Our generation has a certain kind of lean – and no, we’re not talking about swag – we’re talking about our spine. The epicenter of our bodies, the core of our balance and the center of our nervous system.
Our posture is a reflection of our lifestyle – for our generation, this translates into hours a day spent staring down at our phones and hunching over computer screens (yes, that means you reading this, too). And let’s be frank – it’s just a fact of life. While we may not have the power to convince our bosses to buy everyone in the office ergonomic desk chairs and adjustable computer monitors, we can seek treatment for “text neck” and make small adjustments to our daily routine to prevent a future full of slouching and sore muscles.
We sought some straightening from Atlas Healthcare Center’s founder and Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C), Dr. Shahram Ardalan, who gave us some great tips on how to prevent back pain and primp our poor posture. Kiss those slouchy shoulders goodbye!
1. Ditch The laptop
First of all, it’s important to look at the today’s back pain versus yesterday’s back pain – that is, the root of why patients today are suffering. Atlas Healthcare Center’s Dr. Shahram Ardalan (D.C.) makes an enlightening statement – previously, the idea of ‘work’ involved heavy labor, mechanical use of the body, and physical endurance that often resulted in on-site injuries. Today’s back pain is more commonly stationary pain – injury caused (ironically), from a lack of movement. Dr. Ardalan (D.C.) refers to this dichotomy as macrotrauma vs microtrauma.
While we know we can’t ditch our computers altogether, we can adjust the way that we use them by perfecting our stationary technique.
First of all, invest in a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse, even if you have a laptop. If you’re staring down at your screen with your neck forward-hanging and tilted, you’re doing it wrong. The screen of your computer should be at eye level or slightly below so that your neck is not straining to hold your head. Next, your keyboard and mouse should be located at your navel – your inner elbows stationed at 90-100 degrees (or so that your elbows are always higher than your wrists).
2. Strengthen Your Back Muscles
Because much of what we do, naturally, happens in front of us, our pecs (pectoral muscles) tend to build up a lot of unnecessary tension and as a result, tighten, creating a forward shoulder roll. Therefore, it’s important to build up the rhomboids (the shoulder blade area) to counteract this habit and prevent rounded shoulders and slouching.
Additionally, the levator scapulae (the muscles that run from midd neck to shoulder blade area) can also become hunched or cinched upwards. Dr. Ardalan (D.C.) says, “imagine your shoulders squinting – this is a very tense position.” This tension in the legator scapulae can often cause upper back pain, so it’s important to stretch the sides of your neck.
Some exercises can be found here, here and here.
3. Sit Up Straight
We know, you’ve heard it before. While the textbook definition directs us to sit with our feet flat on the ground, Dr. Ardalan (D.C.) acknowledges that this is highly unrealistic – “Your butt and back should touch the very back of the chair so you feel the support with no weight on your legs. If you lean forward just a bit on your chair you can feel the difference in pressure. Your elbows should always be higher than your wrists when sitting relaxed” (i.e. see #1, when you’re typing or moving a mouse).
4. Sleep Right
The ideal sleeping position is to lay flat on your back with a pillow underneath your knees to relax your hamstrings and take pressure off your lower back. If you’re a committed side sleeper, place a pillow between your knees to take the pressure off the lower back. This can be particularly beneficial and relaxing for women, because females have wider hips.
5. Know When To See A Specialist
Pain is like the alarm system of the body, and it’s generally a good sign that it’s time to take action. However, you should not always wait for pain to signal a trip to the chiropractor – proper maintenance is required to prevent chronic illness, pain and tension later on.
Dr. Ardalan poses this food for thought –
“Do you take your car to be serviced? An oil change? Brakes serviced? (The answer is always, or should be, ‘Yes’.) So what are you doing to ‘service’ your spine? It’s one of the most commonly ignored parts of the body, yet it houses your nervous system, your source, and your engine for the body.”
Atlas Healthcare Center
17200 Ventura Blvd Suite 212
Encino, CA 91316