Are your everyday activities sabotaging your safety? If you suffer from persistent, nagging symptoms such as a stiff neck, lower-back discomfort, or tension headaches, your daily habits may be to blame. Most of us don’t associate these pains with our repetitive, poorly executed movement patterns such as sleeping in a spine-straining position, or incorrectly picking up a heavy object.

Good form isn’t just for the gym. To protect your body and move safely through day-to-day tasks, mindfulness is a must. Undo the damage of your daily bad habits, and prevent future pain, with these three modifications to popular pain-inducing positions:

The problematic pickup. Lower-back injuries can be debilitating. The spine is a super-sensitive area, and yet we bend, twist, and reach without much care or awareness of our actions. It takes only one poorly planned bend to tweak these muscles, or cause disk herniation.

Whether you are reaching for a lightweight pencil or bulky box, always lift with the legs, not the back. When moving quickly, it’s easy to forget this rule.

Ashley demonstrates the wrong way to pick up an object in a 2019 file photo.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Ashley demonstrates the wrong way to pick up an object in a 2019 file photo.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for properly picking up an item off the floor:

  • Step 1. Position your legs wide to increase your base. With your gaze forward, shoulders back, and chest up, squat down by hinging back at your hips and bending at your knees.
  • Step 2. On the way up, follow the same squatting sequence, but in reverse. Keep your shoulders back, abs engaged, knees bent, and push through your heels as you lift. Pressing your body weight into your heels is vital because it shifts pressure from the anterior part of the leg, like the knees, to the posterior portion with larger muscle groups. Also, do not twist when lifting an object; rather, move your feet when needing to turn.
  • Step 3. Keep the object close to your body. If your arms are extended too far out, this places pressure on your lower back.
Ashley demonstrates the safe way to pick up an object in a 2019 file photo.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Ashley demonstrates the safe way to pick up an object in a 2019 file photo.

Drawn-out desk time. A sedentary lifestyle is a major contributing factor for weight gain and weight-related chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. And because so much of our workweek is spent seated at a desk, it’s important to find ways to get your heart pumping and circulation flowing throughout the day. Minor modifications such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, being active on lunch breaks, or standing up each hour to stretch, will go a long way to whittle your waistline and improve your sense of well-being.

Another occupational hazard: lousy posture. Hunching over a keyboard, craning your neck to scrutinize the screen, and sitting on a seat that’s not properly adjusted can cause muscle imbalances throughout your body. Over time, these asymmetries can lead to stiffness, pain, and injury because one side of your body is working harder to compensate for any weakness that developed from misalignments.

The next time you’re at your desk, rearrange your workstation to promote better posture and productivity:

  • Step 1. When seated, your feet should rest flat on the floor with your arms resting comfortably on the armrests and wrists straight. Your computer monitor should be placed directly in front of you at eye level to avoid straining your eyes and neck.
  • Step 2. Place all your most used gadgets such as a cellphone or keyboard within reach. This will prevent the need to overextend your body as you fumble for these objects.
  • Step 3. When taking calls, instead of straining your neck by cradling your phone between your ear and shoulder, opt for a hands-free option such as a headset or speakerphone.

A bad sleeper. If you’ve found the perfect position for optimal sleep, it’s hard to not stick with that. However, for those true-blue belly sleepers, this position can be more of a nightmare than a dream for your spine.

Snoozing on your stomach compresses the natural "S" curve of your spine and swivels your neck awkwardly to the side. But if you’re unwilling to adjust your resting position, here are a few ways to ease the spinal stress of too much tummy time.

  • Step 1. By using a pillow that’s on the thinner side, you can decrease the angle at which your neck is bent.
  • Step 2. While you’re out picking a new pillow, purchase another thin one to wedge under your hips. This will support your spine in a more neutral position.
  • Step 3. Make time to stretch before bed and upon waking up. This will keep muscles loose and limber in the morning.

A little mindfulness goes a long way to mend your body.