By Chista K. Shahrokh, B.Sc., D.C.
Attaining and maintaining balance in life is the biggest challenge facing most North Americans today. Very few people feel their lives are balanced with work, family, friends and health, and taking care of their health is usually their last priority. Most people assume they must make major adjustments, however, a few minor changes can make a major difference in the quality of many lives.
The flu and colds are the primary reasons patients seek help and advice from their family doctors, and back pain is the second most common complaint. Up to 80 percent of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives. How can you avoid becoming a statistic? There is no one magic answer, but you can make a few minor changes to have a healthier, more balanced life and back.
• Improve your postural alignment, especially while sitting. This is very important. Our society increasingly spends more time sitting, thus experiencing less movement and more static loading of the back. There was a recent study done using positional MRI to look at the low back while patients sat. The results showed it is better to have the hips higher than the knees, and sitting on a ball chair provides this angle. If you would like more information, go to backandneck.about.com to read the article that summarizes the research findings. All of our front desk staff at the clinic where I work sit on the evolution ball chair. It is a good example of a minor change that can make a major difference.
• Avoid repetitive movements that place increased pressure and load on the back. This is a-three-strikes-and-you're-out analogy for the back: bending forward, twisting and reaching. If you repeat any of these movements, you will eventually be one of the statistics. Find alternate ways to move your body to decrease the pressure on your back. Golfers save their backs by lifting one leg straight back when they bend down to pick up a golf ball. And here is an obvious but important point to reiterate: if an object is heavy do not lift it by yourself, but bend at your knees to share the load with your leg muscles.
• The "weekend warrior" is inactive through the week and expects his or her body to perform at its peak on the weekend. No person in invincible. The warrior will likely get injured. Incorporate changes such as taking the stairs and parking further from work to add a walk. Meet a friend to exercise instead of for a meal. Get moving and stay active on a daily basis, not just on the weekend.
• Know your limits and do not stray too far from them. Even the most athletic people can experience back pain. If you push past your limit, you make yourself vulnerable to injuries. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of activity and compliment it with cross training.
• Work on your core stability. You do not have to lift heavy weights and have a six-pack to have a strong and stable back. Add isometric endurance back strengthening to your day. Many of the movements simply involve the use of a mat and stability ball and the resistance of gravity. Each person is unique, and no set series of movements is perfect for everyone. Seek the advice of a trained professional to assess your individual needs.
• Improve your physical sense of balance. You can work on this every day. Sit on a ball and take one foot off the ground while engaging your core muscles. Wash dishes and brush your teeth while standing on one leg. Walk on uneven surfaces such as trails. Get up from a chair without bending forward at your waist and try not to use your hands, just leg and core muscles. Look into yoga, pilates, tai-chi and stability ball classes, which incorporate movements to help you with balance, stretching and strengthening.
It goes without saying, your body will be happiest when you eat well, stay mobile, get enough sleep, stay hydrated and manage your stress. You have one body and none of the parts are replaceable. Take the time to take care of your body now so it will be able to take care of you for many years to come.
Chista K. Shahrokh, B.Sc., D.C., is a chiropractor practicing in a multidisciplinary clinic in North Vancouver. She is actively involved at the national level with the clinical and written examinations as part of the Canadian Chiropractic Examination Board.
Source: Posture Perfect Solutions Ltd.