Sleeping Habits

A third of our lives are spent in bed so it would make sense to examine and correct, if need be, the way we sleep to contribute to our spinal health.

  • Sleeping on your stomach is not good at all! What happens is that in order to breathe, we need to turn our necks to one side. This places a lot of pressure on the joints and musculature here. One side will have overstretched muscles whilst the other side has to contend with muscles that are in a cramped position for many hours.

    Furthermore, the natural arch that you have in your lower back becomes even deeper and this also places a tremendous amount of pressure on the joints between each of your vertebrae (facet joints). Your lower back is literally jammed up when you sleep like this.

  • A much healthier way to sleep is either on your back or on your side.

    When sleeping on your back, place a pillow under your knees so that your knees are slightly bent. This takes a lot of pressure off the lower back and its muscles.

    When sleeping on your side, place a pillow between your knees. Your knees should be slightly bent, just so that it is comfortable for you. This helps to keep the pelvis in line so that the spine doesn’t twist and add extra pressure on your lower back.

    Also make sure that the pillow you are using for your head is placed in such a way as to support the curve underneath your neck. It should also offer enough support to keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine. If the pillow is too high, your neck will curve upwards and if your pillow is too soft or too low, there will be too little support for your head and your neck will curve downwards placing undue pressure on the joints and muscles in your neck.

  • If you have a normal feather or polyester-filled pillow, inspect it every 6 months. After about 6 months, pillows like these tend to lose their shape and support and so your neck may not be as supported as it initially was when you bought the pillow.

  • Make sure you have a good quality mattress. We spend so much time in our beds and it is important to make sure that, not only is our sleeping posture correct but that, what we are sleeping on supports us in the right places.

  • Mattresses generally have a life-span of 10 years. People grow very attached to their mattresses and find it difficult to part with them, but a large percentage of your neck, upper back and lower back problems can be avoided by making sure that you have the correct and best mattress you can afford.

  • Mattress comforts depend on a couple of factors such as our weight, height etc.

    Mattresses should be neither too hard nor too soft. You want to get a mattress that supports you comfortably but that doesn’t sag in the middle. Some of us like a firmer mattress and others a slightly softer one. You can always make a firm mattress a little softer to sleep on by using a mattress pad, but you can’t firm up a soft mattress. It should be firm but still offer support.

  • When buying a mattress make sure it is big enough for you to turn over on comfortably and if you are taller than average, remember that many manufacturers can add an extra-length feature to accommodate your extra height.

  • Once you think you have found a mattress that you may be interested in, give it a good lie on in the store and move into your favourite position for about 10 minutes. It may sound silly but this is an important decision! Many manufacturers offer a 30 day trial so take them up on their offer and give it a go. If, like Goldilocks, you are not happy with it, try something else until you find the right one.

  • Turn your mattress over every 3 months and alternate with turning it around so that the head-side is swapped around and now becomes where your feet will lie.

Sitting posture at work

Work is an area in which we spend an extraordinary amount of our day (or night) in. If you are focused on performing your work in front of a computer or laptop, here are some tips on how to keep your spine healthy and happy.

  • Have a look at the chair that you are sitting on. An ideal chair will have a lumbar support (an extra cushioned section at the level where your lower back curves). If your chair doesn’t have this, you can always just take a small towel and roll it up like a sausage and place it in the same area. Now here is the trick to it all….you need to sit back into your chair with the small of your back relaxed into and against this lumbar support and your back erect in a comfortable position! Many of you sit on the edge of your seat and this causes you to hunch forward, reversing that curve in your spine and placing tremendous pressure on your lower back, upper back and neck.

  • Secondly your feet should be flat on the floor. If you are a little on the short side, place a box or step for your feet to rest on, making sure that your hips and knees are resting in the same plane to prevent one being higher than the other. You may just need to lower your chair and desk or raise your chair and desk, depending on your current position to get this required position.

    It is advisable to make sure your legs and chair fit under the desk, otherwise you will have to crane forward. If you need to lift your desk up on some wooden blocks, then this will help if you have a lower desk.

