The word “habit” often refers to acquired behavior that becomes almost automatic because a particular pattern of behavior is done frequently and repetitively. In this article, we’ll look at the 10 worst habits physical therapists see in individuals when it comes to injury and orthopedic problems.
- Sitting on a wallet, which is most often associated with men, is a major cause of problems. Since the back pants pockets usually cover the buttocks area where the sciatic nerve crosses into the buttock muscle, there is considerable risk of compressing this nerve when undue pressure is placed upon it. This is called sciatica. It presents as pain in the buttock, and runs down the back of the leg. Also, the asymmetry of sitting on an uneven surface puts significant strain on the pelvis and can create imbalances that can go up the spine and cause pain in the neck and shoulders. Put your wallet in a front pocket.
- For women, the most seen cause of a problem is carrying a pocketbook, which typically weighs more than 1-2 pounds, consistently on one shoulder. The imbalance this causes affects the shoulder blade position and therefore affects the smooth operation of the shoulder itself. Since many muscles in that area also link up to the neck, it isn’t uncommon to have symptoms of stiff neck or tightness in this area as well. Use a light pocketbook and switch sides often.
- For kids and young adults, it’s the book bag. Slinging a heavy book bag over just one shoulder can create an imbalance contributing to the development of scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine). Book bags with even 3-4 books can weigh 15-20 pounds, which impacts the bodies of kids in their growing years. Remember to sling your book bag over both shoulders or switch sides often if you want to carry it on just one shoulder.
- For individuals less than 5 feet tall, one of the worst habits is not adapting your sitting situation to your height. For instance, getting pedal extenders for your car not only makes the distance between you and your airbag safer, it also takes the strain of reaching for pedals off the low back. When sitting in an office chair, rest your feet on a footstool if your feet don’t quite touch the floor.
- This bad habit is more general and involves a prolonged improper sitting position, such as sitting at a computer. Often, people lose track of time when surfing the Internet and they don’t notice that they have been sitting slouched with their arm extended forward while using the mouse. They aren’t tuned to the signals their body is giving them to change position or stretch. This is a very common reason people develop shoulder and elbow problems. To prevent this, get up and stretch every 20-30 minutes and use good ergonomic principles when setting up your workstation.
- Another bad habit involves stretching. Remember not to “bounce” when you stretch, and take care to relax into a stretch and take slow, deep breaths. Keep in mind that the muscle you are trying to stretch shouldn’t be contracting.
- Another general bad habit is blaming your clothes for recent changes in fit. For example, if several of your pants’ zippers start to pull to one side, or your waistbands feel twisted and you know they haven’t shrunk, it isn’t your clothing. Realizing that these are signals to indicate a body imbalance is the first step to correction. Dealing with a bra strap that consistently falls off one shoulder is another example of this, especially if it has recently started to occur.
- Believing in the “no pain, no gain” concept in athletic training and exercise is another bad habit. Extensive research proves this inefficient method of exercise can lead to injury. Listening to your body and pacing your workouts is a much more effective training method.
- Sleeping on a broken-down mattress is another bad habit. Most mattresses should be replaced at least every 10 years. If your mattress sags in the area where you sleep, or you feel like you sleep on an incline, it may be time to get a new mattress. Go for support and comfort.
- Lastly, not drinking enough water each day is another bad habit. Most experts recommend 6-8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. As always, check with your doctor regarding your own situation, especially if you take medications.
If you have a few of these bad habits, recognizing them is the first step toward increased wellness.