Nothing brings your workout to a screeching halt like back pain. We’re not talking about the stiff muscles that you expect after starting a new routine or as a result of a particularly hard day at the gym. These are the unexplained injuries that happen while doing a simple task like bending over or tying your shoes. How do these happen? You’re fit. You workout five days a week and eat only organic foods. As it turns out, your fitness routine may have been brought down in the most unexpected ways.
One of the biggest offenders to a healthy back is crossed legs. Although it feels immediately comfortable because it relaxes muscles in your back and abdomen, crossing your legs causes your spine to rely on muscles and ligaments not designed for support. When these muscles and ligaments are forced to support the weight of your spine for long periods of time, some become stretched and others are shortened.
Evan Johnson, an assistant professor of clinical physical therapy at Columbia University Medical Center, says that over time this stretching and shortening sets the stage for serious injury. And you won’t know when it’s coming. You could be pulling a weed or pushing your vacuum when your back goes out. When your back is injured from the weakening crossing your legs causes, it can result in months away from the gym as you recover. A better way to sit is with both feet on the floor and your hips slightly above your knees.
Want to know the most dangerous seven pounds you’ll ever carry? Your purse. Dr. Jane Sadler, a family practice physician at the Baylor University Medical Center in Garland, Texas, says that she weighs her patient’s purse when they come in complaining of backaches. Carrying a heavy purse throws off the balance of your back. When one shoulder is supporting the burden of your bag, you tend to rebalance yourself by lifting the other shoulder. This positioning puts extra stress on your neck, upper back and shoulders.
A better choice is to use a messenger style bag that more evenly distributes the weight across your shoulders. An even better choice is a backpack that spreads the load across your entire back. Lighten up the contents of whatever you’re carrying for a difference that may save you long term back problems. Consider what you really need – wallet, keys, cell, a touch-up kit instead of your entire makeup bag – then carry only the essentials.
You’ve always known it to be true and now healthcare professionals have confirmed it – work is a pain in the neck. If you sit for long hours, you are depriving your neck and back muscles of the oxygen and nutrients needed to support good back health. Over the course of your workday, back muscles tighten and become prone to pain. To counter this, clasp your fingers together and stretch every 15 minutes. Do shoulder and neck rolls too. Every hour allow yourself 5 minutes to walk. This lets oxygen flow to the muscles and redistributes the gel in your disks. The more you move and exercise, the better you’re likely to feel.