May 7, 2020
Your Spine – Under Quarantine
By: Mona Zall, DO
Many Americans are currently under some form of stay-at-home restrictions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. If this is the case for you, it might be the perfect time to check in with the health of your spine. If you’re working from home, spending more time inside, or aren’t sleeping well due to stress, this can place you at risk for a significant back/neck pain episode. The good news is that by making just a few minor adjustments to your daily routine, you can have a positive, lasting impact on your spine.
Pain-Proof Your Workspace
If your state’s stay-at-home orders had you scrambling to figure out how to set up a makeshift office, you may not be operating with an ergonomic-friendly set up. Are you working from a device on your bed, couch, or the floor? None of these are ideal places to sit for too long. Sitting in these locations while looking down at a device on your lap can also bring on some severe neck pain and strain. If sitting at a desk with an appropriate, ergonomic-friendly chair is out of the question, try to get as close to this scenario as possible. Sitting at your kitchen breakfast area with the device placed on a flat surface and you seated in a chair with both feet planted on the ground in front of it can spell considerable relief for your spine.
Walk it Out
If you have a functional workspace, sitting anywhere for prolonged periods of time isn’t good for your spine. Try to stand up, stretch, and walk around every 30 minutes. If your work requires you to be present on a computer for several hours a day, consider breaking this time up. Walking around the block (if you’re able to maintain adequate social distancing standards), try or continue performing Pilates and other exercises that can be nourishing to your spine and your mental health.
Concentrate on Your Core
Though stretching your muscles can be beneficial to your spine, one of the best ways to reinforce and protect it from future injury is to focus on strengthening your core/abdominal muscles. Think of your abs as the “bodyguards” for your spine. Some great ways to incorporate core strengthening into your exercise routine include the standard abdominal crunch and plank exercises. These are great because you do not require any equipment, but you need to make sure that you are using proper form and not straining your back and neck while doing them.
Perfect Your Posture
It is probably no surprise that poor posture is a significant contributor to chronic back and neck pain. In fact, for most people, improper posture becomes so “normal” that trying to correct it feels awkward. However, with consistent practice you can make the proper adjustments. Good posture involves the alignment of the spine over the pelvis. An easy way to check yourself is to see if you are slumped or slouched in your chair, or that you’ve rounded your shoulders down while standing and walking. By reminding yourself to straighten up, you are elongating and repositioning, which is beneficial for your spine.
Though our current circumstances aren’t necessarily ideal for outdoor fitness enthusiasts, finding and implementing ways to keep your spine in line while at home is possible. With some intentional focus and these simple tips, you can help avoid a world of hurt for your neck and back.