How Binge-Watching TV Can Affect Spine Health

Stretching every day is an excellent way to prevent back pain and spasms.

SOME OF US CAN REMEMBER what it was like to watch a 30-minute or one-hour show on television, and then wait an entire week – if not several months – for the next episode or season to air. But today, with full seasons available to stream online, the way we watch television has changed. Where we watch our favorite shows and movies has also changed. Many people are now watching TV on their phones, another small device or a laptop compute, and doing so in bed or flopped out on the couch. It all sounds incredible, until we really consider how this convenience is affecting our health – especially that of our spines.

Sitting For Extended Periods of Time
We can sit for hours on end now, propped against the wall or arm of a couch, or even in specially-designed “gaming” chairs. When you sit for long periods, whether at your desk or watching TV, you may not realize what it does to your posture. Your shoulders may tense up, and your neck likely isn’t positioned correctly, so your spine abnormally curves. Sitting for extended periods in this unnatural of a position will put pressure and strain on your spinal vertebrae and discs. The result can range from a dull backache to a sharp, stabbing and debilitating back pain or back spasms.

Back Spasms
A back spasm is the tensing or contraction of the spinal muscles that results in a sudden and sharp jolt of pain. Back spasms may also feel like they’re affecting other areas, like the hips or legs. Back spasms can be caused by a variety of issues, but poor posture and lack of enough regular exercise are among them – as the muscles become strained from being held in the same position for an extended period.

Get Up and Stretch!
I’d love to tell you not to sit for extended periods. But I know this isn’t realistic for many people. However, if you want to avoid the pain and strain on your spine and plan to sit for a long duration of time, make sure you take breaks. If you’re watching a show or are at your desk, get up frequently and stretch. It really is that simple.

Stretching every day is an excellent way to prevent back pain and spasms. It doesn’t need to be yoga, but you should make it a point to stretch your back, legs, arms and neck every day. If you’re planning to sit down for long periods, do a stretch and walk around after each hour – or more frequently, especially if you’re feeling achy. If you’re prone to back pain or spasms, a chair with lumbar support may also help.

Fighting Back!
When back pain or spasms do occur after sitting for an extended period, you can try icing the sore areas. Applying ice to the affected spine areas can help reduce pain and inflammation. Also, be sure to stay hydrated. Binge-watching TV can often mean snack foods and sugary drinks. Drink plenty of water and avoid salty and fatty snacks. Drinking enough water will also mean more frequent trips to the bathroom, which forces you to get up and move. If you’re feeling achy after sitting for an extended period, don’t ignore your body’s signals. Take a walk around the room, do some other tasks around the house and stretch out the sore muscles.

Your spine is structural support of your entire body. Take care of it before it gives you problems, be smart and take it easy with too many extended periods of sitting or marathon TV-watching. Stay active and keep your muscles limber and loose for relief and prevention of backaches. The future health of your spine depends on it.

Neel Anand, MD

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