Whether you're naturally frugal or you're just tired paying for treatments that don't work, being pro-active about your back or neck may help relieve the pain. Here are some low cost and free ways to deal with neck or back pain.
Lifting heavy boxes. Gardening. Stressful sleeping positions. Is it really necessary to go to a doctor for minor cricks or pulls due to daily activities? For pain that hurts, but not enough to get you to the doctor, there are a few home remedies that may be worth a try:
- Self massage and/or heat for muscle spasms.
- Icing an injured area area to help decrease inflammation, speed healing and decrease pain.
- Over-the-counter pain meds and reduced activity often does the trick for minor strains.
While these options can be helpful, you still should be aware of signs that indicate the need for medical attention for your back.
If you think your everyday activities are safe for your back, think again. The things you do the most may be bad for your back. Bending over at the waist can put pressure on your discs. It can strain your muscles, as can slouching while sitting. Twisting your spine while lifting is particularly risky to your discs.
An initial effort may be needed to change the way you do your daily movements, but this may pay off in improved posture and reduced risk for injury and pain.
A great way to give your back the support it needs for carrying out routine tasks is to maintain a back exercise program. Getting muscles strong and flexible can help prevent an injury. If you work at a computer, exercise breaks may help improve your desk posture.
3. Do Your Daily Activities with Body Awareness
In an effort to get things done, many of us forget about how we perform our tasks. But there are some rules of the road regarding the safe use of your body.
In general, heavy work such as lifting, digging and shoveling should be powered by the pelvis, hips and legs. They are much stronger than your spine. The spine consists of 26 small, interconnected bones with many joints, small muscles and discs. Not only is it less capable of exerting power, but it's also easily injured when pressure is placed on it. Try to keep your spine long when you perform your tasks and chores. Here are some step by step guides to performing common activities safely:
Being overweight puts extra load on your spine. It can contribute to muscle tension, spinal arthritis postural misalignment, spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, disc disorders and hardening of spinal ligaments (known as DISH).
To date, there's not been a lot of research on the effects of an obese condition on the degree of back pain. Just the same, experts and regular folk alike feel that losing weight is an excellent way to reduce or even eliminate back pain.
5. Be Active
All of these activities are great for your back, too.
Studies show that fit people have less back pain. It's entirely possible to incorporate more activity into your day. For example, if your back condition permits, you might park your car a little further from the grocery store entrance. Or take the stairs when the opportunity arises.
You can do a gym workout with a sore back, but take care to monitor the level and quality of pain. Use this information to guide you in modifying your workout. Modification ideas include using lighter weights, working out for shorter times more often and exercising in water.
Core stabilization involves activating deep abdominals and other postural muscles to create support for your back. This type of back exercise program may prevent or relieve joint and muscle strain and give your spine some traction action during the day.
A basic program may include:
- Pelvic Tilts
- Bridge (to work your hamstrings and butt).
- Spinal twist (be careful of this one if you have disc problems).
There are many other core strengthening exercises you can do - these are just a start.
And here are a few yoga programs that work the core:
We've already discussed activating deep abdominal muscles for back support. The deeper the ab (there are 6 in all) the closer it is to the spine, and the greater effect it will have on your back health. But all abs need work in order to protect you from injury (and re-injury). From Pilates to physical therapy to conventional strength training, there's no shortage of workouts for the abs. Here are a few from other About.com Guides:
- Strength Training:
NOTE: Crunch, kettlebell, medicine ball and any challenging exercise are for prevention. They not safe if you have a back problem.
Back pain is not always created at the back. It can be caused by tension and/or weakness in the muscles around the hips. The position of the hips and pelvis affects the position of the lumbar spine. If the hip joints are pulled out of alignment by strong flexor muscles, the pelvis responds by tilting forward (from the top). This puts extra arch in your low back and tightens the muscles there.
Tight hamstring muscles may lead to a condition known as flat low back posture.
You may be well served to condition your hip muscles (hamstrings, quadriceps, psoas, adductors and gluteus medius). Yoga and Tai Chi are great for this. The standing poses and moves work hip muscles in balance, and may help you develop a more supple and pain free spine.
The pelvic floor contains those little talked about muscles located on the bottom of your seat. While they generally are not a topic of conversation, they do play an important role in core stabilization. Women tend to be weak in their pelvic floor muscles, and men tend to be tight. Either way, if you can condition this area, you may contribute greatly to your back health.
Kegel exercises are the best known way to work pelvic floor muscles. Kegels involve squeezing, much as if you were stopping your flow of urine and/or preventing your bowel from emptying. Kegels can be done by men and women alike.
Regardless of what your mother may have said, sitting up straight requires a stable, balanced position of the pelvis. Along with this, you need to develop awareness of ideal body alignment and to strengthen core muscles. (Core muscles hold you upright.)
Your mother may also have told you that good things are worth working for. With this point, she's on solid ground. Good posture is a habit, and it requires consistent practice.
Here are my favorite detailed instructions for sitting with good posture.