Winter’s cold

Winter morning

Winter morning (Photo credit: blmiers2)

I notice in winter time I turn inwards against the cold. My posture changes, my goal is to reduce the surface area of my body which is exposed to the cold air. My shoulders gravitate forward and in  and I tense various muscles – I guess in the hope of becoming smaller! Living in an old house which has its fair share of icy drafts means sometimes it hard to feel wrapped in a layer of warmth however many clothes I put on. Its at times like these I wish I could hibernate!!

I know at this time of the year I have to be really vigilant keeping my muscles relaxed and warm, not contracted. In the morning its especially hard to leave a warm bed. The warm shower never seems to last long enough. The thought of doing exercises in a cold room does nothing to my good intentions! I have to step up the mental energy required to push forward my recovery.

Countries that make regular use of saunas are places that I wish to be. Either that or winter sun!! But no, I am here and its time to wrap up warm, go for a brisk walk in the few hours of sunlight we have and put into practice all my Alexander Technique tips to keep my body relaxed and moving efficiently on this cold day. How many months have we left until Springtime?


Moving forward on heels!

I never thought this day would come! Not in my wildest dreams…..I look at other women and wonder how they do it? How on earth do they manage?

I’m talking of course about wearing a pair of high heels!! If you have ever had bad back pain you know what I mean when I say the thought of wearing a pair of high heels is just a step too far! (This post as you may have gathered is aimed primarily at women but men’s heels can also be a fashion!)

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Its been years…..and years! However this weekend saw a celebration and having found a nice outfit, only heels would do. Remarkably a vaguely comfortable pair was found and I put my best foot forward. Not only walking around, but a couple of hours dancing was a necessity! Any thoughts of ‘how on earth am I going to manage’ were strongly pushed away. I told myself I know how to get myself out of difficulty so I’m fine. (The meds were also to hand if things went too wrong!).

Apart from my feet being ‘broken’… was all fine. My usual routine of back care did the job and the ache in my feet is on the way out. Amazed, yes, delighted, absolutely! It’s the little things which mean so much!

How do I care for my back daily?

Afternoon sun shower

(Photo credit: David T Jones)

So let’s get specific. Hopefully the techniques I have described in the rest of the blog are applicable to most people, with each person adapting them as required for themselves. However I wanted to give you an idea of the sort of things I do day-to-day to give some more specific ideas of some sort of routine which you can adapt for yourself.

In the morning, before getting out of bed I stretch/elongate in a balanced way. After a warm shower I will do some spinal rolling (Sarah Key exercise), a small amount of back ironing and if sciatica is a problem, have a check with the tennis ball for any sensitive areas in my back which I know aggravate my sciatica. I then massage on those areas (usually the same side of my spine as the sciatic pain) with the tennis ball. All this takes at the most 5 mins.

In the day, usually by some time in the afternoon I need to spend 10 – 20 mins lying down to take the pressure off the discs in the lower back. I use semi-supine for this (an Alexander Technique position). I also add a bit of back ironing if my lower back is a bit tight. Obviously this depends if I have access to an area to lie down! If I can’t lie down then Sarah Key has a good squatting technique. I will use the Alexander Technique throughout the day as a background to my activities (this means I will try to use my body as effectively as I can to reduce any tension and stress on all areas of it)

Before bed, its more back ironing, tennis ball checking and massage, exercises from Sarah Key (spinal rolling, reverse curl-ups) and if my back is relaxed I will try Sarah’s Back Block routine to try to help feed my discs. If things have flared up then I use semi-supine for 10- 20 mins. Anywhere between a total of 10 and 30 mins of treatment depending on time available and how my back is feeling. Each day will therefore be a little different depending on what activities I have been doing and how my overall well-being is.

In time I hope to be able to add more of Sarah Key’s exercises to help my lower back further and also try some of her exercises for other joints in the body. Sarah Key also gives details in her books of a 30 min daily exercise plan.

Layer onto this some walking, swimming and hopefully in time further sport/exercise and it combines to make life much more comfortable! Try seeing what works for you!

Looking back to move forward

I tell people I am in a different place now – totally different! I can see their confusion but they politely say ‘that’s great’. I know they have no concept of my own situation and actually that’s fine. I’m glad I have kept the darkest times to myself or at least to the closest family.

Remember Reality

(Photo credit: Pensiero)

There are still times that I could class a day as ‘bad’ (now very rarely – thankfully!). How bad are they really? I have to remember my life before to put these days in context and then to move on with a spring in my step.

I have to remember missing weeks of university in my first year due to the original injury to my back. I have to remember flying from Japan to the UK in such pain I begged the crew to let me lie down on the floor but was not allowed so spent the 12 hrs in torment. I have to remember walking through deep snow and not being able to move from a bent position. I have to remember the subsequent  journey by car down the hill which was excruciating. I have to remember coping with a first job with acute sciatica and prolapsed discs. I have to remember not knowing if I could walk down the aisle to be married. I have to remember not being able to pick up my baby. I have to remember trying to function with three prolapsed discs in my neck. I have to remember the glint in the surgeon’s eye. I have to remember every holiday being in pain through travel or different beds. I have to remember all the cancelled events or holidays due to paralysis through spasms. I have to remember not being able to do my favourite sports. I have to remember each car journey being a trial. I have to remember not wanting to sit down and stop due to the pain. I have to remember the pain through the night. I have to remember the hospital procedures, scans and treatments. I have to remember the fog of medications. I have to remember not being able to continue this way. I have to remember the raw, unimaginable pain. I have to remember not knowing where to turn or who to trust. I have to remember being told that I have to live with it. I have to remember the smile I tried to wear.

Reading other people’s blogs, website and stories and listening to people has reminded me of these times. I am thankful I do not live them anymore. I understand that it’s useful to look back occasionally, not to dwell or to self pity but to understand how far forward I have really come. I conquered the maze by luck – sadly there are many ‘dead-ends’ out there with people suffering in them. My pain now is that other’s suffer this way when there is an alternative.