Keep your back muscles and your joints healthy all year long with these tips.
How to Protect Your Back
By Lyndsay Fogarty
From shopping for the perfect gift to preparing a meal for your guests, there are plenty of opportunities for aches and pains during the holidays. The American Physical Therapy Association suggests the following ways to protect your back.
- Distribute the weight of shopping bags equally on both sides of your body.
- Make frequent trips to the car to drop off purchases as you shop.
- Carry a small backpack instead of a purse to disperse the weight across your back instead of just on one side.
- When picking up packages or taking small appliances and holiday decorations out of storage, life with your legs rather than your back and keep the weight close to your body.
- Make sure your kitchen work surface is approximately at the level of your forearms when your elbows are bent at a right angle or at elbow height to decrease your risk of upper back, neck and shoulder strain.
- Work on a padded surface such as an area rug with grippers while cooking, baking or doing dishes.
7 Benefits of Maintaining Good Posture
Maintaining good posture is critical to your overall health and well-being. When posture is good, there is no excessive strain on your ligaments and muscles. While standing or sitting, you should keep your chin forward, shoulders back, knees bent at right angles, feet aligned with the floor and back straight with no slouching.
Here are seven benefits of maintaining good posture:
Prevent Joint and Muscle Injuries
Keeping your posture in check can help you avoid sprains, strains or injuries due to wear and tear, mainly if you work out. It can also prevent damage to your joints that cause diseases such as arthritis, herniated disks or hunchback.
If you have trouble taking deep breaths, it might be due to bad posture. Your posture affects the way your diaphragm moves, so straighten up, take a deep breath and feel how much extra air gets into your lungs.
Ease Back Pain
Many back pain cases are caused by tense muscles or misaligned joints. Improving your posture releases that tension in your muscles and properly aligns the bones in your spine, gradually reducing or even eliminating back pain.
Strengthen the Core
When you correct your posture, you will notice your abs working harder. This strengthens the core. Consider it an ab workout that you can do while standing or sitting.
Standing or sitting with proper posture keeps your organs in a natural position, allowing for fewer kinks that can cause digestive discomfort. It also promotes good circulation, which is essential for proper digestion.
Boost Your Mood
Research has shown that people who regularly practice proper posture feel better than those that don’t. Amazingly, studies show a marked improvement in mental ailments such as depression or anxiety by merely correcting posture.
Having good posture can make you feel good while making you more attractive to others. Someone who is standing straight and confident looks far more attractive than someone who is slouched over, staring down at the floor.
If you’re not sure which aspects of your posture need improvement, talk to your doctor or chiropractor for pointers.
What Women Should Know About Hormones & Joint Health
By J. Lang Wood
Most people are aware that joint health is a concern with age. However, fewer are aware of the connection between joint health and hormone depletion. Researchers at Boston University and California Pacific Medical Research Center have discovered a link between low levels of estrogen and joint pain.
About Joint Pain
About 60 percent of individuals with osteoarthritis are women. Women are also twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men. This is due in part to the structure of their body. Women’s hips and knees are joined at a sharper angle to accommodate the larger pelvic cavity. In addition, women are subject to changes in estrogen levels, which causes changes in fluid retention and pain sensation.
Though they are unclear about the exact connection between joint pain and hormones, medical researchers believe estrogen helps to protect joints and provide resistance to the perception of joint pain. When estrogen levels fall during menopause, joint pain increases, with pain most often felt in the knees, hips, shoulders, ankles, wrists and back.
Researchers noticed women who took estrogen-inhibiting drugs as treatment for breast cancer began experiencing arthritis-like pain in their fingers, wrists and other joints. This phenomenon gave rise to a new medical term: menopausal arthritis. This condition is temporary and isn’t related to degenerative joint conditions. Asian women appear to be particularly susceptible to menopausal arthritis pain.
Arthritis causes swelling of the joints, stiffness, inflammation of tissues and pain. The swelling and inflammation in the joint can inhibit movement. Over-the-counter pain medications and prescription medications can help to reduce pain although some have significant side effects that should be discussed with a physician. Steroid injections are a traditional treatment for severe joint pain but can only be used on a limited schedule.
Menopause causes other physical symptoms, including hot flashes, thinning hair, increased abdominal fat and mood swings. Lower estrogen levels during menopause may also play a part in the perception of increased joint pain. When menopausal symptoms don’t respond to standard drugs or injections, some physicians may prescribe hormone replacement therapy. This treatment shouldn’t be used in patients with previous cancer diagnoses, blood clots or patients being treated for cardiovascular problems.
Bio-identical hormone replacement is an option that relies on hormones derived from plant chemicals that are compounded in pharmacies specifically for the patient, based on analysis from their saliva. There is no scientific data to suggest that these compounds are safer or more effective than laboratory produced hormones, and they may not have gone through the rigorous quality control measures that are performed on commercial hormone products.
Additionally, exercise such as yoga and tai chi can be helpful in relieving joint pain and stiffness. Heat packs and massage can improve circulation and mobility. Acupuncture, a method in which thin needles are used to block the nerve pathways, has been proven to give temporary relief for joint pain as well.
Not all remedies are advisable for all patients, and women should discuss the range of options with their physicians at length before undergoing treatment.