Body mechanics is a term used to describe the ways we move as we go about our daily lives. It includes how we hold our bodies when we sit, stand, lift, carry, bend, and sleep. Poor body mechanics are often the cause of back problems. When we don't move correctly and safely, the spine is subjected to abnormal stresses that over time can lead to degeneration of spinal structures like discs and joints, injury, and unnecessary wear and tear.
That is why it is so important to learn the principals of proper body mechanics. But don't worry, it's not complicated. And once you get used to them, they can easily be incorporated into your daily life. You will be glad you learned them as they can save you from back pain and discomfort.
We have all been told since childhood to "stand up straight". But it's easy to get into bad habits. Good body mechanics are based on good posture. Good posture means the spine is in a "neutral" position - not too rounded forward and not arched back too far. But what does good posture look like?
It's easy, follow these few steps:
That's it, proper posture! Feel how balanced the spine is? Very little energy is now required to keep it that way. Practice this position until it becomes second nature.
Being aware of your posture during all of your daily activities is the best way to ensure you are using good body mechanics. Here are a few exercises that can help improve your posture.
Millions of people spend a good deal of their time on their feet. Standing work, including bending, lifting, carrying and reaching can be tough on the back - especially if proper body mechanics are not being used. Use the following guidelines to minimize the risk of injury to your back when doing standing work:
Other important tips to remember:
Whether sitting at a desk or at home watching television, good body mechanics are still important to keep in mind. For deskwork, consider investing in an ergonomically enhanced chair. What does proper sitting look like?
If your chair has armrests, make sure they are positioned to support the weight of your arms. Not too high to make you hunch or too low to make you reach. Footrests can also be a helpful way to maintain good posture while sitting. Make sure the footrest is positioned so that your knees are bent comfortably and are level with your hips.
For prolonged periods of sitting, make sure you have enough support for your lower back. Look for a chair that has adjustable lumbar support. If that is not possible, you can increase your back support by using a lumbar roll or even a rolled up towel or cushion placed behind your lower back.
Keep in mind that even sitting in the "correct" position for long periods of time will eventually become uncomfortable. Don't forget to take breaks, get up, move around and stretch! This will reduce the stress on your spine and help prevent muscle fatigue and stiffness.
We spend about one-third of our time in bed, so we can't ignore how our bodies are positioned during sleep. As during our waking hours, the goal is to maintain a neutral spine even while we are in bed. Here's how:
The process of lifting places perhaps the greatest loads on the low back and therefore, has the highest risk of injury. Use of proper lifting mechanics and posture is critical to prevent injury. In the end, it is more important how you lift than how heavy a weight you lift. Here are a few tips on how to lift safely:
As you can see, proper body mechanics are vitally important for keeping your spine healthy. And it's easy to incorporate these principals into your daily life. It may seem unnatural at first, but if you keep at it, they will easily become routine. Your back will thank you for it!
If you are having back pain, have questions about a spinal condition, or need help maintaining good body mechanics, contact us here at CCSI. One of our spine specialists can help you.