So, you have a sore back. You can’t seem to straighten up, every attempt to wish it away has been unsuccessful, and getting to sleep has become a combination of resolute concentration and unusually placed pillows.
Welcome to the club!
Back pain is among the most commonly reported ache, which is hardly surprising, considering the range of things that can go wrong in your back and neck. We use our back every single day, for a variety of activities we sometimes don’t consciously control: standing, sitting, lifting, to name but a few.
If you’re sitting there, irritatingly aware of your back right now, then you’ll probably benefit from some of these tips. Let’s dive straight into it, and look at the some of the possible causes underlying your back pain, and discuss some ways you might be able to alleviate it.
Why are you suffering from back pain and what can you do about it?
Because we use our back muscles in virtually every situation you might find yourself in, the culprit can be hard to find. Most often though, it will end up being a combination of bad habits that are responsible.
If you work in an office environment, chances are you spend the majority of your waking hours sitting down. You sit down to eat, you sit down to work, you sit down to commute, and you sit down to relax after a hard day’s work sitting down. You may remember your parents telling you to “sit up straight”, or scolding you because your schoolbag was hanging low like all the other cool kids. Ultimately, they were right, bad posture is a sure sign you are going to be suffering from back aches in the future. The unnecessary strain from the reliance on muscles who aren’t equipped for the job means the inevitable weakening of the important muscles, who are there to keep you straight.
So, straighten up, invest in an ergonomic chair, and remember to take frequent breaks and stretch your legs, even if you’re just walking to the coffee machine to catch up on the latest office gossip!
Yes, shoes. Sorry, ladies! Those high heels may look gorgeous, but after a night out dancing, they probably don’t feel gorgeous. But wait… it gets worse!
If you think you’re in the clear because you only wear flat soles, then you’re in for some bad, too! Heels and flat soles are ill-equipped to support the natural arch in your feet, leading to foot, knee and back problems down the line.
This doesn’t mean you will be stuck wearing sneakers for the rest of your life. Switch shoe styles frequently. Commute to work in sneakers, and slip your heels on when you get there, for example. Your body will thank you!
A mattress should not be too hard or too soft. A hard mattress will leave you feeling stiff, and won’t allow the muscles in your body to fully relax, which is really important when you’re recuperating. A mattress that is too soft will fail to support the natural curve in your back, and will place unnecessary strain on your joints. If your mattress is too hard, you could get a thin memory foam comforter to place over the top, to soften it up a bit.
Pillows also deserve as much of your attention as the mattress itself. Pillow choice is a matter of personal preference: hard, soft, somewhere in the middle, memory foam, long, square, duck feathers, goose feathers… it takes a lifetime of experience to find the right pillow, but rest assured that the right pillow is out there! If, by pure luck you’ve already found the right pillow, remember that its subtle bounce does not last forever. Pillows should be replaced every 3 to 5 years.
Stress, and emotional instability are psychological problems, but don’t think for one second that you won’t feel it in the core of your body.
Stress makes you tense. Tension in the mind results in tension of the muscles. Tense muscles lead to overuse. Overuse causes pain. Pain causes stress… and now we’ve reached full circle.
Stress is a killer. The ideal would be to not be stressed, but that’s a rather naïve approach to life.
This blog post isn’t going to delve into the self-care of stress, but the take home message would be that if you are feeling that your emotions are leading to a sore back and neck, one approach would be to allow yourself to get a massage. Let your long, hard week be softened and smoothed away with a Swedish massage. If you’re in damage-control mode rather than preventative mode, then perhaps you might want to consider a remedial massage, instead. In fact, a remedial massage might be a good treatment plan for all of the above causes once the damage is done! An hour of massage can loosen up the responsible muscles, and can wash away weeks of muscle tension, leaving you relaxed and emotionally ready to tackle the cause of your stress. Better yet, why not indulge in mobile massage therapy, and have a trained therapist come directly to you house?
At what point should I see a Doctor?
Back pain is often the result of a sprained or strained muscle from overuse, bad posture or other activities. Having said that, occasionally, it will be something more serious requiring medical attention. Never hesitate to see a doctor if you are worried about your back and neck pain. If you have a pinched nerve for example, you might be feeling some numbness in your extremities: see your physician. If the onset of your back pain was sudden, and/or you are experiencing shooting pain that won’t subside, see your physician. If your pain seems normal, but you are experiencing other symptoms (rash, fever, headaches), see your physician. If the pain is normal and you’ve tried everything under the sun and it persists or worsens… well you get the idea.
As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry!