We all have our hobbies that we are passionate about, love doing, and could see turning into a second career. However, certain hobbies can generate stress on the spine. This often leads to a decrease in being able to participate in these activities, which can lead to various health issues. Maintaining the body’s physical fitness and keeping the spine healthy is key to continuing without neck or back pain. Hobbies are an important part of life. Individuals must enjoy what they love, from sports to music to arts and craft projects. Having activities/hobbies helps:
Here’s how to ensure the hobbies/activities are fun and safe.
Poor posture is one of the leading causes of neck and back pain. Looking down or being in a standing/sitting hunched position regularly increases the load/stress on the neck, increasing the chances for strain, injury, headaches, and chronic pain. In the neutral position, the skull weighs around 10-12 pounds.
When leaning the head forward, weight increases from, let’s say, 27 pounds at a 15-degree angle to 60 pounds at a 60-degree angle. The strain on the cervical vertebrae, joints, and muscles can be immense. A good example is text-neck. This has become normal when using a smartphone, gaming, or other similar activities.
Studies suggest that the average individual spends three to five hours daily on a smartphone or tablet. This means three to five hours of extra weight on the cervical spine. Engaging in a hobby requiring an individual to look down constantly in a similar fashion can lead to serious and chronic neck pain and other cervical issues.
Individuals are spending more time at home and getting more serious about their hobbies. This is fantastic; however, these individuals need to take time to stretch out and get some physical activity into their hobby routine. Just like taking frequent walk-around, and stretching out at work breaks, so to do hobbyists need to step back from their projects to keep a healthy balance. The position of the neck and the way it is held for activities like:
Hobbies like this can increase the risk of neck pain, so the key is prevention, paying attention to head posture now and again, and taking stretching breaks.
Many individuals stand and sit when working on their hobbies. This is quite common and is encouraged when doing these absorbing activities. But being immersed in these activities, most forget to check their posture when doing so. This leads to problems that at first are shrugged off as just soreness.
Eventually, the individual begins to engage in bad/awkward posture habits that avoid the pain and think this will help. This worsens the problems and promotes further strain/injury. Leaning, bending, reaching, and twisting the spine increases the load and stress. Performing these actions over and over for extended periods means:
Slouching is another posture problem that increases the likelihood of lower back pain. Slouching causes gaps between the lower back vertebrae. This stresses the facet joints or the connections between the vertebrae. The soft tissues elongate/stretch and lengthen like muscles and connective tissue. What elongation does is:
The longer an individual sits, stands, and slouches impacts the body’s health negatively, leading to a chain of health problems. Maintaining proper posture and keeping the spine straight minimizes the strain on muscles and the vertebrae. Prevent pain and discomfort.
Ergonomic stressors include:
These factors or combinations place a higher risk for discomfort, pain, and injury. The focus of ergonomics is the immediate surroundings like the bench, work area, craft room, etc., and how the individual moves or does not move and interacts in these areas. Proper ergonomics will help protect the spine and the rest of the body. Improper ergonomics can cause damage like muscle strain, repetitive movements, and incorrect posture. Looking at the hobby workspace, the ergonomics, and making necessary adjustments can help prevent strain/injury.
Ensure the right chair, stool, bench, etc., is utilized. Adjustable types with neck and lower back support are the way to go. Make sure the base is stable and the seat is comfortable and adjustable. Backrests and armrests can help maintain proper posture.
Various drafting tables and lap desks have adjustable surfaces to adjust the height for working with a proper ergonomic posture. If the work surface is not adjustable, adjust the chair or make adjustments as needed. The hips should be higher than the knees to take the strain off the sacrum and lower back. The upper back should be straight, with the shoulder blades together, creating a supportive platform for the neck and head.
Using the best tools for working and organization will help avoid injuries and constant awkward positions like leaning/reaching over and around the workspace. Look for tools that can be adjusted to different heights, resistance levels, etc., depending on what is needed and what will reduce strain.
If an individual needs to lean in to get a closer look, vision could be the problem. If an individual wears glasses, it could be time for a check-up. Or, if an individual does not wear glasses, it could be time to see an optometrist. Non-prescription magnifiers could be the answer.
Working too long in one position can be detrimental to overall health.
It is understandable when individuals get into the zone, working on something creative and not wanting to stop the flow. However, frequent breaks are vital. Stretching regularly and getting up to move around is key to staying healthy.
15 minutes a day of stretches will maintain the health of the spine. If pain or discomfort becomes frequent or unmanageable, seek professional help. Physical therapists and chiropractors are trained in orthopedic issues and ergonomics without prescription. Call a doctor or physical therapist to find out if treatment is necessary. Following these guidelines can help keep hobbies fun and without pain.
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The information herein on "Enjoy the Hobbies You Love Without Back and Neck Pain" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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