Many Canadians, along with those all over the world, made the switch to working and learning from home in 2020. Just like that, the DIY workspace was born, and these spaces were not typically equipped with the ergonomic furnishings found at the office. Some were made at the kitchen counter, the dining room table, others on the couch. As a result, it’s likely that new aches and pains have started to appear, if that sounds familiar… you’re not alone.
Approximately 85% of working people will experience back pain in their lifetime. Spine health is essential to minimizing back pain especially while working and learning from home. There are many things that we can do to decrease our risk of a back injury, and in return support our spine health.
Keeping your spine healthy is the same as keeping your teeth clean and your computer free of viruses.
Spine Basics 101 (Bones, Joints, and Ligaments)
Did you know the average person has 33 vertebrae that make up the spinal column? Each vertebra is intertwined by ligaments, muscle, fascia and nerves that all serve a purpose.
The main functions of the spine are to protect the spinal cord and hold the body upright. The spinal cord houses millions of nerve fibres that branch off to connect specific parts of the body.
The spinal column itself is a meeting point for many large muscles, strong bones, and those highly sensitive nerves that run from our brain to our toes. The spine is divided up into three major sections, the cervical spine, the thoracic spine, and the lumbar spine.
All of the parts mentioned above work to create the structural and nervous system support needed for the entire body. This is why it is so important to have a healthy spine.
Your Spine and Health Are Connected, Here's How...
Different parts of the body are actually associated with different regions of the spine!
- The nerves in the cervical spine connect to breathing, shoulders, parts of the arms and chest.
- The nerves in the thoracic spine connect to parts of the arm, esophagus, trachea, heart, lungs, liver, gallbladder, and small intestine.
- The nerves in the lumbar spine connect to the legs and feet.
- The nerves in the sacrum connect to the bowel, bladder, and sexual function.
Once you notice how interconnected the spine and body are, it’s easy to imagine how much spine health can affect overall health by targeting different parts of the body.
What Can You Do for Your Spine Health?
Whether you are on or off the clock, there are many things you can add to your daily routines that will have a positive impact on the spine.
Tips for Working and Learning from Home:
Avoid bad posture while sitting at the computer.
Sitting with bad posture for long periods of time can put a lot of strain on vulnerable areas, without you even noticing!
Many believe that a 90-degree angle is a normal sitting posture but this angle actually causes the most strain on our spine by creating the most spinal disk movement. Researchers have concluded that a 135-degree angle is the optimal sitting position. Sitting at 135-degrees places less strain on the spinal disks and places muscles and tendons in a more relaxed state.
A slouching position results in high levels of wear and tear on the lowest two spinal levels along with many other effects such as reduced lung capacity.
Posture also includes the position of the neck. Try to view your screens with a straight neck, this is most important while using a laptop or a phone because we tend to look down while using these devices.
Move from your work area during your lunch break.
Use your breaks to refresh your mind and body. Stand up and move while you cook, go for a short walk outside, and try not to sit in your work area while you eat.
Switch chairs and sitting arrangements throughout the day.
Having an ergonomic chair is not a cure-all for back pain, even with one you’ll want to make sure you are adjusting your position, height, and angle throughout the day. Try sitting on a different surface throughout the day, whether that be a different chair or a gym ball. The key here is variety, but do your spine a favour and don’t work from the bed or the couch.
Avoid being dormant, get up and stretch once every hour.
Getting up and moving around often can work wonders for back pain, mental clarity, and even headaches caused by eye strain. Lots to do? Get up from your chair and do a simple standing stretch to relieve pressure from your discs, promote circulation, and relax muscles. Set an alarm on your phone if you need that extra push.
Try lumbar support items!
Even the smallest amount of support can have a positive effect on your back. Items such as the ObusForme Back Belt for Lumar Support could be a great help. Ideally, you’ll want to sit in a position that will preserve the natural arch in your lower back.
Other Ways to Support Spine Health:
Protect the spine while sleeping.
It is equally important to support the spine while awake as it is while sleeping. The spine can be properly supported while sleeping with a medium to firm mattress, and of course, pillows! Yes, pillows are a great way to help keep the spine naturally aligned. Cervical pillows help to support the cervical spine but consider extra pillows that go beneath the knees to reduce stress on the lower back. Certain pillows are even designed to go between the knees to help keep the hips balanced while sleeping.
Regular exercise (focus on core and back muscles).
While the spine supports the body, the body needs to support the spine too. Poor posture, bad biomechanics, muscle imbalances, and lack of mobility or strength in surrounding muscles can all lead to overcompensation in the spine. Core and back muscles need to be strong to support the spine and lower back. At the end of the day, any form of physical movement will be better than nothing. Just do what feels good and don’t forget to listen to your body!
See a Massage Therapist, Chiropractor, or Physiotherapist.
Nearly 60% of people with lower back pain choose to consult a health care provider, including providers of manual therapy such as physiotherapists and chiropractors. Seeing one of these professionals about your spine health will offer many therapeutic benefits. Think increased blood flow, reduced pain, loosened tight muscles, and vertebra realignment. Not to mention a range of other soothing and relaxing benefits.