By Jim Viti PT, DPT, MHSc, OCS, MTC, FAAOMPT ~ First Coast Rehabilitation

Appliances used to be built to last. It seems now-a-days everything is built for temporary use only to be replaced. Fortunately for many joints of the body can be replaced with a high percentage of success but many people don’t realize the way they move and perform their daily functions may either increase or decrease joint stress. Simple suggestions on how we move and function can significantly reduce these stresses, maybe enabling them last longer, and potentially reduce the need for replacement or surgery later in life. Such suggestions include:

1. When getting out of bed in the morning, bend your knees, roll to the side and sit up sideways. This ‘log roll’ significantly reduces twisting, shearing and compressive forces in joints of the low back.

2. When sitting in a car, computer or chair at home and work, place a small pillow in the curve of the low back. This reduces pressure within the discs of the low back, supports the back so muscles don’t have to work as hard and places the neck in a more neutral position.

3. When standing up after sitting, keep the back straight and lean forward at the hips. This too reduces stress in the low back.

4. When standing for prolonged periods (like in line at the store), place one foot slightly forward of the other and rock slowly back and forth. This keeps the muscles firing, lubricates the joints and reduces stress on the hips, knees and spine.

5. When bending and lifting, keep your back straight, bend your hips and knees and do not twist your spine. Turn by moving your feet, not with your back.

6. When getting in the car, sit first then lift and swing your legs in. When getting out of the car, lift and swing both legs, then lean forward at the hips and stand up. This significantly reduces torsion forces on the back, hips and knees.

7. When performing activities like vacuuming, shoveling or cutting the lawn, lean forward at your hips and bend your knees, as if you were lunging forward. This reduces the need to bend forward in the low back region, reducing pressure within the discs.

8. Overhead activities can place undue stress on the tendons of the shoulders, so use a stole or ladder to reduce the amount you have to reach overhead.

9. Low impact aerobic exercise like walking or cycling improves nutrition to the joints, which improves overall joint health. Exercise improves cardiovascular function, burns calories, reduces weight gain, and may therefore decrease compression on all joints.

10. Finally, at the end of the day, when it is time to sleep, make sure your pillow supports your head and neck in a level position, both when you are lying on your back or lying on your side. This helps reduces stress on joints, muscles and nerves of the neck during one of the times you are most immobile.

You only have one back. By simply paying attention to the way you move may help it last your life time. If you are experiencing pain, decreased function of the spine or extremities, or sense you are moving incorrectly – the therapists at First Coast Rehabilitation are the movement specialists who can help you to restore normal pain free motion to whatever joint is involved. Contact us at 904-829-3411 in St. Augustine north or 904-907-122 in St. Augustine south.

Jim Viti has been treating patients with low back pain for over 30 years. He is board certified in Orthopaedic physical therapy and lectures to physical therapists throughout the United States regarding low back mechanics, injury and treatment.