Tips for a Happy Back
– By Ying Wang, our happy back guru!
A happy back is key to your health and well-being – thankfully it is made of strong stuff! Our lifestyles do put a strain on our bodies (both physically and emotionally) so, on occasion, your back will need some TLC…
Science has demonstrated the power of language in shaping our beliefs (about pain) and its ability to help or slowdown recovery! Wow! So now you know – the words we use around back pain can make this amazing structure FEEL LIKE something vulnerable: “my back is out” – “I have a slipped disk”- “take it easy on your back”. While things can go wrong sometimes, there is a lot of unnecessary and unhelpful fear!
So here are Ying’s five tips to cultivating healthy relationship with your back:
Have you spend the last few days digging up the garden, or 10-hour days stressing in the office, or driving more than usual, or carrying an infant… These activities will fatigue your muscles and make your back more vulnerable to tightening up on you. Heat can be helpful to loosen tight muscles and to boost local circulation, which allows nutrients and oxygen blood to travel to joints and muscles. This circulation helps to make the soft tissues healthy again, reduce stiffness after a long day or week, and improve the symptoms of back pain. So, try a warm bath at home, use heat pad or hot water bottle. Keep the temperature safe – don’t burn your skin!
Gentle, regular stretching is vital when dealing with tight bodies and achy backs. A lack of flexibility in a variety of muscles can lead to unhappy backs, the most common being tight hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors. Releasing these tight muscles is an indirect approach to relieving back pain. You might consider creating a simple stretch that you can perform at home and at the office (see our Facebook post for some ideas).
Motion is lotion and your body is not designed to be static. While rest might feel like the right thing to do during an episode of back pain, being still for too long can slow down the healing process and might make the problem worse, Light, regular movement will help keep your back muscles from losing tone. Start with non-weight bearing movements (whilst sitting or lying), and progress to weight bearing movement. Remember – pain is an alarm bell, NOT an indication of the health of the tissues – just like a car alarm does not mean yours has just been driven away by a thief.
4. MEET YOUR “CORE”
Theoretically, if muscles around the low back are weak, tight or unbalanced, your body will rely more on passive structures, for example, the ligaments (the tissue that connects bone to bone), tendon (the tissue that connects muscle to bone), as well as the spinal bones or discs (lie between the spinal bones) for stability, which can cause fatigue and pain over the time. If you have strong and resilient core muscles, they may help share the load – reduce added stress and strain onto the passive structures, promote a well-balanced posture and protect the spine. When people think about the core, they think of the abdominals, responsible for the 6-pack. While the abdominal muscles are an important part of the core, remember there are 4 layers of abdominal muscles, as well as the diaphragm and muscles of the pelvic floor. Do not obsess over one particular muscle group – chose for a varied routine of exercise, use the help of a personal trainer or one-to-one instructor and get to know YOUR body!
If you must be static (e.g. sit at a computer all day or driving is your job), make sure your back is supported appropriately. A correctly adjusted chair will reduce the strain on your back. Adjust your chair height so you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor. The ideal sitting posture on the desk should be knees slightly below the hips and the feet are flattened on the floor with the knees at a 90° angle, the pelvis should be tucked into the back of the chair, the shoulder blades and back are touching the backrest of the chair, which provides a good support for the back and prevents slumping posture. For driving, try to use cushion if the car seat is too low or the car seat is too far back for your back. Same with when sitting on the sofa, place a cushion behind you back. This will allow you to be supported in your comfortable posture. But don’t forget… there is no better strategy than to change positions and move often!
We hope this helps create and maintain a happy back for you! Don’t forget that we are here to help before, during and after an episode of unhappy back 🙂
14th November 2019