village chiropractors header4Preventative Measures

Most spine-related injuries occur doing everyday activities, such as bending, twisting, lifting, or performing repetitive tasks like typing, painting, woodworking or cooking. The older we get, the more predisposed our bodies tend to become to strain caused by quick, heavy or irregular movement. Anyone who has ever suffered from "golfer's back" or felt their low back suddenly "go out" after lifting, sneezing or stooping can attest to the fact that age can add to a person's feeling of vulnerability.

The important element to remember at any age and with any condition is to protect yourself against injuries, since most are preventable. Just as you wear a seatbelt while driving, it's a good common sense habit to think about protecting your joints, including the ones that mobilize your back, neck, shoulders, knees, fingers, etc., when performing any activity, from sports to loading groceries in and out of your car.

Be aware of your posture. Bent or stooped postures tend to increase pressure on joints, creating vulnerability and arthritic tendencies. Joints are most prone when bent, so don't adopt positions that require your joints to be bent for long periods without movement, such as sitting for long periods, maintaining bent elbows, allowing your spine to stoop, slouch or remain twisted, sleeping on your back with a pillow beneath your knees, keeping your fingers bent for long periods, or tilting your neck when you sleep or when cradling a phone.

Keep moving: Move all your joints regularly and frequently throughout the day so they have a chance to receive circulation and lubrication to keep them healthy. This commitment requires that attention be paid to everything you demand of your body and changing positions constantly. Anything you do for long periods becomes stressful to the body: standing, sitting, lying down, flexing fingers, gripping, lifting - all if it imposes a negative impact on the body if it is prolonged. Quite simply, divide your day into 20 minute segments and move around. Watching TV provides an easy way to impose this habit, since you can get up and walk around during commercial breaks. For all other activities, especially those performed at work, you'll have to make a conscious effort until it becomes habit. Move, stretch gently, get your circulation restored and you'll find you have far fewer pain episodes and will have lessened your chances of spinal and other joint degeneration.

Pay attention to daily activities: Cradling a phone between your ear and shoulder is a common way to invite neck strain, headache and spinal deformity, so break that habit. It is especially damaging if you do it while performing other tasks, such as typing, writing or cooking. The headrest of your car seat, too, can invite spinal deformity if you use it to rest your head for long periods while driving. The headrest's true function is to help prevent whiplash in case of an accident, and to provide brief support during long intervals--it is not to be used as a pillow. Cells phones can aggravate cervical spine disorders, so try a head-set instead, which is not only safer for your spine and elbows, but for driving conditions in general. Chiropractors see an alarming number of injuries related to "fender benders," so avoid increasing your chances of being in one at all costs.

When carrying or lifting heavy items (and "heavy" is a relative term and can realistically mean only a few pounds), place the strain on the strongest joints, not the weakest: lift by bending your knees, not your back; cradle objects against your forearms, not dangled from your fingers or otherwise supported away from your body; push loads using your body weight, not your shoulders. Apply common sense techniques to all efforts and you will greatly reduce the likelihood of strain, sprain and other preventable harm.

Warm up before exercise; cool down after: Whether you plan to run, weight train or hit the links, taking ten to twenty minutes to warm up your muscles and tendons will greatly reduce your risk of injury. Warming up involves controlled aerobic activity, such as walking or cycling, followed by gentle stretching, particularly of muscles you'll be using during your sport or activity. The more aggressive the activity and the older we get, the more vital warm-up becomes, so don't skip it - it takes far less time to warm up than to recover from injury. And remember to finish aerobic activity with a cool-down period (for example, slowing to a walk for five or ten minutes after running), and to stretch your muscles afterward while they're warm to improve mobility and help prevent muscle tension and spasm.

Be aware of your limitations: It is amazing how many agonizing conditions rear their ugly heads because people get a bit too sanguine about their abilities. It takes only a second to get seriously hurt, so try to respect your body's limits, especially if your exercise program has been irregular or it's been a few years since you lettered in sports. Every chiropractor's office is crowded with "weekend warriors" who forgot that their otherwise sedentary lives haven't prepared their bodies for a weekend of tennis, pickle ball or bowling. And if you really need to move that old bureau into the spare bedroom, first decide realistically if it's too much for you alone to accomplish. In short, try to be aware of those times when:

• You need to ask for assistance
• It's time to slow down or stop
• Your body begins to fatigue, hurt or tighten
• You're having an off day and the task should be postponed
• You've been at something for too long and need a break

Keeping these caveats in mind will greatly reduce your incidence of stress, stain, sprain, broken bones, tendonitis and a host of other preventable ailments. A bit of warranted caution can prevent problems now and as you age, helping you to live a fuller, more vibrant life.