Minor Suggestions, Big Rewards!
On this page I will list some things which I have found are helpful to me. How useful to you will wholly depend on your own situation. As is the theme of this blog, its about listening to your body and understanding it more to enable you to decide yourself how useful something is to you!!
If your back hurts in the night time use a large pillow (bigger the better) to rest your legs on to take the strain off your lower back. When lying on your side, put a normal size pillow between your legs to even up your hips.
For sore backs that you just don’t know what to do with – try lying on the floor with your legs up on a chair seat so they are at right angles. Put your bottom right next to the chair legs to achieve this. Place a blanket over your body and your hands on your stomach or if comfortable by your side. Relax! It is possible to fall asleep in this wonderful position! Again this position takes the strain off your lower back. Stay that way for at least 15 mins, longer if possible. Should you doze off and manage a couple of hours then you will feel the benefit.
Look at the pillow you use in bed – does it have any neck support? If not find one that does! In a hotel or guest bed? Roll up a hand towel and put in the pillow case so the rolled towel fits under your neck and supports it.
Check your mattress isn’t too hard – does it support your curves? If too soft it will let your spine slump and cause pain. You need the ‘mummy bear’ one! Just right!
Water– drink it! It really helps.
Try using both hands more – swap over the leading hand or foot when hoovering, washing up, car cleaning, using your computer mouse, carrying your bag – anywhere when you can afford to go a bit slower. It will get easier and quicker in time! (See the post ‘Twisted?’)
Look at your shoes – do you have to hold them on your feet by using the foot muscles to clench as you walk? Find ones that your feet are perfectly relaxed in. The more ‘comfort’ (some sort of padding) sole the better – shoe companies are beginning to bring out more fashionable ranges so we can move away from trainers/sneakers!
Carry as little as possible – do you have to take the whole contents of your handbag out when you pop out to see a friend or get some milk? Use your pockets and let your arms and hands be free to move.
Beware of early morning exertions! If your back is stiff in the morning then wait until you have got moving and introduced more flexibility into your spine before you decide to move the furniture, get the item you are looking for out of the back of the cupboard, lift that heavy box, if at all possible. (I will be mentioning a technique to get the spine moving in the morning in ‘Cure No. 2’)
Check how ‘balanced’ you are before you attempt a particular move you know will cause pain (see the post ‘Twisted?’).
Use a soft pillow/cushion to allow your back to rest in a seated position when driving, working or on the sofa. Put the pillow in the hollow of your back to give it support.
Be consistent in your medication use – by this I mean, if you decide to use a medication check the dosage and commit to what you think is the correct amount for a period of time and/or take advice from your doctor. Don’t take one every now and again and expect it to work wonders. Also realise the limitations of the medication – is it just masking the problem? Do you still need to deal with the underlying issues? Conversely if you are in pain be aware that its sometimes necessary to deal with the pain to give yourself a rest from the situation (see the post ‘Layers’) and/or enable you to move forward with rehabilitation.
If you can’t commit to anything else in terms of exercise or sport, walk. Start with a goal that’s achievable (5 mins is better than nothing) and gradually increase it as you get stronger. Walk uninterrupted on firm ground where you can have a good stride and loosen your arms and legs as you walk. Let your mind wander – you’ll be amazed where it goes!
If your back/neck issues are really life limiting set up a support network so if you have problems you can ring and someone else can take over your duties for a while without you struggling on. Don’t be afraid to ask – people can always say no and quite often like to help!
Be honest about how much you can do, want to do and can’t do at this point in time. This is subject to change and try to look forward to how it can change in a positive way!
If you can be active/exercise/play sport with back and neck issues then good for you and be thankful. If it doesn’t aggravate your condition keep going. Keep active and flexible if you can. If you can’t then understand that by taking small steps you are moving towards that goal.
Look at your work station. Are your eyes looking straight on or down – if down lift up your monitor. Does your chair have back support or a cushion in your lower back? Do you use the chair in the manner its been designed or are you sitting on the edge of your seat with your legs crossed whilst twisting to look down at your monitor?! Try to have your chair high enough so your knees are slightly lower than your hips even if it means putting blocks under your desk!
When bending, pull your tummy in. I’ve also found when driving, its helpful to pull the tummy in when turning corners, braking and anytime when your balance is slightly shifted in the car – you start noticing it more when you take more notice!!
If you are changing your car consider an automatic rather than a gear shift. Also look at a car with a higher seating position so your legs are more of a right angle than straight out to relieve the pressure on your lower back. (Keep the sports car for a quick blast!!)
Check your back using a tennis ball (see the post ‘Sports Accessory!’) so you can assess the general health of your back. This will enable you to make informed choices for your day – i.e. should I move that desk today or maybe wait till I’ve got over this bad patch?
Gardening – add some time in your schedule to take care of your back after gardening – yes really! See the post ‘Gardening!’
So you have had a good patch, got carried away and hurt your back again. Yes it happens and it can happen time and time again. Be glad you had the good patch and know you can get back there. You will become more aware of your body in time. This will enable you to have more of a chance to stop before you do too much damage if there is a next time! The other thing to get hold of in your mind is the physical evidence you have of getting a bit better – what I mean by this is that you know in the recent past that you improved, the pain was less. When you have a set back, remind yourself constantly that you have evidence you have and can improve again – this will ensure you don’t feel powerless in your recovery which is very important. Enlist help from close family and friends if needs be to remind you. Share when you feel better as well so its not only the bad times which are spoken of. Take time to let yourself recover with things you know will help rather than just soldiering on regardless even if its only a few brief moments a day – know that it helps and isn’t a frivolous waste of time. If you have to take meds again after a break, know that you may soon stop them when you are over this hump, its not forever. Be good to yourself and you will be rewarded. See also ‘Layers’.
Do you have your favourite tip to add? Let me know – you can always use the contact form and I will add your tip anonymously to the blog or just comment directly.
(Sarah does not have a medical background so it is emphasised that her blog is the result of her experiences and listening to others only. Before doing any of the suggestions contained in her blog, check with your doctor if you have any concerns on how they may affect you)