Active Back Care

LIFTING AND MOVING

Lifting and moving objects are common causes of pain and injury to your body. The lower back is most often put at risk, but your neck and shoulders can also be injured. You can protect yourself against injury by planning how to tackle the task. When lifting an object, try to reduce the:

Need to lift below knee height or above shoulder height

Distance the load is away from your body

Weight, shape and size of the load

Number of times you are going to lift

Distance you are going to carry the load

Speed of your lift

Most importantly, prepare your body by warming up and then doing some stretches.

Think before you lift— With your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the hips and knees. Grip the load firmly and hold it close to your body, tighten your stomach muscles and use your leg muscles to lift. Keep your back as straight as possible, and gently breathe out. Avoid twisting—turn by using your feet, not your back.

WORKING AT A DESK

The way your workspace is set up and how you use your computer can be a major cause of back, neck and shoulder pain. The following tips will help you prevent problems:

Use a good quality, comfortable and adjustable office chair. Pull your chair close to the desk and adjust the seat height so that your elbows, hips and knees are bent at approximately 90 degrees. Your forearms should be parallel to or sloping down toward the desktop. Your feet should rest flat on the floor.

Adjust the backrest of your chair to support the curve in your lower back and to help keep you upright when typing. Relax your shoulders.

Sit straight and position your computer screen at a comfortable viewing distance, generally at arm’s length. Keep the top of the screen below eye level and directly in front of you.

Don’t work from documents flat on the desk. Use a document holder set close to the screen at the same distance from your eyes.

Limit continuous computer use and take a break every 20 minutes to do some neck, wrist and shoulder stretches. Get up and walk around. Change your tasks regularly to alter the load on your body.

Learn to touch type so you don’t have to bend your head forward searching for the right keys.

Alternate between mouse and keyboard by carrying your inputting tasks.

Manage the stresses of work and study with a balance of exercise, relaxation and other stress management approaches

Avoid using a laptop for extended periods. If you must use your laptop for a long period of time check that the top of the screen is below eye level and plug in a mouse.

SLEEPING

Your mattress and pillow should support your natural shape. Your mattress should be firm enough to support your body while also supporting the weight of your shoulders and buttocks, keeping your spine straight. Too many pillows can cause neck strain. If you have trouble sleeping, try lying on your side with your knees bent and a pillow between your knees. If you sleep on your back, placing a pillow under your knees will help maintain the normal curve of your lower back.

DRIVING

A supportive car seat will help prevent back pain. If you need lower back support, use a lumbar support or a rolled-up towel. Take regular breaks on long trips.

Good Health Magazine—Health Handbook

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