With Christmas pressure off and fewer demands on your time, it's easy for one Netflix episode to turn into days. Good news for you. Bad news for your neck and back. Before you settle in on the couch (or in bed), backpain-proof your TV binge with our chiropractors' posture tips.
Remote control or tablet in one hand. Body awkwardly balanced on the other elbow. Relate? While getting lost in a series for days on end can be a great way to unwind and relax, there are a few hazards of kicking back on the couch (or in bed). For one, many ‘comfortable’ viewing positions force misalignment, which can not only cause pain and discomfort in the back, neck, hips and shoulders, but may, over time, affect posture and movement in daily life. The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to guard against the adverse effects of couch time.
- Choose the chair. Ideally you’d sit on a chair with structure that encourages upright sitting, but even if your preferred cushioned lounge furniture allows you to slump and fold over, pretend you’re sitting on a kitchen or dining chair. To mimic this structure (your back should connect with the back of an upright chair), place a rolled towel in the space between your back and the chair or sofa back. This will help to support your lower back.
- Take posture breaks. If you are settling in for a few hours, set an alarm for hourly intervals and switch to a different seat for half an hour. Try to choose a dining, kitchen or desk chair that encourages upright sitting and allows your feet to rest on the floor. (It’s tempting to cross your legs, but resist.)
- Line up. Your go-to position may be resting on one elbow and twisting at the hips, or lying back with your head turned 90 degrees to see the screen, but try to think of your body - from your head to your toes - as a straight line. The best positions are those that cause the least misalignment.
- Level the score. Try to position the television or laptop directly in front of you, at a height that allows your chin to remain level, neither pointed upwards or downwards. A wall-mounted screen that is too high or requires you to twist your body can set you up for back and neck pain.
- Stretch yourself. Schedule regular breaks to perform basic stretches. Work down from your neck to your shoulders and arms, midsection (factor in some side reaches and even a basic back stretch). Don’t forget your legs (try lunges and calf raises). While you’re sitting, consider intermittently flexing your toes and performing simple ankle rolls in both directions. This concerted movement will help to prevent stiffness. Consider scheduling these with your chair breaks (as above).
If you are suffering back or neck pain or discomfort or would like to establish lifestyle habits that promote wellness and prevent spine and posture issues, consider consulting a chiropractor, who can recommend personalised changes for optimal overall health and wellbeing.