Most of us experience stiff and achy muscles at some point, and for some it can be chronic. While getting a massage helps to alleviate some of our pain and tension, it is also necessary to correct the bad habits that may cause or exacerbate these symptoms. By incorporating these good habits into your daily routine, you can greatly reduce and prevent soreness and increase your range of motion.

correct sitting position at workstation. man on kneeling chairBe aware of your posture.

Most people have poor posture, and many are unaware of how much it contributes to their neck and back tension. If you have a desk job it is even harder to avoid because it requires being present in your body throughout the day, while you are also focused on work. So, what is good posture and how do you get it? While sitting you must not only sit up straight, but remember to roll your pelvis forward, pull your shoulders back, and keep your head up. Work ergonomically, so you’re chair is proper height, desk items are in reach, and wrist is supported and in comfortable position with your keyboard and mouse. Try putting up a reminder up where you can see it while you are working. Once you become more conscientious of your posture, you will train your muscles to stay in proper alignment.

Sleep in the correct position, with proper support.

Medical experts recommend sleeping on your back or side to reducing back problems. For neck and shoulder pain sleeping on your back is best because it aligns the spine in a neutral position. Use a cervical pillow or a rolled towel under the neck, and to reduce strain on your low back use a pillow under your knees. For back pain try sleeping on your side, as it elongates the spine. In this position pull your legs up slightly and use a pillow between your legs, or use a body pillow if you need support for your arm. Sleeping on your stomach is the worst position for neck and back pain because it can cause you to overarch your spine, and strain the neck. If you can’t break the habit, try using a small pillow under your pelvis and a flat pillow under your head, or none at all.

Avoid carrying a heavy shoulder bag.

People that carry a heavy purse or laptop bag tend to do it on the same side. This causes and strain on the spine, and leads to pain in the neck and shoulders. To correct this try to instead use a backpack or a smaller bag, and switch sides as you’re walking. Leave heavier items out, such as water bottles.

Proper LiftingLift items properly.

Bending over to pick something off the floor with a curved back strains the spine and puts pressure on your discs, which can cause them to bulge and impinge nerves. To correct this, keep your back straight and stand with your knees shoulder-width apart, then bend your knees and hips and use your legs to lower and raise your body weight. Think about a squatting movement when you need to lean forward, such as while washing your face in the sink. Let your hips and knees do the work.

Stretch daily.

Whether you work out or not, stretching is important for addressing tension, and preventing injury and pain. When our muscles get tight, stretching helps re-lengthen them so they don’t get stuck in a shortened position. Stretching should be included in your daily routine, and regarded in the same way as brushing your teeth or bathing. Set aside at least 10 minutes in the morning or evening to stretch the entire body, focusing on major muscle groups. While working you should take 2 minute breaks throughout the day to stretch the lower back, neck and shoulders. Additionally, you should warm up the muscles before exercising and stretch after. The proper way to stretch is do static stretches, without bouncing to avoid causing injury to your muscle. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 1 minute. You should feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.

drink more waterDrink more water.

We all know that we need to drink water to live, but most people are not getting enough, especially when consuming dehydrating beverages like coffee or alcohol. Drinking enough water can also reduce pain in your joints by keeping the cartilage soft and hydrated. Also headaches can be caused by dehydration, and most of the time can be relieved by simply drinking a glass of water. So, how much water is enough? A good reference is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water. For example if you weigh 160lbs, drink 80oz of water each day. To keep better track of how many ounces you’re consuming, use a 20 oz bottle and carry it everywhere with you. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, by then you’re already dehydrated.

Crosby, K. Stretch Out: A Few Precautions Can Prevent Future Pain [Client Newsletter Article]. Retrieved from https://www.abmp.com

Borreli, L. (2014, August 5). Sleeping Positions To Stay Healthy: The Best And Worst Ways To Sleep During The Night [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.medicaldaily.com

Mayo Clinic Staff. Stretching: Focus on Flexibility [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org

Jenkins, B. 10 Life-Changing Reasons to Drink More Water [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.breakingmuscle.com