5 creative tips to combat back pain: how to treat yourself when life gets stressful
This month, we at Humanoo would like to take a closer look at #painkillers. When we say that, we don’t mean the traditional methods using medication and physiotherapy. Rather, we’re going to examine the topic from a holistic point of view and show you some alternatives that will help you with prevention and pain relief.
In the last two articles, we’ve looked at the origin of pain, which types of pain there are and which methods are gaining ground and providing alternatives to traditional treatments.
Today’s article aims to give you specific tips on what to do in your everyday life if your back starts aching and how to prevent it altogether.
Exercising at work doesn’t just make you feel better, it’s especially good at preventing back pain
For most of us who spend 8+ hours a day at the office or in our home office, ‘working’ means sitting on a chair in front of a laptop or desktop computer. Research shows that more than 50 per cent of all those working in Germany fall into this category.
Just think about it: more than 22 million people spend at least 40 hours a week and 220 days a year sitting on a chair staring at a screen.
It’s not surprising that a great number of studies have found that sitting isn’t natural for us humans and that it can lead to premature death as a result of cardiovascular diseases, chronic diseases, or even cancer.
In addition, our increasingly digital world has meant that between 2006 and 2016, the number of desk jobs rose by nearly 20 per cent. And that, in turn, is causing more back pain.
To counteract this downward spiral, it’s worth integrating a few simple exercises into your daily routine, that will both relieve and strengthen your back.
The best thing: it’s also a moment to clear your head and slow your thoughts.
Let’s take a look at three exercises you can do at your desk in the office without feeling embarrassed in front of your colleagues.
- Raise your shoulders to relieve pressure.
Simply stay sitting on your chair and roll it a little way back from the desk. Place your feet in a normal position on the floor so you’re relaxed. Raise your shoulders as far as you can and tense your neck while inhaling. Hold your breath for 3 seconds and then slowly lower your shoulders again as you exhale. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
- Stretch and relax the neck.
Place your right hand on your left ear and gently pull your head towards your right shoulder — remember to be very gentle! Focus on your breathing and on just letting go. Hold the position for about 15 seconds and then repeat the exercise on the other side. You’ll notice how the exercise helps you relax your neck muscles when they’re feeling stiff or even contracted from sitting too much.
- Seated twist for more flexibility.
Again, stay sitting on your chair, ideally with your back even straighter than usual — it will really benefit your intervertebral discs during this exercise.
Inhale, raise your arms vertically and turn to the left as you exhale and simultaneously lower your arms. Hold the exterior of the left knee with your right arm. Remain in this position for 15 seconds and then repeat on the other side. This exercise will help to stretch your body rather than just keeping you flexible.
By just spending 5-10 minutes a day doing the exercise, you’ll help establish a routine that will relieve your muscles and help you feel good in the long term.
There’s a good reason why psychologists often talk about it being the little habits in our day-to-day life that determine how we feel in general.
An acupressure mat can work wonders and provide that special bit of me time
We already looked at how healing the approaches in Traditional Chinese Medicine can be in our last article — and renowned studies have now been able to confirm this.
At its heart is the basic assumption that life energy flows through our body and the flow can be interrupted by blockages. What can help to release blockages is acupuncture: inserting fine needles releases blockages, allowing the life energy to flow again.
But if right now you have neither time nor money or motivation to find yourself an acupuncture therapist, there’s something you can do yourself.
It’s called acupressure and is based on the same idea, just using your fingers instead of needles to apply pressure to possible blockages.
Give it a try in the most popular spot for treating neckache. With your right thumb, apply pressure to the muscles between the index finger and thumb of the back of your left hand. It should feel slightly unpleasant. Hold the pressure for about 30 seconds and then repeat the process with the other hand. It’s sure to help.
If you want to really unblock your meridians — which is what the energy pathways in your body are referred to in Traditional Chinese Medicine — and treat yourself to some valuable me time, an acupressure mat is a great purchase. Lots of people who suffer with back and neck pain swear by them and can hardly imagine life without the ritual anymore.
Think of an acupressure mat as a shorter yoga mat with very sharp points. You probably know the old pictures of yogis lying on needles to make themselves feel better. And that’s exactly what this prickly mat is about. They’re not just intended for your back but for any other part of your body where you are experiencing pain.
In any case, you’ll notice your muscles warm up and you will feel some heat. You can use the mat in the evenings before going to bed and even read a book while you’re lying on it. Alternatively, use it to boost your energy levels after waking up.
