Spring Your Health Ahead This Season
It’s been a long cold Winter here at the Jersey Shore but we’ve made it through to March. The days have been slowly getting longer and lately we’ve had some real nice weather. At times it feels like Spring is in the air and it almost is! This weekend is Daylight Savings Time and we get to change the clocks and “spring ahead” one hour. That extra hour is always a gift on Sunday morning. Even though we lose an hour, we appreciate the longer day and know that Spring is right around the corner.
A new season, especially Spring is the perfect time for fresh ideas and new habits. We love building healthy habits for life. This week’s blog focuses on healthy postural habits that we hope you incorporate into your daily routines.
We often say that posture is the window to the spine. We know that abnormal posture weakens the structure of the spine causing it to distort. This distortion puts stress on the spinal cord and spinal nerves at that level. This nerve interference slows down nerve energy to vital organs weakening one’s overall health. Most times this occurs when there is no pain. By the time pain starts, the nerves in that area are already inflamed, the nerves are not getting energy to the organs and the organs at the end of those nerves are being affected. So your posture is directly related to your overall health.
The following are three scenarios that affect your posture and health:
#1. Posture in the car
We take for granted how much time we spend driving. Little trips around town add up and poor posture in the car can cause big changes to the spine. In fact, I think driving is one of the biggest culprits of causing poor posture. Every car seat is different so use the following as guidelines for your car. Remember you need to drive safe so if it is too drastic a change or is uncomfortable, make the changes slowly.
Make sure the backseat is raised up and not leaning back. Don’t slouch in the seat but rather keep your hips and low back pressed against the seat. Not everyone needs to use lumbar support so don’t automatically use one. Next is your mid back and shoulders. Ideally you want to have your shoulders in line with your hips. Keep your mid and upper back up against the back seat. Last is the headrest. You want to have your head touching the back of it but don’t let it cause your chin to tuck into your chest. If your hair is up in a bun, clip or ponytail, it will prevent the back of your head from hitting the headrest. You want to have your ears line up with your shoulders and hips.
Once you have this ideal posture, sent your rear mirror and side mirrors to hold this position. If you find yourself not being able to see out the mirrors when driving like this, re-adjust your body not the mirror. You can retrain old habits and posture, it takes consistency and time. The more you do it, the less you’ll have to re-adjust the mirror.
#2. Sleeping posture
This posture is usually the hardest one to change if done incorrectly. Ideally you want to be sleeping on your back or on your side. The stomach is the worst position because the head and neck are turned for extended periods of time. This may lead to headaches, neck, upper back and shoulder discomfort or stiffness. If you sleep on your back, I would recommend using a Denneroll Pillow. It is amazing because it doesn’t push your head forward, but rather has a flip out portion where your head is nestled in and your neck is supported by either a firm or soft roll. I finally have a pillow to recommend for back sleepers that is not only comfortable but also supportive for your neck curve. It can also be used for side sleeping just like a traditional cervical pillow. If you don’t have a Denneroll pillow, try to use one small flat pillow while sleeping on your back. Side sleepers should use a medium size pillow to keep the head and neck straight. If a pillow is too thick or thin, it will cause the head and neck to have an abnormal tilt. If you are a stomach sleeper the best advice is to stop. It’ll be hard at first but start on your back or side and if you wake up on your stomach, instead of just going back to sleep, turn on your back or side again. The more you do this, the less you’ll wake up on your stomach. New habits can form, it just takes practice.
#3. Phones and tablets
The last few years a good majority of our time has been spent using some sort of technology. Whether that is for work, fun, or education, our time is consumed by it and can be a major contributor to poor posture. Everyone has different habits while online so the best advice is to be aware of two things—1) what is my posture like right now? 2) how long have I’ve been sitting or lying like this? If you catch yourself slouching or with your head bent over your phone, either stop and take break, or sit up straight and hold your phone above your eye level. When your arms get tired from holding your phone up, it’s time to go offline.
Ideally when working from home, you want a desktop computer with a proper workstation set up. If possible, use an office style chair and the computer screen should be at a 10-15 degree angle above your eye level. Try to have your back supported by the seat with your knees at a 90 degree angle to the ground and your feet flat on the floor. Don’t cross your ankles. If you have a laptop, consider investing in a laptop stand to meet the above guidelines. Stand up every 50 minutes for 5-10 minutes to take some pressure off your lower back.
Avoid using your phone or tablet in bed as most times that causes the shoulders to round forward and the head to look down. In bed (or on the couch), someone may slouch down and put a few pillows behind their neck to get “comfortable”, but this position is the worst posture to have because, over time, it can push the head out of alignment with the shoulders. Or someone may be laying on their side while they’re reading emails or texts, and their spine is bent to one side more than the other. A few minutes like this is ok. Too much time starts to put uneven pressure on the spine and soft tissue.
Some ways to avoid poor posture while using your phone and other technologies:
- Sit up straight and hold the phone or tablet above shoulder level
- Take frequent breaks (5-7 minutes) while working or looking at your phone
- Track your time on the phone and computer to prevent poor posture from creeping in
- Stretch your body for a few minutes every hour
Listen to your body if you feel stiffness in your neck or shoulders or if you get a headache when working with technology. Those are your body’s cues when it is uncomfortable and needs attention.