Odds are you’ve engaged in the activity today that is the worst thing for your back. In fact, you’re probably doing it now.
The Huffington Post calls sitting the new smoking.
Sitting all day does all kinds of terrible things to your back. It does all kinds of terrible things to your health. It’s what I call “everything bad.” Everything bad that can happen to a body is associated with sitting. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, early death.Yes, early death.
That’s just the diseases. The musculoskeletal issues associated with long bouts of sitting are also daunting. Back, neck, shoulder, butt and leg pain.Think about how you sit, especially on the job. Hunched over a computer with your shoulders arched, your back curved, your neck jutting forward so you can see the screen and one arm extended from your body, often too far. You get all this even if you exercise. Forty-five minutes of exertion don’t compensate for eight hours of bad posture and inactivity.
So what are you supposed to do, not sit? Well, sure. Standing desks are becoming more popular. If that’s not an option, get up and walk around every 20 minutes. Stretch your back, neck and shoulders. And think about adopting the best ergonomic position when you sit back down.
You know what else kills your back? Sleeping. Not sleep itself but the mattress you’re sleeping on. Chances are, it’s too soft and not supporting your weight or too hard and not conforming to your body. Or you’re sleeping on your stomach, in which case no mattress can help you. If you awaken with back pain that goes away with stretching or after a few minutes, you probably need a new bed. Beds need to be replaced every decade or so. Make sure to get one that is hard enough to support your weight but soft enough not to create pressure points.
Did you know that not drinking enough water can cause back pain? Muscles can’t recover from exercise when they’re dehydrated. For those with pre-existing back pain, it’s a double-whammy. The Mayo Clinic says men require, on average, about a gallon of water every day. Women need about two-thirds of that. You can consume about 20% of that through food, which leaves a lot of water to be ingested as…water.
Back pain also commonly results from ordinary activities, particularly when people partake in them without stretching or warming up. Among the most common are driving, which involves long periods of sitting with poor posture; playing with children and grandchildren, particularly when that involves running, bending and lifting; and doing the laundry, which also requires lifting and bending.
Engaging in physical activity, whether contact or non-contact, is another driver of back pain. Many weekend warriors jump right into playing sports after five days of sitting. This is a prescription for incurring an injury.
In all these cases, the best antidote is to stretch and warm up before commencing to run, twist, bend and compete. Done correctly, these are all superior choices to doing nothing, which is the worst exercise of all.