Stress is one of the most frequent causes of chronic pain and tension: meditating can help
As already mentioned in the previous article, stress is one of the main causes of back pain. We often carry our problems around with us like a ‘heavy weight on our shoulders’.
It’s the reason why more and more doctors are being encouraged to check for psycho-social issues in patients with chronic back pain rather than just focusing on the body and prescribing medication.
That’s to say: if you relieve your mind, it’ll positively affect your body. You’ll feel less pain, your muscles will be more relaxed, and you can just let go for a while.
The best way to do it is by meditating. The exercises tend to be so easy that the challenge is literally in giving them your full attention.
Sit down on your office chair, close your eyes, and steadily inhale and exhale ten times. You’ll already notice how your body and mind start to relax and let go. It’s not so easy when thoughts of your next meeting or lunch break interfere with your attempts to meditate.
Now, think of some really nice things: memories of your last holiday, your first date with your favourite person, a spa day, or anything else that you’ve really enjoyed or would enjoy.
Simply allow yourself to delve into memories or daydreams and let your thoughts run free. Keep your eyes closed and your breathing calm. You’ll see how just 5 minutes a day will make a huge difference and affect your level of relaxation.
An alkaline bath cleanses both from the inside and outside
An alkaline bath doesn’t just relax the mind, it’s particularly good for tense or damaged muscles. It’s because they’re able to neutralise acidity in our bodies.
For those who don’t quite understand what we mean: our organisms have an acid-base balance which, through a number of complex processes, ensures that our bodies remain at a constant pH level.
External and internal factors such as
- or inadequate nutrition
can cause an imbalance, which makes our bodies become too acidic. Symptoms are usually fatigue and tiredness — but it can also lead to other issues such as dental and skin problems.
An alkaline bath is able to neutralise an acidic environment in the organism and to remove the excess acid via the skin, thus restoring the acid-base balance.
You’ll particularly benefit from such a bath if you suffer with tense and painful muscles as they’ll really be able to relax and let go. All you need to do is run a warm bath — at 35 to 28 degrees Celsius. You’ll find a mixture for an alkaline bath in any drugstore.
For best results, spend 40 minutes to an hour in the bath. At first, start with one alkaline bath a week — always in the evenings. If you really enjoy it, there’s no reason not to have one more often. You haven’t got a bathtub? Not a problem. Just bathing your feet in a cleaning bucket has a similar effect as it’s also possible to detox through our feet.
Soothing pain and promoting relaxation with sound therapy
More and more studies are showing that vibroacoustic therapy — also known as sound therapy — can alleviate chronic pain through the use of frequencies. And it’s slowly reaching us here in the Western world.
Ancient cultures around the world have long been using sound to heal. Aborigines of Australia, for example, have been using the didgeridoo for over 40,000 years, and Tibetan monks also use their singing bowls to relieve pain symptoms and to achieve a state of relaxation.
Sound therapy is about allowing vibrations to penetrate our body and mind. To do this, you usually lie down for about an hour and just let the sound wash over you. There’s no need to do anything else.
The vibrations of the instruments have been proved to change our brain waves, heartbeat, and breathing — you could say the whole system shuts down and pauses for a while. This, in turn, causes a chain reaction of biochemical processes that deeply relax your body and convince it to let go.
Changes take place deep down — from our immune system to our hormone levels. Your deep sleep phase will also become more intense, which allows the body to relax deeply at a muscular level and can even heal chronic pain.
A study published in the ‘Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine’ examined the effect of sound created by Tibetan singing bowls, crystal bowls, gongs, cymbals, bells, didgeridoos, and other instruments when used during meditation.
It found that the sounds are proven to alleviate the following symptoms:
- depressive states
- and restlessness.
Especially people who have never experienced sound meditation before have felt a significant reduction in tension and restlessness.
For a start, how about checking out the soundscapes in the Humanoo App? In the mindfulness section you will find plenty of different sounds to choose from, for whatever mood you desire.
We hope this article has shown you in just how many ways you can devote yourself to your physical and mental health. After all, the last two articles have proved how strong the link between these two components is.
Even if the tips we describe here aren’t for you: get creative, be open to new ideas, and find out what’s good for you.
There are nearly 7.8 billion people on our planet and no two are the same. It’s worth keeping an eye open and finding out what your very own preferences are.
To make it easier for you to start, you can take part in another live session with Chris on 21 October. There’ll be 20 minutes of live yoga that both your muscles and mind are sure to enjoy.
We’d be delighted if you embarked on a journey and let greater well-being have a place in your life.
Your Humanoo team