Between lack of sleep, intense workout regimens and the general daily grind of work and commuting, joint pain and general discomfort is commonplace— but this doesn’t always need to be the case.
Curbing seemingly innocuous habits can vastly improve your physical well-being.
For starters, avoid walking in uncomfortable shoes for long distances by, for example, toting around roll-up flats.
“Nowadays there are fashionable choices that can help you transition from commute to office,” says Dr. Todd Sinett, a NYC-based chiropractor and author of "3 Weeks To a Better Back". “It’s also important to make sure your briefcase or handbag isn’t overloaded. Switch hands or shoulders to make sure both sides of your body bear the weight and if possible, choose a backpack.”
The position you sleep in factors in too, according to Dr. Emily Kiberd, a pain relief specialist and the founder of Urban Wellness Clinic.
The number of pillows you opt for is also important. The magic number is three: one under your head, one between your knees and one to hug to prevent you from rolling on your stomach.
An equally likely culprit is your work environment. “Don’t sit for too long and when you do make sure your legs are bent to form a 90-degree angle as well as your elbows in relation to your keyboard,” says Dr. Sinett.
To counteract the effects of sitting too long, he advises lying on an exercise ball to let your spine curve backwards, extending and loosening your back muscles, opening your chest and permitting deeper breathing.
In tandem with that, be careful about how you look at your smartphone.
“Text message and read your smartphone so that you’re viewing it at eye level and don’t slump. Be aware of your posture as much as possible,” he advises.
All of the aforementioned elements tie into possibly the most overlooked offender: stress.
“Stress spikes cortisol in the body; with long sustained stress comes long sustained spikes of cortisol which can burn out our adrenal glands,” says Dr. Kiberd. “This leads to muscle and joint aches, slows healing and cell regeneration, impairs metabolism and weakens the immune system.”
What we do all day is what we are training our body to do, and the brain remembers these movement patterns and muscle memory.
“If you carry your bag on the right, hiking your right shoulder up, your body will remember this and carry this into other parts of your day," Kiberd says. "Ditto for stressed out chest breathers; it will likely carry over through the rest of our day, tightening the muscles in the neck, causing pain.”