When you’re working at a manicuring table for hours at a time, the last thing you need is a bad back! Leaning forward all day long to work on your clients’ nails can cause your back muscles to tighten and cramp, leaving you with an aching back. “Slouching or sitting for long periods of time can cause lower back pain,” says George Espinoza, a physical therapist at South Bay Orthopaedic & Sports Center in Torrance, Calif. “If you’re sitting 90% of the day, you have to get up frequently to take pressure off your lower back. I try to get my patients to get up every 15 or 20 minutes and move around.” Frequent movement relieves stress in your muscles, joints, and ligaments.
“Sitting puts an increased load on the disks in the back,” explains Karen Cline, a physical therapist at Atlantis Physical Therapy in Torrance. “The lower back has an inward curve that must be maintained. There are a total of three curves – the cervical (top of the spine), the thoracic (middle of the spine), and the lumbar (bottom of the spine). When you’re hunched over, you lose those curves and may feel pain as a result.”
Maintaining Good Posture
“A good chair with lumbar support (such as a secretarial chair) will help alleviate lower back pain and promote good posture,” says Alan Ryder, a physical therapist at Body Dynamics in Manhattan Beach, Calif. “When you’re not using good posture, a lot of pressure is put on the spine. The muscles can stretch out, and if you’re inactive outside the salon, the muscles that stabilize the spine can weaken and cause pain.”
To maintain good posture, sit up straight with your back to the chair and try not lean forward. If your chair doesn’t have enough lumbar support, use a pillow or cushion to support your lower back. Make sure your chair is not too low, which could cause neck strain, or too high, which may cause your feet to dangle. Otherwise, keep your feet flat on the floor and make sure your legs are parallel to the floor.
If you lift something heavy in the salon, you may put too much pressure on your back muscles and cause pain. Over time, lower back pain may be aggravated by simple movements.
“You can bend over to pick up a pencil and strain your back,” says Ryder. “But that doesn’t happen overnight.” You have to be out of shape or have bad posture over a long period of time. You can avoid straining your back by bending your knees and keeping your back straight when picking up objects.
Exercising Relieves Back Strain
There are several exercises you can do to alleviate lower back pain depending on the cause of the pain. Some people may have weak backs, while others have muscle strain or poor posture. See your physician before you try an exercise that could possibly aggravate back pain.
Most of these exercises are done on the floor, in positions that cause the least amount of stress on the back. Find a comfortable spot in the break room of your salon or in your living room at home. Set up a schedule for yourself and exercise regularly. While reducing pain in your back, you’ll find it’s one of the most constructive ways to spend your free time.
DOS AND DON’TS
Dr. Michelle Hurley, D. C., who has practiced chiropractic in Los Angeles for six years, suggests these back do’s and don’ts for maintaining a healthy back:
• Adjust your chair to a proper height and distance for your workstation.
• Keep your feet flat on the floor while working.
• When you must lean forward, do so from your hips, keeping your back and neck aligned
• When lifting heavy items, squat, bring the object in close, and keeping your back straight, lift with the arms and legs.
• Use good lighting.
• Have regular eye examinations. If necessary, always wear corrective lenses.
• Swivel your chair or reposition yourself so that you are facing an object directly before retrieving it.
• Stretch out between clients, paying special attention to the neck, shoulder, and back.
• Take short breaks whenever possible and go for a 10-minute walk.
• Trade shoulder massages with a coworker for a few minutes each day.
• Exercise regularly, three to four times per week, especially to build strength in the muscles in the neck and shoulders, arms, abdomen, and back.
• Sit with your back, neck, or shoulders forward or your back slumped or hunched.
• Twist when bending, especially when lifting or reaching for an object on the floor.
• Work in one position more than one hour at a time without a small break.
• Bend over to lift heavy items.
• Ignore persistent neck and upper or lower back pain.
Don’t allow tension to build up all day.