One of the things that I hear from patients over and over again is, "If I had only known…no one ever teaches you this stuff." Most of what I see, whether it be in athletes, stay at home moms, desk workers, anyone really, is repetitive stress injuries. Another way of saying repetitive stress injury is something that can be and should be prevented. And while this broad category of injuries include tendinitis, pain, bursitis, muscle imbalances, numbness and tingling and so on, they all came about the same way, doing the wrong thing over and over and over again.
One of the most common behaviors that leads to repetitive stress injuries of all types is shoulder shrugging. Try right now to push your shoulders down, or just roll your shoulders back, up and down. Most of you will notice that your shoulders drop down a considerable amount. That is not normal. If you try to push your shoulders down they should not go, they should already be down. Yet most people spend their days walking around with this elevated shoulder height. This can lead to headaches, numbness and tingling, shoulder issues and so many more things and all it takes to prevent all of these things is a conscious effort to keep your shoulders down.
Another common behavior that causes so many problems is the way we bend down. No one thinks about it; they just bend down to get something and do not think twice about it. When you do that you cause strain to all of the muscles in your back as well as put an incredible amount of pressure on the discs in your back, possibly causing a herniation.
It might surprise you to learn that young children use better lifting techniques than we do. If you were to roll a ball into the middle of a day care and watch the two year olds run over and pick it up, they will do a full squat, pull the ball close to their chests and then push with their legs and stand up. Adults instead would bend over from the waist and pick the ball up. When you do this, your muscles and structures, like the discs, have no support which is why I often hear so many complaints of back pain where people say, "All I did was bend down to pick something off the floor and I went into spasm."
Truth be told you will get away with lifting improperly for a while, maybe even a very long time, but eventually it will catch up with you and sometimes what happens is irreversible. With a little thought, squatting down to pick things off the floor can become just as easy as bending from the waist and when you do it often enough it will become ingrained in your muscles memory so eventually you will not even have to think about it.
Sleeping is another popular way people injure themselves without even knowing they are doing it. The general rule of advice is if you go to bed without pain and you wake up with pain then you are doing something in the middle of the night to cause that pain. This type of behavior is obviously the most difficult to change. However, when you set yourself up to go to bed there are a few things that you should be aware of. Avoiding stomach sleeping at all cost is going to be very beneficial for your joints and muscles. Yes, there are lots of products that you can buy to make it so your body is better aligned when you are sleeping on your stomach, but avoiding this posture all together is the best bet.
Lying on your back is a preferred position. When you do this though, you want to stack pillows underneath your knees so that there is a good bend in the knee, which will help take some pressure off of the back. If you are a side sleeper, the best recommendations are to have a thick pillow underneath your head, a pillow between your knees and to be hugging a pillow. It also should be noted that the age of your mattress plays a lot into how you feel in the morning. Replacing your mattress every 5-10 years will help keep your body healthy for longer.
These are just quick points that I see occurring in my patients all the time. Knowing is half the battle. Taking into consideration these points and applying them to your everyday life can save you lots of pain and trips to the doctors.
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