Where are you hurting?

20150126_073235Let’s talk about an ailment that plagues countless people each day, I’m talking about back pain. For some it’s a chronic issue that will last a lifetime, while others get it just from sitting in an awkward position for too long. Regardless of its duration, back pain is becoming more and more prominent and is becoming a serious health concern for everybody. Today we’re going to look at it’s various causes, long term effects and possible remedies.

I always cringe whenever I see a person that’s hunched over and clearly struggling to walk due to pain, it’s hard not to empathize; chances are you’ve probably experienced your share of tension in the shoulders, pinched nerves in the neck and stiffness in the low back. A lot of this stems mostly from posture and the way that we carry ourselves whether standing, sitting or lying down. Take a moment to acknowledge your posture right now; are you looking down at your phone craning your neck, are you standing up with your shoulders practically at your ears, or are you sitting down leaning forward with your back rounded? However you are positioned, even though you may not feel it, it’s probably not the best way to support your spine.

So what is the best posture to hold? Well ideally you should always keep your shoulders down with your neck elongated, your back straight (not overly arched) with your belly pulled in slightly but not so much that it’s flexed. This is the position to hold when you’re standing up and is similar for when sitting down as well. When most of us sit (myself included) we tend to slouch and round our backs slightly while leaning forward whether at the dinner table or the workstation. What you should be doing is maintaining the above mentioned posture when you sit while keeping your legs bent at 90 degrees with your feet flat on the ground. As for when you lie down to go to sleep, well that’s a whole other animal. First off, don’t go too long without getting a new mattress; yes they’re expensive but a good mattress leads to better sleep and less pain giving you better overall health (there are always sales going on, so if you need a new one, don’t wait!). Your pillow is also very important; when you lie down your head should be perfectly in line with your spine when you sleep. Give it a test run right now and see where you at, be aware of your neck when you lie down, it may surprise you to see the way you sleep. The ideal position when you go to sleep is to lie down on your right side with knees slightly bent, one leg on top of the other, arms in front of you also slightly bent, with your head and neck aligned with your spine. This keeps everything together while releasing any pressure and avoiding any added tension to your body.

If you do have any kind of pain, there are a lot of solutions available. Before you stop popping the pharmaceuticals looking for a quick fix, let’s look at some other ways to alleviate the pain. The best option is to always consult your healthcare provider, they may refer you to a chiropractor or suggest alternative remedies like a heating pad for your back or maybe even a back brace. If you are cleared to exercise then you should definitely start working your core, these muscle help support the spine in a big way. Incorporate plank pose, leg raises and mountain climbers into your workouts each week in order to build up strength without putting too much pressure like sit ups and crunches do. Also be sure to stretch regularly throughout the day if you feel tight anywhere and also after exercising to avoid any injury or soreness. Consider starting a yoga practice even if only for 20 minutes once a week, it has enormous benefits for increasing flexibility, reducing stress and building strength. you can always take pills for pain, but try to use that only as a last resort and only at the recommendation of your doctor.

One of the biggest “problems” we have today is the modern conveniences available at our fingertips. We’re always sitting down whether at work, home or school which is really not healthy. It’s very important to get up and move or just stand for a little while to stretch yourself out and get the blood flowing. Another problem is our phones; ever notice that we tend to look down at our phones pretty much all day long craning the neck. Holding that position even for a few minutes each day will cause long term spinal problems and will impact your posture as you age. So if you want to be able to walk around and stand talk without the assistance of a cane, then I suggest you either raise your phone to eye level or put it away. You may not think that it’ll be that bad if you continue on your merry way, but no doubt you’ve seen people with walker, hunched over struggling to talk even the tiniest of steps, so be mindful of this and don’t let it happen to you.

I became aware of my bad posture last year when I started taking ballet classes. The posture that you have to hold during ballet basically forces you to keep your back straight, your neck elongated and your core pulled in at all times, so when class is over I always realized how weird I felt when I would “go back to normal”. My back naturally is always over-arched making my booty stick out which puts a serious strain on my low back, so ballet gradually corrected this and now I’m much better. Plus it feels really nice to carry yourself that way. Nowadays anytime I don’t hold myself well or if I’m hunched over or overly arching my back, I feel the discomfort immediately and make the effort to fix my posture.

Don’t let back pain become a problem for you, be mindful of the way you position yourself and change accordingly. It may feel strange at first, but it will have big impact on your overall health throughout your life if your spine is always kept neutral and in balance. As I mentioned talk to your healthcare provider for more solutions and tips for alleviating and avoiding back pain. Also keep in mind that massages are awesome, so if ever you do feel stiffness why not treat yourself to something that is not only good for you but is also super relaxing! A nice hot stone massage is the shiznit!

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