Updated: May 7
Why has upper & lower back pain become so common? Learn more & discover some effective ways & simple stretches to ease pain in your neck & shoulder & lower back
As a huge part of my practice, alongside Shiatsu and Thai yoga massage, I’ve been offering Remedial massage therapy for years. People come for massage therapy for many reasons: regular muscle health maintenance, sports injuries, chronic pain, chronic muscle tension, decreased joint mobility.
Among these reasons, chronic or recurring back pain is among the top three (tension headaches and trapped nerve pain being the other two).
In the UK, a third of all long-term sickness absence from work, and nearly a fifth of any sick leave, is caused by musculoskeletal disorders, which is mostly lower back and neck pain, according to the Work Foundation. Research such as the paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, seems to confirm an epidemic of untreatable back pain. It has become a huge worldwide problem, costing billions to our countries and affecting an estimated 540 million people at any one time.
From my practice, using real patient cases, I found that most people who have had back pain for years, tend to think that it is something that you simply have to live with.
It’s not always “as bad” to treat it as a serious health issue, because the pain goes away with painkillers or sometimes stops on its own- until the next time.
Although it isn’t a life-threatening condition, when back pain doesn't go away, living with nagging pain does a lot of disservices: it takes your energy away, affects your mood, affects your productivity and your ability to enjoy life. It can stop you from doing things you love: your favourite sports, long walk outdoors, fun and games with your kids.
The good news is: BACK PAIN CAN REALLY GO AWAY, PERMANENTLY! Now, it’s not a secret that the main reason for back pain is BAD POSTURE. But what if I told you that there is NO BAD POSTURE? Yep, it’s true! The posture only becomes “bad” if it’s held for too long for extended periods of time!
The answer to this is CHANGING YOUR POSTURE AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN. Here are our top tips on how to create more movement in your life and go pain-free:
1. MOVE WHILE YOU STAND.
While waiting for a bus, standing on the tube, etc. Shift your body weight onto the right leg, then onto the left, and keep alternating as often as you feel comfortable with. Stand on your both feet, and sway back and forth, shifting your body weight onto your toes, and then onto your heels. Bend your knees ever so slightly. Push back through the back of the knee and really engage the muscles of the thighs. These are all minimal MICRO-MOVEMENTS, but they change the way your muscles engage, radically, preventing tension to build up and easing upper & lower back pain .
2. MOVE IN YOUR OFFICE CHAIR.
Set up a beeping clock to beep every half an hour, and change the way you sit with each reminder. Uncross your legs, or cross the other way around (left of the top of the right, or vice versa). Adjust the height of your chair or the height/tilt of your screen. Switch to a standing desk, or move to a different table with your laptop. Move around in your chair or the office as much as you can. By making sure you change your position every 30 min, you will soon forget about the lower back pain that has been bothering you the last year! Moving is a miracle medicine!
3. CHANGE THE WAY YOU CARRY YOUR BAG.
We often habitually carry a bag, e.g. on the same shoulder. Notice how you do it and alternate the shoulders each day. Keep re-adjusting the length of the strap. Have an option of a rucksack and a handbag to carry on different days of the week or opt for a convertible bag which can become a backpack within a minute! This will greatly help shoulder blade pain and tension in your neck.
4. CHANGE SHOES OFTEN.
Different heights of the heel and different types of sole will engage the muscles of your legs and the back in a different way. The type of shoes you wear will reposition your hip joint which directly affects both upper and lower back. So don’t throw away your stilettos just yet! Wear them when you have to but carry a pair of pumps for when your back says no ;-)
Mix up your exercise routine: different kind of exercise (spin, running, weights, swimming, yoga, pilates, pilates reformer, Bootcamp, YOU NAME IT!) train different groups of muscles. By engaging in different types of exercise you’ll train your body to “think out of the box”, and that’s the best way to keep ALL of your joints moving and your muscles strong, supple and happy.
6. WEAR LOOSE AND STRETCHY (IF AT ALL) CLOTHES DURING YOUR SLEEP
This will allow your body to move freely while you rest. Especially if you tend to wake up with a ‘dead’ arm (scary!), or experience back pain after sleeping, you may check if your pyjamas or T-shirt you sleep jams your shoulder joint when you lift your arm above your head.
BACKCARE AWARENESS WEEK
From the 7th till the 11th October it's Back pain awareness week!
This year's theme will be Back pain in Golf. Being one of the most repetitive strain sport, golf is now considered to be more dangerous than rugby! The repetitive swing action causes a golfer to experience continuous minor traumatic injuries to the spine.
The Backcare charity will hold few events to raise the awareness around what back pain can cause, as well as how back pain can be prevented and cured. If you'd like to know more, click here or search for #backpainweek.
If you enjoyed this post I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on your favourite social. Thank you!
If you would like more healthy living tips like these, make sure you sign up for our monthly e-newsletter!
We hope you now have a better idea of how to prevent and relieve upper & lower back pain for good! Remember to move! It is a miracle medicine :-)