Does your back ache? Is your neck stiff? Shoulders sore? Knees hurt? The cause of your chronic pain could be traced to common objects you use every day, at home and at work, and how you use them.
Pain-causing bad habits such as poor posture when driving and improper lifting of that overstuffed briefcase or tote can be at the heart of the problem, says Heather Tick, MD, a clinical associate professor of family medicine and anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The good news is that a little retraining can undo those bad habits and help you feel better in a jiffy. One word of caution first: If you have chronic pain that won’t go away, even after trying this advice, don’t ignore it. Talk to your doctor because it could be a sign of a more serious condition that needs specific pain treatment.
Your Computer Screen
Spending too much time sitting in front of your computer screen can lead to more than high scores at video games. A study from Norway of more than 30,000 teenagers found that the longer they sat in front of screens playing games or watching TV, the more back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain they had.
Pain management tip: Adjust your computer or TV screen so that it is just at or below eye level. And just like you should do when driving for a long time, take frequent breaks. Get up and walk around. Do some gentle stretches. If you can’t take a break, at least change positions frequently.
Sleeping on a mattress that is too soft or too hard can cause you to wake with pain in your back and neck, says Dr. Tick. The right sleeping positions also can help eliminate back and neck pain, says Mitchell K. Freedman, DO, director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia. The best sleeping position for pain management is your side or back. Place a pillow under your knees for added support.
You also might need to make like Goldilocks, and get the mattress that’s just right for you. If you need to replace your mattress — a good idea every 10 years or so — never buy one without testing it first, Tick says. Lie on it at the store for at least 20 minutes, and don’t be embarrassed. After all, a mattress is a big investment financially and for your health.
Stuff your purse with pounds of personal possessions, and you’re begging for chronic pain in your back or neck. The pain management solution is simple: Make sure your purse weighs no more than 5 pounds.
Know, too, that it’s not only what’s in your purse, but also how you carry it that can hurt you. Slinging it over one shoulder is the worst. In fact, people who carried backpacks on their right or their left shoulder risk misaligning their spines, researchers at Teesside University in the United Kingdom found.
The fix? Carry your tote in front of you with both hands, switch sides frequently so that the burden of the weight isn’t always on one side of your body, or invest in a sturdy backpack.
Your Car Seat
Sitting in the car for long stretches of time can cause chronic pain. Developing the right body mechanics, however, can keep you comfortable in the driver’s seat.