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Pain and Posture: The Basics

Pain and Posture: The Basics

Pain and Posture: The Basics

    Old “Doc” Plume, the local hardware store owner, who was known for his miraculous cures for arthritis, had a long line of “patients” waiting outside the door when a little old lady, completely bent over, shuffled in slowly, leaning on her cane.  When her turn came, she went into the back room of the store and, amazingly, emerged within half an hour, walking completely erect with her head held high.  A woman waiting in the line said, “It’s a miracle! You walked in bent in half and now you’re walking erect.   What did Doc do?”  She answered, “He gave me a longer cane.”

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      It’s funny; most of the people with bad posture or pain syndrome I run into want to know a miracle exercise that will cure their dysfunction.  Sure, exercise can help and be a big part of a program designed to deal with pain and posture.  But more often than not, it is the little things in our everyday lives that could use some adjusting.  With that, here is a short list of activities to be mindful of.

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      Driving: Do you slouch, lean to one side more than the other?  Maybe you keep one hand high on the steering wheel and the other low, causing you to shrug one shoulder more than the other.  The point: try to shift and change positions often if you spend lots of time in the car.  The best position will always be hands at 10 and 2.  And holding your back tall and flat against the seat.

      Desk: You should know by now that posture at the desk is important.  You’re in this position for several hours at a time and it can have BIG repercussions on your health.  Get up often and be aware of any favoritism to any particular positions you might find yourself in.  Reaching and twisting from a seated position is a big no-no.  Try to organize your desk to be more spine friendly by putting often-used folders and materials within arm’s reach.

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      Sleeping: Our sleep posture is one of the most overlooked aspects of our life.  You spend 8 hours (hopefully) a night in either one or various positions that could have a large impact on your posture during the day.  Do you pile the pillows high?  This leads to excess stretching of the extensors in the neck, possibly contributing to a forward head posture.  Do you pull the bed sheets tight over your feet, pulling your toes into a pointed position?  This can lead to limited ankle mobility, which then affects your entire body mechanics, from walking to sitting.  Do you sleep on your side with one leg bent and across your body?  This can lead to an imbalance between your left and right spinal erectors, which then could be contributing to your back pain.  This is can be even worse if you’re a woman with generous hips.  Paranoid yet?  I didn’t even mention how sleeping on your stomach can contribute to an excessive lordodic curve ,which then may lead to extra compressive forces for your lumbar spine to handle.  So which is the best position to sleep in?  On your side, knees bent, pillow between the knees and your head resting on a single pillow.  Or if you prefer, on your back with a pillow under your knees, sheets loose, and again, a single pillow for the head.

      The point I’m trying to drive home here is that we need to pay more attention to our bodies when they’re NOT in motion.  It’s the little things like these that add up and contribute to a life of constant and nagging pains.  Practice a technique known as mindfulness.  Every once in awhile turn your attention inwards and ask yourself; have I been in this position for too long?  Could I do something to make my current posture or situation more comfortable and back friendly?  Before you know it, the pain that once prevented you from doing normal everyday tasks will have disappeared and become a thing of the past.

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      Last Updated on November 18, 2020

      15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

      15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

      It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
      Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

      1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
      2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
      3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
      4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
      5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
      6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
      7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
      8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
      9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
      10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
      11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
      12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
      13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
      14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
      15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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