Each year, the 16th day of October is celebrated as ‘World Spine Day’ to create awareness about the burden of spinal pain and disability around the world and also to motivate people to adopt healthy routines to make their spine strong, active and flexible. This year is however unique, with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequent social restrictions creating an unprecedented lockdown on everyone’s routine and interests to stay active and mobile. Also work from home has its own limitations, with the majority having insufficient or improper facilities to comfortably work from home for prolonged duration, which could have detrimental effects on spinal health and strength. As the world prepares for the ‘new normal’ and shifts gear to recover from this pandemic, it is only prudent that we give requisite care to restore and maintain our spinal health.
It is with these thoughts that the theme for this year’s World Spine Day has been aptly kept as “Back on Track”, which not only encourages people to reactivate and revitalize their bodies by stepping out but also highlights the importance of exercise, Posture, Movement and good self-care to ensure a strong and healthy spine.
Here are a few tips to follow to take care of one’s spine –
Maintain a good posture:
· Choose a comfortable seating with adequate back support. A small pillow/ rolled towel can be kept behind the small of your back
· Neck should be straight with screen at same height as eyes while using a desktop.
While using a laptop, neck should be straight with eyes looking down at the screen
· For a standing desk, Counter should be at mid-tummy level with screen at same level as eyes and weight should be evenly distributed on both legs with ankle, knees, hips, shoulders and ears in a straight vertical line. A small foot rest can be used intermittently to rest one of the feet.
Take Frequent breaks while working:
· Maintaining a perfect posture for a long time can also be harmful, and hence it is important to take frequent breaks. Ideally, the ‘break’ should be at least for 5-10 mins every hour. It is important to move around or (if you are enthusiastic) do light stretches during this break. Whatever you do, avoid sitting again during these ‘breaks’.
· The importance of regular exercises for improving your overall spine health cannot be emphasized enough. Regular and simple exercises (Spinal mobilization and core/ Extensor strengthening) can not only keep your spine healthy, flexible and strong; but also helps to mitigate a lot of negative effects of prolonged sitting and poor posture. In essence, regular exercises can help the spine in withstanding day-to-day wear and tear and stresses to an extent that may not be possible otherwise.
Responsible lifting (Think and Plan before you Lift):
One of the commonest reasons why develop acute back pain is when they try to lift an object in a way they are not supposed to, either because of its weight or position.
· Bend your knees to pick up objects from the floor
· Hold the object close to the body, preferably at level of waist
· Don’t twist while lifting
· Most importantly – Know your limits!
(Disclaimer: The author is Dr. Umesh Srikantha, Consultant and Head of Spine Services, Aster RV Hospital. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)