Help Your Back in Bed
You spend about a third of your life sleeping. One of the best ways to protect your back is with a mattress and sleep positions that support it.
Make bedtime a haven for your back by:
• Getting the right mattress. No matter how comfortable a squishy-soft feather bed may seem at first, a firmer mattress is usually the best for your back. The types of beds where partners can choose a different level of support can be good, because differences in body structure and size can make what’s comfortable for one person different from another.
• Keep your bed in shape. If you’re waking up stiff and sore, check your mattress. How long has it been since you replaced it? “It’s the same as with running shoes: you put a lot of pressure on the mattress and deforming the foam over time. Twice a year, flip the mattress over and check for divots, dents, wear and tear and breakage. If there are spots where the mattress isn’t springing back the way it used to, it’s time to spring for a new one. Consumer Reports recommends that you consider changing your mattress if yours is at more than 5 to 7 years old.
• Sleep smart. The worst sleep position for your back? On your stomach. “It puts your neck in a more extended, rotated position — because you can’t sleep face down — and that puts the most strain on your joints.
Instead, sleep either on your side or your back, using pillows for support. If you prefer your side, the best aid is a body pillow that can support your weight between your knees and help align your arms. Back sleepers should put a pillow between their knees.
• Rising and shining. Do you jump (or roll grumpily) out of bed when the alarm clock rings? Don’t. Instead, take a minute to stretch fully and let your body wake up before getting a move on.
Back Pain in the Car
Do you spend more than an hour a day in your car? You’re not alone — 85% of Americans commute by car, reporting an average of 50 minutes a day behind the wheel. Bad positioning in your vehicle can quickly add up to back pain. Here’s how to make your commute less taxing on your back.
• Get the right vehicle. If you’re debating between a wagon and a minivan, or a sports car and a sedan, the bigger vehicle is usually the better choice — for your back, not necessarily the environment. The more vertically you can sit, allowing you to keep your knees level with or below your hips, the better for your back.
• Set your seat properly. Don’t push it so far back that you have to lean and hunch forward to reach the steering wheel.
• Play with pillows. Some people rush right out and buy support pillows for use in their car, only to find it useless for their specific needs. Get a few towel rolls and small throw pillows from home and try them out.
• Take breaks. If you have a long trip ahead of you, stop about every hour to stand, stretch, and redistribute your weight.
Protect Your Back at Work
Many of us are desk jockeys. We sit through most of our day, often in the same position, hour after hour, talking on the phone and staring at computer screens. Is it any wonder we’re stiff?
• Position your computer properly. You should be seated at eye level to your screen, so that you don’t have to look too far down or too far up to do your work.
• Sit smart. You don’t necessarily need the perfect, custom ergonomic chair. Get a chair that provides support for your middle and lower back. If your knees are at 90 degrees and your spine is at a neutral posture, that’s the right position for you.
• Use a footrest. If the balls of your feet are supported on something, it makes it easier to rest on the ‘sit bones’ deep in your glutes, which helps unload your spine.
• Take a break. Set a timer on your computer and, every 45-50 minutes, get up for a few minutes to stretch and walk around. When you sit back down, make sure you’re getting into a supported position with a neutral spine — neither slumped forward nor pushed back.
Modern Health Perspectives