So it’s another lockdown and while we all hoped we wouldn’t be back here, now we had better make the best of it! Time to take care of any remaining DIY and perhaps, on the more positive side, enjoy some time with the kids. Although it might help in the fight against COVID, lockdown also comes with a series of health issues, many of which we saw during the last period. This week, let’s look at some practical steps you can take to avoid them.
Avoid back pain
Of course, we’re starting with back pain – and although complete chiropractic is open as usual, it’s still best to avoid a painful complaint if you possibly can. There’s a couple of main issues which we saw during the last lockdown, so look out for these:
Exercise caution when lifting
Lifting (especially anything which also involves a twist) is one of the easiest ways to injure your back – and with many of us taking on DIY tasks during this downtime, try to keep good form in mind to avoid hurting yourself.
- Start with your body as close to the load as possible, avoiding reaching out to grasp it. This keeps your centre of gravity where it should be.
- Avoid reaching over your head – use a ladder instead.
- Focus on your legs when lifting – shifting your mental focus has been shown to activate muscle groups more effectively.
- Don ‘t arch or twist your back – keep it straight.
- Hold the load close to your torso between your shoulders and waist for minimal back strain.
Keep moving – don’t get stiff
It’s easier to get injured doing things we normally do (let alone things we don’t normally do) when we’re stiff, achy and out of practice. After lockdown number one, we saw many people coming into the clinic with injuries sustained during their usual exercise, surprised that such a thing was even possible. Even if you can’t do the things you normally would during lockdown, keep your spine moving.
Yoga is an excellent way to do this – when most of us think about yoga, we probably picture some of those mind-bending poses which professional practitioners can hold for seemingly hours, and which we can’t even come close to. Unlike many forms of exercise, however, Yoga can be highly effective for spinal health even in its most basic form. Through performing just a handful of positions for 10-15 minutes a day, Yoga can help to improve flexibility, posture and strength as well as promoting good mental health, better balance and even bone health.
Even taking a daily walk at a moderate pace can make a real difference in keeping the spine flexible and keeping stiffness (and injury) at bay.
Lose weight the right way
January, for many of us, is the time of year we try to get back to the gym and shed those Christmas pounds – this year, that’s going to mean a lot of home exercise, and while that is still great, make sure you’re setting realistic goals for what you can achieve without sustaining an injury.
One of the best ways to lose weight is to build muscle – muscles are essentially calorie-burning machines, requiring a large number of calories each day just to maintain. Therefore, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn on a daily basis, just as a result of living. Before you go spending money on expensive home gym equipment though, keep in mind that safety is key with any kind of weight training – without the benefit of a spotter for those heavy lifts, it’s very easy to injure yourself. Instead, consider using resistance bands or a medicine ball – both are fundamentally safer ways to incorporate resistance training into a home experience program.
Whichever way you go – remember that it is important to build and maintain a strong core in order to perform many other exercises correctly, as well as to protect and strengthen the spine. Most free weight exercises require good core strength, without which you expose yourself to a higher risk of injury. Core strengthening can also make a big difference to your everyday life, and can often go some way to alleviating back pain and postural problems.
Finally, don’t forget that exercise is only 50% of the equation, perhaps even less when it comes to weight loss. In order to lose weight, you need to plan and stick to a combined plan of diet and exercise, which will leave your body in a manageable calorific deficit. Exercising without a diet, or dieting without exercise are both likely to fail – combine the two so that you’re neither on a crazy diet nor training at an unsafe level.
Watch out for “text neck”
“Text neck” is the term which is now used to describe neck pain associated with looking down at electronic devices – in actual fact, it’s usually difficult to separate out cases of “text neck” from other causes of neck pain. In some cases, too much time texting might be the root cause of a problem but in others, it could just be another contributory factor. Then again, too much time spent “head down” increases stress on the spine and may well be a factor leading to a strain or injury. During lockdown many of us have had to work from home – or spend more time in front of the computer than usual. Whichever kind of device you’re using try to ensure that you optimise your workstation to reduce neck strain.
If you have children, text neck should be especially concerning because young and growing children could possibly cause permanent damage to their cervical spines that could lead to lifelong neck pain. Indeed, A recent study shows that 79% of the population between the ages 18 and 44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time—with only 2 hours of their waking day spent without their cell phone on hand.
Whether directly related to text neck or not, in children and adolescents neck pain is the most common spinal pain typically reported with one study showing that as many as 60% of young people experience persistent neck pain lasting up to two years .
Thankfully “text neck” is easy to avoid – simply check in with yourself periodically and ask “where is my chin right now” – if its close to your chest, your posture isn’t optimal!
Keep up your Chiropractic care
As a chiropractor, we have long understood that patients who keep their regular maintenance appointments tend to experience less pain, even during periods when they don’t visit the clinic – last year, however, study results  confirmed that chiropractic patients had fewer days with bothersome (activity-limiting) low back pain (LBP) when receiving maintenance care – compared to receiving treatment only with a new episode of LBP.
The study also showed that patients receiving maintenance care experienced overall levels of pain which were stable and lower, and overall reported fewer days with pain. This compared favourably to patients without maintenance care, who showed higher pain overall as well as a higher peak and reduction in pain.
We’re keeping the clinic open as usual – so don’t forget your regular adjustment…. It’s at least a good reason to leave the house!
 IDC, Always Connected How Smartphones And Social Keep Us Engaged (2017)
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El-Metwally A, Salminen JJ, Auvinen A, Macfarlane G, Risk factors for development of nonspecific musculoskeletal pain in preteens and early adolscents: a prospective 1-year follow-up study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disord. 2007;8:46.
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