In a Google world, it’s easy to get into the habit of believing whatever spine-related information you happen to come across while searching online. You might even find yourself getting pieces of advice from well-meaning friends that they swear is absolutely true. The potential problem here is that such sources of information may be unreliable or based on half-truths. If you’re misinformed about how to take good care of your back, it could have painful consequences that require medical intervention from your doctor or a back specialist such as a Santa Monica spine surgeon. Let’s take a moment to set the record straight about four common myths about the spine.
False. There’s plenty of research suggesting prolonged sitting isn’t good for the spine. Most people aren’t too mindful of their posture when sitting, which could compress spinal discs and irritate soft tissues within the lower back area. If you do have to sit for long periods, make your spine happy by:
• Using an ergonomic chair that conforms to your spine’s natural curve
• Keeping your PC/laptop at eye level
• Not slouching or sitting on the edge of your seat
• Taking regular breaks to get up, stretch, and walk around
Mostly true. Too much sitting isn’t good for your back and the parts that support it, but standing all day as you work isn’t ideal either, and this is especially true if you aren’t wearing supportive shoes or if you’re slouching and not being mindful of your head-shoulder-upper back alignment. What you should shoot for is a healthy mix of sitting and standing throughout your day coupled with good posture habits.
This is true if you aren’t paying attention to form and technique. Improperly lifting any amount of weight can result in a serious spinal injury or aggravate an old one that’s already healed, but when weightlifting is done right, you’ll be strengthening the core muscle groups that support your spine in some way. You’ll be even better off if you combine a weightlifting routine with other forms of exercise that also stimulate your core muscle groups. Possibilities include:
• Yoga, Pilates, and similar controlled-movement routines
• Casual or “power” walking
• Biking, swimming, and other activities that appeal to you
True and false. A purse is more likely to contribute to neck or upper back problems if it’s too heavy, and most purses do weigh too much. The average weight of a purse is about 7 pounds—about three times the recommended weight. Avoid this potential problem by getting into the habit of routinely cleaning out your purse and checking to see how heavy it is. Here are some signs that suggest your purse is too heavy:
• It wears out often
• You’ve changed the way you walk when you carry your purse—this can also affect your lower back
• You’re experiencing numbness and tingling sensations in nearby areas
• Your purse is heavier than your laptop or you struggle to even pick it up
A backpack can be just as bad for your back as a purse if you’re not using it wisely, so one isn’t necessarily better than the other. The rule of thumb for backpacks is to choose one that’s about 10–15 percent of your body weight. Also, keep the following tips in mind:
• Use both shoulder straps
• Wear it snugly against your back instead of letting it dangle
• Don’t overload it
• Distribute the weight in your backpack evenly
Getting reliable information about your back is one of the best ways to ensure your long-term spinal health and avoid injuries that could result in the need for advanced medical treatment such as vertebroplasty surgery. Santa Monica residents who are experiencing severe or long-lasting back or neck pain should reach out to the experienced spine specialists at The Spine Institute. We lead the industry in the use of innovative methods to diagnose and treat all forms of spine-related pain. Give us a call today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.