Power of Posture
Turns out that Mom was right when she admonished you to stand up straight. Good posture is critical to proper body mechanics and the prevention of unnecessary strain on your muscles, joints, and ligaments. Whether you're sitting at your desk, driving your car, or walking to your mailbox, good posture puts your body in the least stressful position and makes it most efficient. Good posture also frees your muscles from holding your body in positions that can cause strain and pain. In addition, it helps you breathe better and distributes your weight more evenly.
Poor posture does more than make you look bad. As you age, it can also cause numerous health problems, including decreased lung capacity, lower back pain, poor bowel function, and temporomandibular joint disorder. If that doesn't convince you to straighten up, consider this: Bad posture also makes you look older.
To improve your posture, begin by relaxing your entire body. Be on the lookout for muscle tension in the chin, the neck, and the shoulders, all areas that are likely to tense up. If you catch a muscle tightening up, take a deep breath and remind yourself to relax. To figure out whether you have good posture, look at yourself in the mirror while sitting or standing. Experiment with how you hold your body and the ways you move. Pay attention to any discomfort in your muscles as you bend, twist, and sit or stand. Sometimes, simply staying in one position for too long can cause pain.
Picture a straight line that connects your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and heels. Keep your head over your shoulders, your shoulders over your pelvis, and your knees relaxed and unlocked. Tighten your tummy without overdoing it, and tuck in your buttocks. Place feet slightly apart, with one foot a little in front of the other for balance. Switch feet every twenty minutes or so, or change to a sitting position.
If you need to stand on a hard surface, wear shoes with good support and cushioning. If you still experience discomfort, sit down.
The key to a proper sitting position is support for the spine. To do that, use pillows or a rolled-up towel to support your lower back. Keep shoulders back and chin tucked in a comfortable position. Your hips, knees, and ankles should all be at ninety-degree angles.
Sleeping in bad positions can cause unpleasant stress, strain, and pain in different parts of the body. A bad mattress can also cause pain. Different people like different types. Some people prefer waterbeds. Others like sheep's-wool mattress pads or body-conforming foam pads. Try several different types to see what works best for you. It's usually best to sleep on a mattress that is neither too hard nor too soft. You can take steps to minimize pain no matter how you sleep.
People who sleep on their back should place a cervical pillow or a small rolled-up towel under their neck to prevent neck strain. A pillow under the knees can help prevent lower back pain.
Place several soft pillows or a large body pillow under your arms and legs for added support. Be sure your pillow keeps your neck straight.
It's best to avoid sleeping on your stomach if you have fibromyalgia. This position reverses the natural curvature in your spine and can cause chronic muscle pain. If you absolutely cannot change your habit, place a pillow under your head to minimize neck rotation. Put another pillow under your stomach to prevent arching in your back.
Proper Muscle Use
The improper use of a muscle can set off your pain, too. That's why you should take steps to make sure you use your muscles correctly. Avoid lifting anything that is too heavy. When you do lift, hold the object close to your body, which will make the task less stressful. If you can, slide objects across the floor, so you don't have to lift them at all.
Lighten up — when you pack a purse. A heavy handbag can strain your neck and shoulder muscles. So stop toting around that mini-umbrella you never use, the unnecessary keys, and the excess makeup. Get in the habit of cleaning out your purse regularly so small items don't add up.
Whenever possible, use large muscles instead of small ones, like your palms instead of your fingers, and your arms instead of your hands. On the stairs, step up with your stronger leg. And always lift with stomach and large leg muscles, not your lower back. If you're carrying something heavy, switch arms frequently. The goal is to preserve the weaker, more vulnerable muscles. If you do have to carry fairly heavy loads frequently, consider using a wheeled airplane carry-on bag. When you do feel stiff or uncomfortable, shift positions. Get up, move around, and stretch your muscles, if possible. Remember, staying in one position for too long can also cause stiffness and pain.