  • Most of you work at desktops and laptops and if this is the case it is vital that you get up from your chairs and take a bit of a walk around, even if it just for a minute or two every 30 to 40 minutes. The body was created to move and not sit in the same position for hours at a time. When we subject ourselves to long periods of inactivity, our postural muscles start to weaken and they get tired. They weren’t designed to sustain our posture in a seated position for indefinite periods at a time. Give them a break by getting up and going to fetch a glass of water, or making a cup of coffee for the boss! Whatever it is you decide to do in your mini-break, just make sure you get up and MOVE.

  • The level at which our PC monitors are, plays a very big role in neck posture as well as influencing the posture for the rest of the spine. If your monitor is positioned too low, your neck will be craning downwards and if your monitor is set too high, your neck will be craning upwards.

    The correct height for your monitor is to check firstly where your eye comes to rest naturally when you look straight forward. It is at this level that the top of your screen should be. The eyes were designed to scan naturally downwards from this level without having to crane your neck. If you need to prop your monitor up on a telephone book or two, then do so.

    If you use a laptop, this can create a bit of a problem as your keyboard may well be sitting too high once you have propped your screen up. This is where an external keyboard can help as you can leave that on the desk, whilst having your screen at a healthy height for your spine.

  • If you need to type from documents, instead of placing them on the desk next to your PC, lift them up onto a clip board and place this clip board upright next the PC. This way you won’t have to keep straining your neck downwards to look at the documents.

  • Elbows should rest at 90 degrees ideally. If your forearms can fit and rest on the desk, this will help with keeping your elbows in this general position. If, however, your desk is too narrow to allow this, you can use a chair that has arm rests and rest your elbows on them. Be sure to adjust your arm rests so that they don’t push your shoulders up.

You need to be comfortable at your desk. With these tips applied correctly, it may take a few days to get used to your new position, but stick with it in order to prevent any unnecessary strain on your back.

Lifting techniques

Most of us have experienced an episode where we have lifted something either too heavy or incorrectly and felt our backs letting us know at the time, or afterwards, that it is simply not happy with what we have done!

There are two things to consider here: The weight of the object being lifted and the manner in which we lift it.

  • We all have different strengths and abilities. If you are straining at any point of lifting an object, IT IS too heavy. Ask someone to share the load and help you. This can be an issue of pride for some people but rather ask them for help in lifting something than having to ask them to help carry you out of work over their shoulder!

  • Picking up an object by bending forward over it, grasping it and then twisting your back whilst picking it up is a surefire way to injure yourself.

    Place your legs about shoulder width apart and bend your knees so that you are in a squatting position (make sure your knees aren’t positioned past your feet). Keep your back in a neutral position and pick the object up, keeping it close to your chest. Then lift up (push) with your legs, keeping your back in a neutral position.

  • If the “squat” position is too difficult, placing your legs one in front of the other and bending down in that position (almost resembling a lunge) is also fine. Continue to keep your back in the neutral position and make sure your knees don’t position themselves past your feet in order to prevent any knee injuries.

Careful Mom!

Here are some excerpts taken from an article compiled for “Die Republikein” newspaper (14 August 2008) by Dr Fiandeiro on tips for new moms.

“Caring for a baby is rewarding, but also hard work. Like other kinds of work that require lifting, bending, long periods of sitting, and repetitive motions, it can be harmful to your body. Try these simple tips to prevent problems before they begin.

  • Keep work surfaces at a comfortable height. Put something under the legs of the changing table, for instance, to raise it if you’re tall.

  • Put one foot on a box or low shelf when you stand and change nappies. This causes your pelvis to tilt in a way that decreases pelvic fatigue.

  • Don’t try to hold the baby and wrestle the side of a crib down at the same time. Instead, drop the crib side before you pick up the child.

  • Don’t bend from the waist when you lift the child. Squat with your back straight, keep the child close to you, and use your leg muscles to rise.

