A painter’s most essential physical asset is his or her spinal column. It serves as the main support for all activities. Examples: Standing, walking, climbing; lifting, carrying, loading, unloading; moving, pushing, pulling; bending, kneeling, crouching; sitting, lying.
Ways to protect and strengthen your “painter spine”
- At work, wear a non-roll back support under your uniform or work clothing.
- Wear shoes or boots that fit each foot, and leave toe-room when you’re standing, or walking; also that support every part of your feet, also your ankles and shins.
- Minimize use of heavy, cumbersome footwear that limits circulation, dissipation of moisture and sweating, and mobility and balance.
- Minimize use of shoes and slippers with little or no support for the sides and back of each foot.
- Use ergonomic chairs or similar seating at work, and elsewhere.
- Minimize use of soft/cushiony seating – work, home, vehicle, etc.
- Alternate your arms when grabbing, lifting, carrying, and moving 5-gallon paint buckets, or any other item requiring only one hand.
- Alternate legs used to lead out when stepping out, stepping up, bending at knees, etc.
- Vary extensions or stretches of legs when walking, carrying or moving.
- When climbing ladders, maintain as straight or upright posture as possible.
- Suck in or contract stomach muscles to help maintain spinal disc alignment in your spinal column.
- When bending, kneeling, crouching, etc., try not to round the shoulders, hunch over, “roll” your shoulders inward.
- Try to keep shoulders and cervical spine line relaxed.
- Stand tall when pushing or pulling things – e.g. a service cart.
- Maintain a straight posture when driving your golf cart.
Exercises that can help strengthen and support your “painter spine”
1. Exercises you can do every day.
A. Brisk 30-minute walk, wearing a soft back brace.
B. Leisure walk at a moderate pace.
C. Floor stretches, lying flat with arms at your sides or stretched outward.
D. Gentle stomach crunches, lying flat and nudging spine to floor.
E. Slow foot and leg raises, done lying on your stomach, on flat surface.
— Raising one foot and leg at a time, then lowering back to the floor.
— Later, raising both feet and legs at the same time, then lowering back to the floor. TIP: Avoid strain and force. STOP if you have any back, hip or leg pain.
F. Leg raises, done lying on floor and using slow, smooth movements.
2. Exercises two-three times a week.
A. Deep-lung breathing, lying flat on floor, arms at your sides, eyes on the ceiling. Note: Excellent way to relax entire spine, and body, after physically strenuous day.
B. Wall-hugs, done standing and pushing entire form against wall. Tip: do without shoes.
C. Duo-leg raises, lying flat, breathing deep. Note: Can even out breathing and relax leg muscles.
D. Rib cage-lung deep breathing, done standing straight, exhaling while pushing rib cage/lungs outward. Note: Can restore breathing rhythm after working with contaminants in poorly-ventilated area.
E. Vertical stretches, raising arms above head and breathing deeply, slowly exhaling as arms lowered to front of body.
F. Moves that promote diaphragm breathing, and also regulate breathing.
G. Moves that realign and relax upper and lower limbs simultaneously.
3. Exercises you can sneak in wherever you are
A. Standing in line: relaxing one leg at a time, and rotating foot at ankle.
B. Standing: rising on toes, then lowering back to floor/ground.
C. Standing: stretching one leg at a time behind you, then back to normal position.
D. Standing: switching weight back and forth from side-to-side.
The whole idea is to turn spinal exercises into maneuvers that stretch then relax muscles, joints and tendons. No strain, no pain.
If you already have spinal cord injuries and damage, you want to prevent further damage. You need to reduce the risk of more pain and damage. Yet you want to maximize the attributes your spine still has.
If, like mine, your spinal cord is in good shape, you want to keep it that way as long as you can.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The above suggestions are only that. If you have any health issue, first consult with your physician before even trying these exercises. The spinal column is related, one way or another, to the rest of the body. So, cover your bases. Make certain that exercises are safe for your spine – and body as a whole.
Closing thought: I’d rather have a spine weakened by a strong work ethic, and years of first-rate service, than a spine that never learned its worth.
Many thanks for maintaining high work standards, while protecting your spine.
Copyright May 29, 2018. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.