From carrying your wallet in your pocket to looking down at your cellphone, these everyday habits can jeopardise your posture and bone health, say experts
More than 60 million Indians are at heightened risk of osteoarthritis, suggests a recent report by SRL Diagnostics. Often referred to as ‘wear and tear’ arthritis, this condition is thought to result from repetitive activities that put added stress on joints. While some wear and tear is a natural by-product of ageing, many of these degenerative symptoms can be slowed down and their severity reduced with timely preventive measures, says Dr Abhishek Srivastava, director of the Centre for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. “In fact, many conditions associated with modern lifestyles trace their roots to the early 1700s, when Bernardino Ramazzini, an Italian physician, found that repetitive or violent motions, and odd postures encountered by workers in more than 50 occupations could produce what is now known as repetitive strain injury. This condition is characterised by tenderness, tingling, loss of strength and sensation, and weakness.”
Mirror spoke to Dr Srivastava and other experts to get a sense of how seemingly innocuous habits can affect bone and joint health over time.
Sitting on your wallet
Keeping your wallet in your back pocket places undue stress on your sciatic nerve, lower spine region, spinal discs, and muscles and ligaments, and it can often result in lower back pain. “A wallet in the back pocket could even tilt your spine and cause chronic pain,” says Dr Tejas Upasani, orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon.
DO THIS: If you cannot, for some reason, use a bag to store your wallet, make sure to take it out of your pocket before you sit down, recommends Dr Upasani.
Looking down at your cellphone
The angle at which you tilt your neck can result in as much as 27 kg of additional pressure on your cervical spine, resulting in a condition labelled by experts as the ‘text neck’. Symptoms include upper back or neck pain when using a handheld device, nagging pain in your neck and shoulders at the end of the day, and headaches that get worse when you look down at the screen, says Dr Manoj Kutteri, wellness director at Atmantan Wellness Centre.
DO THIS: When using your smartphone, hold it up in front of you and hold your head in a natural position. Adjust your eyes to look down, instead of lowering your head. Dr Kutteri also suggests taking frequent breaks from staring at your phone.
Carrying your bag on one shoulder or forearm
Carrying your bag only on one shoulder can lead to spasms in your scapular muscles. Similarly, carrying your handbag on your forearm could lead to pain in your elbow, says Dr Upasani.
DO THIS: Carry a backpack that can be worn over both shoulders, so that the weight is evenly distributed. The straps should fit comfortably, and you should avoid overloading your bag with unnecessary items. Every morning, make sure to empty your bag of objects that you will not use that day. The weight of your bag should not cause you to hunch over. If carrying a handbag, make sure to hold it in your hands, and switch sides often, says Dr Aditya Khemka, consultant orthopaedic at Hinduja Healthcare.
Leaning on one leg when you tire
Standing for long durations can put stress on your core muscles, and many people prefer to alleviate this by putting their entire body weight on only one leg. This, however, can put undue stress on that side of your lower back and hip, says Dr Khemka.
DO THIS: Stand on both legs so your weight is evenly distributed. Strengthen your core and gluteal muscles with light weight training exercises.
Leaning on the overhead grab rail
The sheer lack of space in train carriages leaves you with no choice, but to hold the overhead grab rail to maintain your balance. However, holding the grab rail with only one hand, or resting your head in the crook of your elbow can strain your shoulder joint and tendons, warns Dr Upasani. Further, any sudden jerks to your shoulder as the train picks up speed can make it more prone to injury and muscular tear.
DO THIS: Hold on to a side pole if possible. If not, hold on to the overhead grab rail with both hands so that the strain is divided between both shoulders.
Working with your arms extended
Sitting for long durations in non-ergonomically designed spaces can cause fatigue in the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, upper back and neck. Working with your arms extended, as is the case when using a computer, can cause tendon inflammation and localised pain in the elbow, forearm, wrist or hand. Bad posture can also cause fatigue, muscle strain and, eventually, back pain, says Dr Jashan Vishwanath, orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon at Jaslok.
DO THIS: While typing, make sure your wrists are held up in line with the backs of your hands, in order to reduce strain. Move your arms to reach the keys, instead of extending your fingers to reach them. Use a foam pad or towel in front of your keyboard to rest your wrists and forearms while not typing. Place your keyboard in such a way that your elbows are bent at least 90 degrees; if you cannot move your keyboard, adjust the height of your chair accordingly. Place your monitor at arm’s length, so you can read the screen without leaning forward. If the back of your chair does not provide enough support, place a rolled towel or cushion between the small of your back and the chair.
█ The angle at which you tilt your neck can result in as much as 27 kg of additional pressure on your cervical spine, resulting in a condition labelled ‘text neck’
– Dr. Manoj Kutteri