There are ways to avoid all sorts of pain; it starts with posture

By Vicki Hyatt | Jun 27, 2012

When it comes to taking care of the human back, there’s no instruction book I’ve ever heard of that sets forth warnings and consequences about bad habits.

Turns out, all my life, I’ve been doing things wrong when it comes to bending, sitting, walking or even picking things up off the floor. It wasn’t until a knee injury that kept me hobbling around for several months that all the “wrongs” I’ve been doing came to light.

I share this with you not to be a whiner, but hopefully to help some folks avoid pain down the road.

First off, my posture for sitting, standing and walking had been all wrong. Here’s the advice  my physical therapist gave me that actually sank in: suck your belly button in so that it feels like it is touching your spine.

“OK,” I said. “I can do that. How long do I have to hold it?”
“Always,” was the answer.

“You’re kidding me,” I said, noting how unnatural that position felt.

I was assured that if practiced long enough, it would become second nature and would strengthen the muscles deep within that support the spine.

Secondly, I’d developed hip pain that often had me hobbling around as much as my knee injury — an on-the-job one that occurred when I was using the brain gym at the Haywood County Senior Resource Center and pedaling the exercise bike at the same time. (I was determined to run through each exercise that challenged a different brain part so I could write about the experience and it took about an hour.)

To avoid hip pain, it is important to walk, bend and climb stairs so that the knee is aligned with the foot, not skewed to the side.

The same is true when stooping down. I found it quite a challenge to retain the abdominal contraction and concentrate on the alignment, too. The way I've accomplished that is with what I call the “backside kickout,” because that’s what you first need to do to stoop properly.

These changes haven't stopped my knees from hurting, but I've been assured that will eventually get better, too. This is something I can't wait to have happen. My therapist helpfully suggested I not bend down so far if it strained my knees. That's nice in the world of therapy, but there's still the need to reach the ground to do tasks such as thin carrots, pick vegetables or even pick up things off the floor.

The other essential part of all this is proper stretching, something I definitely short-changed in the past.

I am finding all this information gained through physical therapy extremely useful and even life-changing. I had previously thought that crackling knees, a "hitch in my get-along" and an occasionally aching back were just part of growing older. While that may be partially true, it seems there are actions we can take to make all that go away, as least in part.