Experiencing back pain? The cause may well be the little actions you perform regularly, from slouching at your desk to picking up your toddler to shaving your legs.
“Everyday things can add up to back pain,” Dr. Jason Lipetz, chief of spine medicine at Northwell Health in Long Island, tells The Post.
Here, Lipetz and James Koo, a board-certified physical therapist at Rusk Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Health in Midtown, dish on common aches and pains, their typical causes and the easy things you can do to feel better.
The common cause: “Looking down at your phone or looking down at your computer all day can cause neck pain and strain,” Lipetz says.
The easy fix: “Just place your computer screen at eye-level [propping it on books if needed] and sit up straight,” says Koo. Throughout the day, imagine “that your chin is on a shelf and retract your head back in line with your shoulders.” Aim to do this turtle-like move 10 times every few hours for maximum benefit.
The common cause: Repeated overhead activities such as lifting your children or reaching for shelves are often to blame, says Lipetz.
The easy fix: Koo suggests putting a long stick, umbrella or broom handle on your back along the length of your spine, from your lower back to neck. Then, while holding the stick behind your back with one hand behind your neck and another at your lower back, practice sitting and standing by sticking your hips back towards a chair with the item still pressed up against your back. Do three sets of 10, three times a week.
The common cause: The way you sleep could be the issue, especially if you rest on your side. “Generally we like people to sleep on their backs with their legs elevated, and with the neck neutral, not too high or low on pillows, as if you were standing upright,” says Lipetz. “But once you fall asleep, all bets are off on movement.”
The easy fix: To increase mobility in the upper back, Koo suggests sitting in a chair and interlocking your fingers behind your head with your elbows out to the side. Then, extend your upper back against the back of the chair for the length of a deep breath. Try this stretch five to 10 times, two to three times a day.
The common cause: Carrying a heavy bag can be a big strain on this area, Lipetz says, as can repeated overhead motions, such as blow-drying your hair.
The easy fix: “Motion is lotion for the joints,” Koo says. “To ease middle back pain, set a timer, and every 20 to 30 minutes stand and move around your office or cubicle.” Another hack: Increase hip mobility to strengthen the spine and prevent middle back pain by going into a kneeling lunge with one shin on the floor. Keep your trunk upright and shift your weight forward until you feel a pull in the front of your hip area. Perform at least three reps, holding each for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
The common cause: Picking up children or other heavier items is often the root of the problem. “Bending over at the waist puts pressure on the discs of the spine and can cause pain,” Lipetz says. “Also, things like riding a bike with the seat too low, even getting in and out of a car, can make you lift the knee too high which puts extra pressure on the spine and contributes to lower-back pain.”
The easy fix: When you do lift things, bend from the knees, Lipetz says. If the damage is already done, Koo suggests standing and placing your hands on your hips or lower back, shifting your hips forward, and then simply bending backward (lightly) to stretch, holding for a few seconds. Try this 10 times every two to three hours.
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