Abdominal Belts during Functional Lifting

Many people who perform heavy lifting at work choose to wear abdominal belts or braces to support their backs in an effort to prevent injury. This may inspire others to wear these belts while they are lifting in their everyday lives. These belts can be prescribed after surgery or other procedures and it is always advised to follow your doctor’s orders.

However, for people who are looking to protect their backs during lifting, use of an abdominal belt can be counterproductive because it can inhibit engagement of the core muscles that are the most effective in stabilizing the spine and preventing low back pain. Unless otherwise prescribed, one can successfully prevent low back pain and injury through targeting core strengthening and using proper lifting mechanics without use of an abdominal belt.

To engage your lower abdominal muscles, pull your belly button in and up toward your spine while lifting. This will help to stabilize your pelvis and spine, thus preventing injury. You can strengthen all of your core muscles by performing core stabilization exercises 3x/week (not discussed in this issue).

There are several lifting techniques which utilize good body mechanics that you can use:
The Power Lift: Bend at your hips and knees, not your spine, and keep your chest up. This helps to ensure that you don’t bend at your spine.
The Deep Squat: Bend only your knees into a full squat. You must have good knees and strong legs to perform this lift!
The One Knee Lift: Kneel down onto one knee, then lift the load and place onto the raised leg before standing.
Just remember to always maintain a neutral spine (slight inward curve in your low back) whenever you’re lifting, pushing or pulling; and only bend your legs, NOT your spine!

Balanced, Healthy Spinal Posture

Postural Pain

Postural pain can result from the overstretching of spinal ligaments and joints, which occurs when the body is placed in an unbalanced posture. Postural pain can develop gradually over time, from habitual poor posture, or it can be a major cause of poor recovery following a traumatic injury. In any case, poor posture can ultimately be a major contributor to most neck and back pain problems.

Balanced Spine
Your spine has three natural curves, which support the weight of your body and gravity. The neck (cervical) and lower back (lumbar) regions both have inward curves, while the mid-back (thoracic) region has an outward curve.

To minimize excessive load on the spine, maintaining these curves during standing and sitting is essential. While seated, rotate your hips forward slightly in order to maintain the natural inward curve of the lumbar spine. This may also be achieved by supporting the lumbar curve with a small pillow, rolled up towel or lumbar roll. Using good posture helps to decrease the strain on the joints and muscles, as well as decrease the load on the spine. Good posture also helps build and maintain endurance which can help prevent potential pain or injury.

Correct posture is obtained by learning to detect when your body has the least amount of stress by maintaining the natural curve of the spine. Stress is indicated by a slight burning and aching sensation, usually in the mid- and/or low back regions.

Treatment of Postural Pain
PDR therapists are trained to help patients learn how to correct spinal postural dysfunctions. They can help you to improve your awareness and learn proper posture techniques. Maintaining balanced posture throughout the day also requires increased strength and endurance of the postural muscles; including the scapular, lumbar, and abdominal muscle groups. Specific spinal strengthening utilizing MedX equipment, as well as prescribed postural endurance exercises, are key to being able to maintain proper posture throughout the entire day, thus protecting the spine from undue postural stress.

Click on this thumbnail to view the full posture infographic featured above.

Choosing the Best Pillow for Neck Pain

What pillow is best when dealing with neck pain?

The truth is, there is no ONE pillow that works for everyone since we are all shaped differently.

When choosing a pillow, the two most important things to look for are comfort and support. The goal is to keep the cervical spine in good postural alignment while sleeping. Poor neck support throughout the night may cause malalignment of the cervical spine, which can result in neck pain throughout the night and/or in the morning after waking up, and may continue well into the day.

One option is a contoured neck pillow, also called an orthopedic or cervical pillow. These pillows usually have a deeper depression in the center for the head to rest in. For some people, this type of pillow works really well because they fit the person’s head and neck perfectly. However, others find them to be quite uncomfortable because they put the neck in a poor position. If possible, always test the pillow for comfort and proper fit/support before you purchase one.

Another option is placing a cervical roll – which can be purchased or made by rolling up a hand towel – in front of your standard pillow inside the pillow case. This can provide good support for the neck while your favorite (medium-sized) pillow comfortably supports your head in a neutral position. A fluffy feather pillow works especially well when using a cervical roll. Artificial feather pillows offer a less expensive alternative to real down feather pillows. Be sure to replace your feather pillow every year or so, or once they lose their fluffiness and become flat, as it will no longer provide your neck with adequate support.

Proper pillow selection is a process of trial and error. Try a few things out, keeping in mind you are aiming for good neutral spinal posture while you sleep, while maintaining optimal comfort.