There are so many things that we are doing every day that could potentially be harming and hurting our spines. From what I see in my practice and also from what has been shown in research, teenagers are showing up with spines that are damaged to the point of someone who has been working a job that is intensive on the spine, like dentists and dental hygienists for example. Dentists always sit on the same side of the patient, turning and bending their necks the same way, eventually leading to long-term damage. From my experience, they have some of the worst necks and backs! With the majority of our teenagers already looking like they've been dentists for 20 years, we have a spinal health epidemic on our hands! If you want to learn more about "tech neck" or loss of cervical lordosis check out this page on my website.
The number one reason teenagers have such bad spines these days is technology. They are on their phones for hours, and when they are not on their phones they are sitting and staring down at laptops or tablets for the rest of the day. Ideally, you should keep your head and phone vertical, to keep the physical strain off of the neck and really the whole spine.
Here are 7 more habits you can improve upon to keep your spine as healthy as possible!
#1 Getting out of bed in the morning: Backs are vulnerable in the morning. Don't do a morning sit-up, instead roll to the side then use your arms to sit yourself up, or roll onto your belly and push yourself up. If you have a disc herniation or building disc, sitting straight up can damage the disc further, which can be a nasty surprise first thing in the day.
#2 TOO MANY PILLOWS! If you like to read, watch TV or be on your phone in bed (also not a good habit but not in the context of today's blog) then you probably prop several pillows up behind your neck. This pillow stacking really torques the neck forward, similar to looking down at a phone when seated or standing. Stacking the pillows into a wedge or even buying a foam wedge to help support the whole spine instead of cranking the neck forward. They are fairly inexpensive if you want to continue this routine. But my advice is the bed is made for sleeping, not for using your laptop or phone!
#3 Computer Screen Height: If you get to work or you're working from home and you have your screen set up too low you'll be looking down instead of straight ahead, just like looking down at a phone. I recommend standing desks to all my patients. But if you don't have access to one you can still raise the screen up by placing it on textbooks or purchasing a little elevation stand. A cordless keyboard and mouse can allow you to put your laptop up higher as well. You want to be looking straight ahead with no downward gaze of the head.
#4 Improper bending and lifting technique: If you do a straight leg lift and flex your back spine downwards every time you pick something up, no matter how light it object is you are eventually going to wear out the discs in your back. Gardening and pulling weeds is another activity I see people do improperly as well!
Research shows the majority of people have bulging discs in the back, and they have no symptoms, but all it takes is the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" and that disc can rupture and become extremely painful and cause lots of neurological problems. You much keep your chin tucked back, and spine straight and bend at the knees and hips, not just at the hips and low back!!
#5 Pulling and Twisting: Think shoveling snow or dirt. You do not want to pull the shovel up and twist it around your body. This is asking for trouble. Instead, you should shovel and push, so throw the dirt or snow straight in front of you, not to the side or behind you. This is one of the top ways people injure their backs. Vacuuming is the same too!! Forward not side to side with twisting motion. Try to move your body with the vacuum instead of leaning forward and back.
#6 Unsupported bending: Think of brushing your teeth over a sink or washing dishes. If you can put a hand down for support, or just stand up straight, or if you are using both of your hands like dishwashing, then open up the cupboard and prop one foot up for support so your legs bear the weight, not your low back.
#7 Sitting with a slummed posture: This is one of the hardest for me as a tall person. But super soft couches. You need to prop your back upright so your midback and low back don't start aching and getting damaged long term. I recommend using lumbar support with long car rides.