your elbows flexed at 75 to 90 degrees even when typing.
The Right Shoes
Mechanical problems in the feet can affect way you walk or stand, and hence cause a strain on your spine. Poorly fitting shoes are a complete no-no. Keep in mind that sweat absorption is necessary. If your shoes cannot absorb sweat properly, your grip on the shoes and consequently you gait will become less than optimal. Look for genuine leather shoes when you need formal shoes. Leather is much better at sweat absorption, breathability, and also it moulds to your feet much better than synthetic leather.
P.S.: We probably don’t have to tell you, but do not wear high heels everyday. Along with spinal strain, heels put a lot of strain on other parts of your body. If you have to wear heels for some occasion, make sure they’re block heels i.e., have a broader heel and don’t forget to wear inserts.
Limit Your Sitting Time
Long, uninterrupted periods of sitting are bad for your spine. The stress point when sitting is directly on your lower back. Sitting a lot is bad news. Take breaks from sitting as often as every 30 minutes. If a meeting does not a need powerpoint presentation (and most meetings don’t anyways), take a walk in the office grounds instead of sitting in a stuffy room. If your office has a garden, even better. Nature improves mental activity.
The Right Clothes
Clothing so tight that it interferes with bending, sitting, or walking can aggravate back pain. Pencil skirts, skinny jeans are the most common culprits. Tight belts are also cause a lot of discomfort.
When buying clothes focus also on the fabric content. A lot of synthetic fibres don’t absorb sweat well, and will restrict fluent motion.
Natural fibres like cotton, silk, and rayon (also known as bamboo or viscose) are much more breathable. But remember not all polyester is evil: some of it is specifically designed for breathability. Check your labels and make sure your clothing is comfortable and airy.
The Right Food
Eating a balanced diet that includes the right amount and variety of vitamins and nutrients will reduce back problems by nourishing the bones, muscles, discs and other structures in the spine. Particular importance should be given to calcium, which can be obtained through a variety of healthy food choices as well as nutritional supplements. Also vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, so get some sun exposure. A good 20 minutes in the sun (with sunscreen: sunscreen doesn’t affect vitamin D absorption) is recommended. Good fats like omega-3 are absolutely essential for spine health. Eat a good mix of vegetables, fruits, complex carbs, and lean meat. You can use supplement, but a supplement is not designed to be a replacement for a healthy diet.