Bad habits are a part of life. Everyone engages in at least a few bad habits, and many people pick them up without even realizing it. And once you have a bad habit, it can be difficult to break.
Some bad habits can be relatively harmless, but other bad habits can have disastrous results, particularly if they lead to a risk of injury. For example, there are a number of bad habits that contribute to painful conditions such as herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and other leading causes of neck and back pain.
You may be surprised by what habits could actually result in serious spinal conditions. The most common bad habits that can lead to neck and back pain are poor posture, improper lifting technique, and lack of exercise.
If you spend hours a day sitting at a computer or slouching in front of your desk, chances are excellent that you’ve developed poor posture. Poor posture causes the spine to bend out of its natural, neutral alignment, which in turn can contribute to disc pain, sciatica, and other problems.
When sitting, always keep your back straight, your head level, and your shoulders back, down, and relaxed. Keep your feet slightly apart, with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. If possible, engage an expert in ergonomics (the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment) to help determine how to maintain better posture while sitting.
Bad habits while lifting are extremely common. Due to the extra strain lifting a heavy object puts on your joints, muscles, and spine, body mechanics while lifting are extremely important. A small error can cause serious injury.
Some common lifting tips include never bending from the waist when lifting and instead bending from the knees and using your legs to support the weight of the object being lifted, making sure you’ve got a good grip on the object and holding it close to your body and, most importantly, never twisting while lifting. Always lift in a fluid, straight up-and-down movement.
Leading an active lifestyle is important for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. It is especially important for people with back conditions like bone spurs, arthritis of the spine, and bulging discs, because a lack of exercise can lead to weight gain, muscle stiffness, and other factors that contribute to neck or back pain.
An ideal exercise routine should consist of about 30 minutes of activity, three to five times a week. Try to choose an activity you enjoy; if you like what you’re doing, chances are that it’ll be easier to stick to a regimen. Remember that exercising doesn’t have to mean slogging it out on the treadmill. If the gym bores you or makes you anxious, try yoga or Pilates, martial arts, dance classes, or other alternative forms of exercise.
Understandable as these reasons may be, there is no good reason to avoid regular check-ups or to decline to seek medical help for specific problems. Back pain, in particular, should never be ignored. If your back hurts, visit your physician before the condition has a chance to get worse. Your physician may be able to diagnose the condition immediately and recommend a nonsurgical treatment plan.
A great way to strengthen your postural muscles is to focus on core strength as well as lower- and mid-back strength exercises.
Try these two exercises three to four times per week to begin a healthier postural lifestyle today!
Step 1 Lie face down in a push-up position. Keep your palms on the floor next to your shoulders and your feet flexed with the bottoms of your toes on the floor.
Step 2 Take a deep breath and press up into a pushup. Your body should make a straight line from your heels to the top of your head.
Step 3 Draw your navel toward your spine and tighten your buttocks. Look at the floor to keep your head in a neutral position and breathe normally. Hold for 20-30 seconds and work your way up to one minute.
Step1 Start by going on your hands and knees on a mat or towel. Be sure to keep your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders.
Step 2 Slowly extend your right arm and left leg out to a complete extension.
Step 3 Carefully bring your arm and leg back in without touching the floor.
Repeat for three sets of 15 reps on each side.
Dov Segal is a master fitness trainer and cycling instructor. He has been training clients one-on-one for over 10 years, specializing in obesity, post rehab, heart conditions, and overall strength building. He and his wife, Ava, have a studio in Queens, separate for men and women, called Clique Fitness, which offers personal-training sessions, group fitness classes, massage, and other Clique care services. www.cliquefitnesscenter.com, (718)380-0046