Q&A With Dr. Steven Shoshany
We thought it would be nice to post some of the most commonly asked questions we get at our Manhattan Chiropractic and Spinal Decompression practice.
Is there a beginner-friendly stretch that an individual can do at home to relieve back pain/discomfort?
Yes. In fact the very first stretch I prescribe to most patients who are in some minor phase of lower back pain. This is aside from postural tips that I also include in my lifestyle recommendations. If you feel anything beyond a minor discomfort during this stretch, stop and go see a doctor. The stretch should be a little difficult or uncomfortable but not painful. The beauty of this stretch is that its also going to take a little bit of pressure off your sacrum and lower back, while stretching the piriformis muscle. It can be done almost anywhere, and you can progress through it rather easily, adding a bit more effort and time each day. Its best to do this a couple of times a day, and at the very least try and hold it for 45 seconds.
Remember that twice is better than once, but once is better than none!
What do you recommend for someone who wants to protect his/her back despite sitting at a computer all day or standing for prolonged hours at a time for work?
Luckily there's plenty you can do, it just takes a little discipline, and pays off in years worth of comfort. ITs all about posture and ergonomics. First of all don't shrug when you're typing, you'll see this a lot with people who end up suffering from neck and shoulder pain. Get a nice wrist rest and take breaks to stretch. Make sure your monitor is at a proper height so you do not have to look down all the time. Get a nice supportive chair with a proper lumbar curve. And stretch, stretch, stretch. There are also chin tuck exercises I recommend that can help with what's known as "forward head posture", which can lead to neck pain, numbness, and even nerve degradation. And if you're gonna be standing a lot, look in to getting proper orthotics, and arch supports. You don't want to develop conditions like plantar fascitis.
Is there a correct way to bend down to tie your shoelaces or pick things up off the ground?
Yes! Make sure you're dropping your butt down. Don't just bend over and strain yourself until your back gives out. Stretch and exercise so you can develop proper range of motion. You want to load the powerful muscles of the glutes and hamstrings when you lower yourself, especially when lifting. Squat down before you start to bend and keep your weight on the entire foot, don't let your chest get as low as your hips, its should always be above your hips.
What types of exercise promote healthy back muscles?
Its not just about exercise anymore. We're seeing this big cultural shift in to mobility and movement. You want to be strong, and you want to have full range of motion. Do both, and you're much less likely to experience pain and injuries. Squats, deadlifts, glute bridges, planks, along with range of motion exercises are the very fundamentals that you should build a good exercise regimen on. Exercises like the bird dog, and prone scapular retractions are excellent in assisting mobility.
What should someone look out for before doing an exercise so as not to hurt his or her back?
Warm up! Its important to get the joints properly lubricated with synovial fluid and bring the muscles and tendons through a full range of moth in before loading them with any weight. If your warmup hurts, you're not ready to exercise and you need to go see a doctor.
What is the most common misconception people have about their back? Is there a bad habit that people should pay attention to or a good habit that people should try to do more often?
Rounding their back all day, and walking around with their face in the cellphone screen. Look up, work on posture. Get out, get active. Stretch, exercise. Do some yoga, lift some weights. If you don't work towards optimal physical health, it won't happen by itself. The best habit is mindfulness, train yourself to think about how you move and sit, and make it a point to work towards counteracting the bad habits that we all have built in to ourselves living in a modern society.
What can someone do to protect his or her back while driving?
There are a number of lumbar and cervical supports that people can use. Make sure your seat is at a proper height. Try not to drive for hours on end. Get out, stretch. And do a few neck exercises.
What is the best posture for someone who is sitting down and reading or using a computer?
Dont do if for 8 hours straight, take a break, take a walk. Even if the work is involved and technical, you can get a better perspective if you take your mind off it for a minute and come back with fresh eyes, and as important, a fresh back. Also, we all have our computer screens too low. Raise it up so you don't have to look down at such a harsh angle.
What is the best posture for someone who is gardening and crouched over?
Don't round your back too much. Theres also a great exercise specifically for gardeners I like to recommend. Its called the bird/dog. Try not to develop a dominant side for using your tools. Try to be as good with a spade with your non-dominant arm. Don't just pull weeds with just one arm. Distribute your weight evenly. Learn to do a caveman squat.
Is there something you wish more people knew about supporting their backs and protecting their spines for the future?
The sooner you start working to keep your spine young, the more it pays off later in life. And just because your back is fine now, doesn't mean that you won't pay for bad habits in the future. Your health is an investment. Wear proper clothing that doesn't restrict your movement, especially when you're being active. Get a qualified trainer if you're unsure about how to exercise. and most importantly DONT PUT OFF PAIN! Pain is the final signal your body uses to tell you that something is wrong. The overwhelming majority of people in our country will deal with back pain at some point in their lives. You can be proactive and ensure that if you do have back problems in the future, that it'll be minor.