Back pain, neck pain, and related problems are incredibly common, and cost an estimated $50 billion per year in treatment. Preventing back pain and neck pain is not difficult, but it does require information and focus. In this article, we describe a few ideas for preventing or minimizing the discomfort associated with back pain and neck pain. But, before discussing these ideas, we first need to understand the fundamental causes of back and neck pain.
Sitting still - If you consider how much time we spent at our desks, driving to/from work, and sleeping, we spend extraordinary amounts of time in a stationary, fixed position. Activity and motion are what keep our muscles in tone and fit. A lack of motion means that our muscles weaken. Now weak muscles by themselves are not a problem per se, but they are an underlying issue that need to be addressed.
Gravity - Related to remaining stationary is the effect of gravity on our muscles and blood flow. Muscles can become stiff and sore as a result of their efforts to counteract the effects of gravity and sitting still.
Poor Posture - Perhaps the worse thing we can do for our backs and necks is maintain poor posture while sitting still. In fact, the combination of stationary, poor posture, with gravity, is essentially the combination of effects that cause long-term back and neck problems.
So what can we do? Yes, our Mother's told us to sit up straight and watch our poor posture, but clearly we don't. So how can we actually counteract our bad habits and prevent future back and neck problems?
Picture Your Posture - We know we need to sit up straight. But what exactly does this mean? Really, the key is to understand the natural curves in the spine, then adjusting your posture accordingly. Many of the more expensive back supports are designed to perfectly keep your spine aligned properly while seated. Well-designed back supports can counteract our poor posture habits, and help avoid future back pain.
Move It! - We know that we need to exercise more. But even a little motion helps, such as stretches while at work, or even adjusting your car seat every week to "surprise" your muscles and forcing them to adjust to a new position. Of course, going for aerobic walks and watching our weight will help our back, neck, and just about everything else!
Footstool - It surprises many people when they learn that having a footstool can help prevent back pain. Why? Basically, while seated, the best position is to have our weight supported by our buttocks and feet. By not having a footstool, our weight can be "pulled" downward, causing stress to our lower back.
Ergonomics - This is a fancy way of saying how important it is to have your body positioned for minimum stress while, for example, seated. This can mean having a chair at a proper height to that you don't have to have your arms in an awkward position while writing.
Sleep - The most important thing we can do while we sleep is to use a good, supportive pillow. Cheap pillows from discount stores simply do not offer the neck support we need and deserve. Good pillows are not cheap, but they pale in comparison to the cost associated with neck pain and back pain.
Recommendations - Our recommendations are fairly straightforward. First, make sure you keep moving by walking and stretching during the course of the day. Second, use supports for your back and feet. Even if you don't have back pain and neck pain now, having supports in place will prevent future problems. Third, spend the money on a good chair. Fourth, stay away from cheap discount store pillows, and invest in a good one with proper support.