The sedentary lifestyles many of us lead can wreak havoc on our posture, and in turn, our backs.
“The big issue is people are spending too much time sitting and looking down on their cellphones,” said posture coach Austin Norris.
Norris works with clients to correct the damage done by that and other habits — like crossing our legs while sitting (massage therapists will always tell you that’s a no-no).
“Everything’s connected,” Norris explained.
“If you have a right ankle injury, if left untreated it will result in a left shoulder injury.
“The body works in really wild ways… It just kind of works itself up the system.”
Here are some of things most of us do that contribute to our back problems, plus what Norris says you can do about it.
1. Problem: Your desk setup at work
Depending on how your chair and computer is positioned at work, you could be setting yourself up for a super sore neck.
- When sitting at your desk, your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees and placed level with your desk. This prevents shoulder shrugging or forward slouching.
- You should be close enough to your desk that you can keep your upper arm bone (which runs from your shoulder to your elbow) relatively in line with your spine. This prevents reaching forward and slouching.
- Your computer monitor should be placed 10 to 15 degrees higher than your eyeline. This promotes a neutral rib cage position.
- Your core should be engaged 10 to 15 per cent while sitting. This involves sucking in your belly button slightly. Activating your deep core prevents spinal compression and leaning to one side.
2. Problem: Looking down at your cellphone
We all do it. Our heads drift forward as we stare at our phones and computer screens.
Easy fix: Be mindful of your head position and practice chin tucks regularly to strengthen the front of your neck and release the back of your neck.
To do a chin tuck: look up as high as you can, Norris says, then move your head down as if you were going to tuck it into your throat. Repeat.
WATCH: Norris demonstrates the proper way to do a chin tuck, and how your computer should be positioned at your desk.
3. Problem: Sitting
Prolonged sitting damages the cardiovascular, metabolic and musculoskeletal systems, Norris explains.
READ MORE: 4 ways to combat sitting disease
Easy fix: He recommends people stand up every 15 minutes, even if just for a minute. He says this will help prevent most of the health damage caused by sitting.
WATCH: Simple exercises to stretch out your back after sitting all day.
4. Problem: Footwear
Certain footwear (like high heels) is also problematic. People’s body weight tends to be shifted forward so they don’t have stability in their ankles, which can lead to instability in their knees, hips and lower back.
This can cause chronic tension and pain in these areas as the front side of the body often becomes very tight, and the back side becomes very weak.
- Wear comfortable flat shoes as much as possible.
- Be barefoot at home as much as possible.
- Do single leg balance moves (standing on one leg) whenever possible (while brushing your teeth, doing dishes or waiting for public transit). Try to place your weight evenly between your heel, base of the big toe and pinky toe.
5. Problem: Carrying things
Whether you’re carrying groceries or a purse, the extra weight on one side can put your back out of alignment.
Easy fix: Make sure to shift the load you’re carrying onto both sides to minimize the damage. Wearing a backpack – on both shoulders – can also help.
WATCH: Keeping your back too straight can be problematic. Posture coach Austin Norris explains.