  • Don’t bend over into the car when putting your child in the car seat. Sit sideways on the seat with the child on your lap, then rotate to face front and put the child in the seat.

  • Make sure your feet touch the floor and your back is supported when you sit holding your child. Keep your knees at the same height as your hips or slightly higher.

  • Adjust stroller handles so you’re not bending over when you push.

  • When loading a stroller or groceries in the car boot, rest one foot on the bumper and keep the load close to your body.”

Straighten-Up South Africa Programme

The Chiropractic Association of South Africa ( has put together a superb programme for kids (and adults) to help educate everyone on how to maintain good spinal health.

SOUTH AFRICA: On World Spine Day, 16th October, Straighten Up for Better Health and a More Vibrant Quality of Life

Initiated by the World Health Organization, the Bone and Joint Decade has established October 16th as World Spine Day to call attention to the burden of spinal disability and to help educate individuals in order to improve their spinal health. Increasingly in this technological age, individuals are experiencing greater levels of spinal discomfort and disability related to stress and poor posture. Many people commonly work and play in cramped, awkward, slouched postures. The resulting pandemic of work and recreation-related chronic spinal disorders compromises the quality of our lives. Every year spinal disorders and back pain result in expenditures and losses of billions of dollars related to health care fees and diminished individual income and productivity.

Recent studies indicate that training school children in beneficial postural habits and exercises can be helpful in facilitating postural improvement. This is very encouraging because in today’s sedentary digital culture, many children spend long hours of school and recreational time in stooped awkward postures that have been correlated with poor spinal health in several studies. Other recent research indicates that the spinal health of adolescent students has been worsening over a ten year period.

To combat this trend just as the dental profession educated and empowered the public to care for their dental health daily, we are now launching an initiative to educate, empower and mobilize the public to “Straighten Up” and care for their posture and spinal health daily. Straighten Up and Move is worldwide health initiative geared to improve the posture, structural development and self-esteem of our youth and all of our citizens. The vision of Straighten Up is very simple: we envision a day when everyone performs a short enjoyable spinal exercise module daily just as we brush our teeth. Straighten Up and Move also includes healthy lifestyle recommendations aimed at markedly reducing the alarming rate of obesity in our children.

Multidisciplinary seed and Delphi panels, including a wide range of health care professionals, fitness experts and leaders of the World Health Organization and United States Bone and Joint Decade have developed the Straighten Up and Move program. Though still in its infancy as a health initiative, Straighten Up has garnered a number of accolades from health and fitness leaders including Lee Haney, past chairman of the US President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Lee describes the program as “awesome” with “vision and much promise”. In January of 2005 Tommy Thompson, then US Secretary of Health and Human Services, “commended” the individuals who developed “Straighten Up” for their “leadership in the field of spinal health”.

Straighten Up is proud to be a 50th Anniversary Partner to Get America Moving, an initiative of the US President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports during its fiftieth anniversary year (1956-2006). The United States Bone and Joint Decade is another prominent partner with Straighten Up. This prestigious research and educational initiative, created and empowered by proclamation of the President of the United States, has adopted Straighten Up as its spinal health promotion program.

The full Straighten Up and Move program including introductory articles, handouts, and PowerPoint educational presentations can be viewed on the enclosed CD or accessed from the following link,

Chiropractic Association of South Africa (CASA)

The Chiropractic Association of South Africa (CASA) is proud to partner with Straighten Up and Move. We want to insure that our children learn great spinal health habits, by regular performance of the Straighten Up exercise module and adoption of its healthy lifestyle recommendations.

We encourage our children and all of our citizens to practice the Posture Pod Flying Friends exercises shown below daily for better spinal health beginning on World Spine Day. If you do not have disorders which prohibit movement, why not give them a try. You will feel and look better with better posture.


Tel / Fax

058 303 4571

It’s time to Straighten Up and Move on World Spine Day October 16th.

Do each of these exercises for about 10 seconds. Enjoy these as a great ergonomic break or warm-up or cool-down before or after a longer period of exercise.