Watching Football’s Big Game: Super Tips to Stay Off the Disabled List

By Martha Michael

NE Patriots vs. LA Rams

Image Source: FanDuel

For sports fans, it doesn’t get any better than this: kicking back all day on the couch with game time snacks and drinks while cheering on a favorite team -- or the one who will win you the office pool. Getting caught up in the excitement has its benefits, but all that lounging can take its toll on your body. You want to make sure the only legs and wings that suffer are the ones you’re devouring.

With all the pre-game analysis and must-watch commercials, no single event viewing day is longer than Super Sunday, that unofficial national holiday that revolves around the Super Bowl this weekend.

A long period of sitting does not contribute to your wellness, says an article in Prevention Magazine. Staying seated places 40 percent more pressure on the spine than standing up. That adds up to back pain, which is the fifth-most common reason for hospitalizations and the third-most common cause of surgery.

Minimizing Damage Without Missing the Game

You can correct the slouching, but sitting up too straight isn’t the answer, says an article on Livestrong.com. That adds to pressure on the spine. Researchers at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland, found that the ideal position is with your legs at a 135-degree angle. So, lean back a little to reduce disc compression while cheering for Philadelphia Eagles’ backup quarterback Nick Foles to outshine Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, or for the Pats to win their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Another option is to enjoy some of the game standing up. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says that the longer you’re sitting, the more likely you are to experience muscle pulls, strains and cramps.

“It slows blood supply to the neck and back muscles, causing fatigue; puts undue amounts of pressure on the spine; and causes compression of the spinal discs,” the article says. “The center recommends sitting in a range of positions – any position that doesn't hinder proper breathing or circulation or impede functions of the muscles or internal organs is a healthy sitting position.”

Take a seventh-inning stretch – no matter what inning, no matter what sport. By shifting your position, you can minimize stiffness and the risk of injury from sitting in a position for too long, according to Livestrong. It also lengthens and relaxes the back muscles. Reach for the sky, stretching your arms in the air, and lean over to touch your toes from a seated position. Also, rotate and look over your left and right shoulders.

Even activating muscles in your abdomen and pelvic floor can prevent back pain, says fitness expert John Carrico, co-owner of Excellence Health and Fitness in Seattle, Washington. Because those muscles support the spine, they can take pressure off your back.

Too Late in the Game?

If you’ve already spent most of the season slouching on the sofa, you want to get your back pain treated. Chiropractic care is a non-invasive method to seek relief and advisement where your spine is concerned. With regular adjustments, you can stave off a lot of the most common effects of poor posture, slouching and general couch potato living. If game day is a routine, then you may want to add a trip to the chiropractor to your playbook.

Be sure to acknowledge the pain, not ignore it, the Prevention article suggests. Research from the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science found that attempts to suppress pain cause muscles in the back to clench, and repeated clenching increases pain. "Try thinking about the sensory details of the experience, not the negative emotions," says John W. Burns, PhD, lead researcher for the study. "If you have a back spasm, describe the pain to yourself — if it's burning or throbbing — and remind yourself that it will pass."

About Those Legs and Wings

Food is a big part of the cultural connection for sports fans, but it may take a hit if your endgame involves healthy choices. According to the Prevention article, back pain has a correlation to diet. Research in Finland showed that individuals who complained of back pain were more likely to suffer from clogged arteries to the spine. Your circulation is key to spine health. The goal is less inflammation, which is benefited by limiting processed foods, caffeine and additives.

Your game day menu may need to include more whole grains, fish, veggies and fruit. Or for a reminder to watch your posture, there’s always baby back ribs.

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