When the body is cared for in a complete way, it — and all of its parts — function better. “You’re not just a spine, or a knee, or a heart, or a lung. You’re a whole person,” says Dr. Scott S. Russo of the OAM Spine Center. And, what’s not good for the body is not good for the spine. “Unhealthy lifestyle habits, like poor nutrition or smoking, cause the body to degenerate from the inside out,” says Dr. Russo. Spinal degeneration occurs naturally from the aging process but can be accelerated by making damaging life choices. If you manage your entire person through diet and exercise, the spine will reciprocate. “The spine is the foundation for the arms and legs,” says Dr. Russo. When the back is strong, the body is properly supported, and injuries are more easily prevented. Job-related activities also have an effect on your wellbeing — especially jobs that keep you seated for long periods of time. According to Dr. Russo, here are three easy ways to keep your spine and body pain free throughout the workday:
- Get up and walk — On lunches, breaks, and if possible, to and from work. It’s an easy habit that makes all the difference.
- Bring your computer screen closer — Especially if you’re experiencing neck and shoulder pain, you may be hunching over to see better. Bring the monitor in and up to balance the head on the neck.
- Sit in a supportive chair — Use a pillow if you have to. The idea here is to make sure your spine is aligned normally.
If you’re already experiencing back pain, how much is too much? “Minor, persistent back pain or aches that last more than two weeks should be evaluated by a primary care doctor,” advises Dr. Russo. “If it’s something more serious — like loss of function, numbness, tingling — that is an emergency and deserves to be evaluated right away.” Treating back pain can vary, but Dr. Russo typically recommends physiotherapy, along with limited amounts of medication, if necessary. Physiotherapy — like strengthening the core and cervical muscles, stretching, and aerobics — is administered by a physical therapist and designed to alleviate back pain to promote both healing and injury prevention.