Pamela Guevarra, PT, DPT, Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy
Proper body mechanics are certain positions of everyday activities that keep your spine and body properly aligned. This ultimately prevents symptoms like pain and stiffness in the spine. These positions are further recommended for people without back problems to help prevent stress on the spine, to help conserve energy and keep you safe. So let’s talk about ways in which you can help achieve proper body mechanics in your everyday life.
Your bed should be firm and not sag.
Your pillow should not be too big that your head is bent forward or too small that your head is extended backward. Thus, your head and neck should align with the spine.
While sleeping, the pillow should only support your head and neck and not your upper back.
Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach with your head fully rotated to one side.
Sleep on your side or back or ¾ stomach using a body pillow.
For long periods of sitting, try to stand up at least once an hour to relieve your spine.
Ensure that when seated your hips are higher than your knees.
Fold a pillow lengthwise or roll a large towel and place it on the back half of the seat so when you sit on the chair, your hips are higher than your knees.
An alternative if you need to study or have to work over a desk is to sit at the edge of the chair and then bend your knees and put your feet under the chair.
Avoid standing in one position for a long time.
For prolonged standing, place your foot up on a stool and alternate your legs if possible.
Lifting and Carrying
There are two ways to lift an object:
When picking up small objects from the floor or lower areas, remember the golfer’s lift: place one foot in front of the other, while holding on to something for balance and support and kick the back leg up while reaching. This will keep the spine in a neutral position.
To pick up a heavy item, squat, placing yourself close to the item, keeping your back straight and lift with your legs. Do not lift and twist your body in a bent position. If possible, stagger your stance – positioning one foot in front of the other before you lift – so you can easily take your first step.
Vacuum and Mopping:
Walk with the vacuum or mop, keeping them close to your body to avoid reaching and protect your back.
Cleaning High Areas
When cleaning something high like a tall window or trying to retrieve an item from a high shelf, avoid reaching up. Find and use a step stool to raise yourself high and be safe.
Practice and repetition are keys to incorporating proper body mechanics into everyday home and work activities. As always, consult a licensed physical therapist at AZOPT if you begin to have problems with your neck or back.