We only give our back the attention it deserves when it comes to pain, stiff muscles and the like. In everyday life, we often ignore our back health: we move too little, sit too long or sit incorrectly. Possible consequences can be muscle weakness and muscular imbalances, which trigger symptoms.
The healthy back: our strengthening framework
It consists of vertebrae, joints, numerous ligament structures, the cartilaginous intervertebral discs, larger and smaller nerve cords and, last but not least, the protective and stabilizing back muscles.
The natural shape of our back is described in anatomy as a double S shape: This means that the natural line of our back – viewed from the side – follows the lines of the letter S twice. The cervical spine, like the lumbar spine, is slightly bent forward in the natural position, the thoracic spine is physiologically slightly curved backwards. To avoid misalignments, it is important to actively counteract an increased tendency of these spine sections (such as the so-called hunchback in the thoracic spine area or the hollow back in the lumbar spine area) – with the strength of the muscles! How muscle tension affects the posture of the lower back can be experienced in a short exercise.
- Sit up straight. Place one hand on your stomach (at the height of your belly button), the other hand on the lower part of your lumbar spine.
- As you exhale, pull your belly button inwards slightly, the lower lumbar spine gently arching into your back hand.
- The next time you inhale, you actively straighten your back with the strength of the lower lumbar spine – important: without overstretching it. Carry out the movements carefully and with little movement.
- Pay attention to the movements: where is the resistance? How big is my mobility in my back?
Back exercise in everyday life: dynamic sitting
- “Sit up straight!” This helpful hint goes through many people’s minds when they get tired of sitting at a desk for long periods of time. But it’s not that simple – because stubborn “sitting upright” is not the right motto. Rather, the following applies: There is no right or wrong posture when sitting, the dynamics of changing sitting posture and general movement in the workplace are decisive! The intervertebral discs between the vertebrae are best relieved and supplied if you vary your sitting position frequently. So it is perfectly allowed to relax briefly and lean your back if this is followed by a phase of active tension.
- So change your sitting position more often. For a long time, back-troubled office workers were recommended to use the Pezzi exercise ball or an office chair with a ball-bearing seat – today we know: an overstrain for inexperienced back muscles! It is better to actively change your position yourself on a well-adjusted and ergonomic chair (for example by sitting on the edge of the chair alternating with a more passive posture).
- The basis is the correct furnishing of the workplace : because everyone needs an individual setting of their office furniture. This also applies to children. From the height of the office chair to the orientation of the screen and the position of the keyboard – all of these factors are important for a healthy back.
Dynamic standing as back training
- Shift your weight from one leg to the other.
- If possible, lean in.
- Support your arms and so relieve your back for a short time.
- Slowly turn your head from right to left, stretching your neck by tilting your head slightly towards your chest.
- Place your feet about hip-width apart.
- The knees are loose and slightly bent.
- The hips are erect. (That means: the pelvis and navel are approximated.)
- The stomach is in slight tension.
- Your shoulder girdle is erect, the shoulder blades pull towards each other and downwards.
- Your cervical spine is straight with your chin slightly closer to your chest.
Loungers – tips for a healthy and restful sleep
Do you know that? When you wake up in the morning feel exhausted and your back rebels the first time you try to get out of bed? You can also do something for your back health while you sleep. The hardness of your mattress and the height of the pillow are decisive. There is a large selection of different degrees of hardness in combination with different lying areas. In order to find the right sleeping equipment, you should consider your preferred sleeping position in addition to your height and weight:
- Back sleepers choose a point-elastic and rather firm pad. If you are lying on your back, you should avoid “sinking into” the mattress too much, because then malpositions (such as hyperlordosis – the hollow back) can become worse. The pillow should lie flat – so your neck muscles can relax when you are lying down.
- As a side sleeper, you should ensure that the shoulder girdle and pelvis can sink deep enough into the surface to support the physiological position of the back during sleep (the top point of the cervical spine and the end point of the spine then form a straight line). If the pressure in this area is too high, tension can quickly set in here. If you sleep on the side, the pillow can be a little higher – because then the natural position of your head is supported when lying down.
- Your body weight is decisive when choosing the mattress: If you are lighter, you should bed on a softer mattress; if you have a strong body, it makes sense to choose a somewhat firmer mattress.
This short exercise is used to feel your back resting on the mat.
- Lie on your back and bend your legs; grab or hug your knees with your arms.
- What contact points do you perceive on the pad? Are there any pressure points?
- In the next step you can rock your back gently back and forth on the mat (please: controlled and lightly). Here, too, ask yourself: How do you feel, where is your back resting, where is there contact – or pressure points?
- Finally, place both feet on the floor with your knees bent. Your lower back should now lie relaxed on the mat – feel how you feel in your back.
There is a lot you can do in everyday life to keep your back pain-free – make sure you have enough variety in your movements and try out for yourself which exercises and positions are good for your back.