Working Healthy

Healthy Living: Back Pain

Most people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. As a nail tech, you’re more likely than most to suffer from occasional or even chronic back pain as a result of sitting for extended periods of time. Find out what you can do now to treat and prevent back pain.

Expert Opinion: Because nail techs often sit for many hours each day —
often hunched over a client’s hands or feet — they are particularly at risk for back pain. According to David Martin, D.C., anybody sitting for too long will likely have back pain, even in the best chair, with the best posture, and the best ergonomic setup. But the leaning forward position nail techs assume for hours at a time is especially problematic because it puts a lot of pressure on the discs in the back. “When the discs have pressure on them for a long time, they get fatigued and start to shift back onto the nerves,” explains Martin. “When that happens, the body sends out warning signals of pain, and the muscles tighten up to act like a splint around a vulnerable area, much like a splint on a sprained ankle.”  

Martin says that neck and upper back problems between the shoulder blades are common in nail techs because of the leaning forward position. The structure of the spine and neck causes the head to be in front of the person’s shoulders. When that happens, it puts stress on the spine, muscles, and nerves, which can lead to muscle spasms, numbness/tingling or burning, and headaches. Lower back problems and sciatica are also common among nail techs. Of most concern, says Martin, is that long-term pressure on the spine can also affect nerves that go to organs, which can lead to other health problems such as painful cycles, indigestion, or increased frequency of UTIs. “Most people don’t realize the nerves that control the muscles and that receive pain signals also have branches that control organs and glands, and all of these pass between the bones of the spine,” Martin says. “If things are shifted in the wrong position for too long, it can really affect your health. On the other hand, if you correct those problems and protect the spine, you can see improvements in your health and feel a lot better.”  


Martin warns that prescription or OTC medications are not the answer for back pain, as none of them are safe to take for an extended period of time. “Taking meds on a regular basis taxes the kidney, the liver, and the stomach,” says Martin. ”Our bodies weren’t made to take meds all the time. They weren’t made to sit all the time either. So while you may need some meds for the short-term, it’s a risk for anyone to take them in the long term.”  

The following are Martin’s suggestions for treating and preventing back pain:
> Set reminders to get up and move around throughout the day. Try to stretch and change your sitting position as often as possible.|
> Doing workouts that incorporate ‘functional movements’ are an excellent way to help prevent or minimize back problems.
> Seek out chiropractic care as prevention. Some nagging health problems can be effectively treated by a chiropractor. A good chiropractor should take X-rays and have a well-organized care plan for his or her patients. Additionally, clear and measurable outcomes should be seen. And then a regular maintenance plan should be recommended.

Tech Tips:
I suffer back pain from a car accident, and I notice that after performing a pedicure or sitting in my chair for a long time that my back hurts even more than usual. The best way I’ve been able to alleviate the pain is to stretch my back, neck, and shoulders thoroughly before and after work.
Arleana McFall, The Nail Boutique, Winchester, Ind.

I have been doing nails for 24 years and suffer from lower back pain that is crippling at times. Strengthening my core and back, and having a consistent yoga and stretching routine has saved my life.
Crystal Grimes, Freelance, Saint Peters, Mo.

Suggested Reading: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Functional Training Illustrated
This illustrated guide by Justin Price and Frances Sharpe explains the goal of functional training — getting the various muscle groups to work together for real-life activities — and includes a functional fitness self-assessment, more than 120 exercises for different levels, and more than 300 photographs demonstrating proper exercises and sample workout plans.

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