Is that how you feel when you stand up after a long day at the computer?
Every muscle and sinew in your back feeling like it’s going to pop?
Now the funny thing is, I can do work all day on the farm. Pushing the wheelbarrow, digging, carrying buckets of water.
But without question, it’s the days when I’m sitting at the computer for long hours that my back aches the most.
My husband experienced the same thing when it comes to back pains. He spent years as a carpenter, bending over and lifting. But it was when he was working as a teacher in a classroom that he experienced back pain so terrible that he could barely tie his shoes in the morning.
More often than not, back pain is linked to inactivity than to activity. Even a strain is due to weakness.
That means if you work sitting at computer, you’re really putting your back at risk.
And back pain is miserable. It can put your life on hold. The sharp pain makes you tentative to move. The dull aching pain drains you of your precious energy.
But there are some simple tactics both my husband and I have used to prevent it . . . and – when it does hit – help make it go away.
Please note: While these tactics work remarkably well to both prevent and heal back pain, if you’re suffering from severe back pain you should use these cautiously. There’s a thin line between helping your back and aggravating things further.
If you’re dealing with severe back pain, I highly recommend you seek out the advice of a qualified rehabilitative therapist or personal trainer who can work with you to develop the right balance.
Back Pains Relief Tactic #1: Strengthen it
The most important thing for preventing and reversing back pain is building muscles. Your back has a tremendous job holding up your torso. And it needs all the strength it can get. Build this support structure and you’ll prevent the pain.
I love yoga because it can help you strengthen and stretch your back from so many different angles. And one position, the plank, is particularly safe and gentle yet effective.
Get into a crawling position, hands directly below your shoulders. Now extend your legs out behind you until you’re in the pushup position with your arms straight. Tighten your belly muscles and squeeze your butt so you can make a nice straight line from head to heels.
Hold this for a 15-second count. And then relax. Work up to a 45-second count.
You can also vary it a bit, working on other core muscles, by shifting your weight to one hand and reaching up with the other hand as you turn your body to the side and then going to the other side. Do this 10 times.
Be cautious with this second variation if you do have back pain.
Back Pains Relief Tactic #2: Balance It
While you need to strengthen your back, it’s important to understand that the architecture of your muscles and skeleton work collaboratively and in balance. As the back experts at The Healthy Back Institute point out, back pain – and other muscular pains – are often linked to imbalanced muscle development.
Back pain on one side of your back, for example, may mean that the muscles on the other side are not strong enough to pull things into line, causing strain. Or that the opposing muscles are too strong and pulling your back out of whack.
Similarly, back pain itself may mean that you haven’t developed strength in your core up front to balance and work with your back muscles. Or that you’ve built them up too much.
As Steve Heffron from the Healthy Back Institute explained to me in an interview, often muscular pain comes from using one set of muscles too much and a complementary set not enough. With this imbalance of strength, your whole architecture gets pulled out of line, causing muscle strain.
I highly recommend you look into the excellent explanations of this balancing act in the Healthy Back Institute’s materials.
Back Pains Relief Tactic #3: Use it
In addition to specific back exercises, the best way to strengthen your back is to let it do its job throughout the day. Our back is made of muscles for a reason. So it can move and steady our torso as we move around.
That’s why I don’t recommend spending thousands of dollars on a carefully-designed office chair that supports every tiny muscle fiber.
We should be doing the work to hold our back straight and upright. For this reason, when I sit, I use and recommend a balance ball. Your back has to hold your torso up, not the chair back.
I’ve read reviews from dozens of back pain sufferers who have found relief in making this simple switch to a balance ball for an office chair.
Or better yet, switch to a stand up desk.
Back Pains Relief Tactic #4: Move it
When I’m not sitting on my balance ball, I’m standing. And more often than not I’m moving around slightly as I stand. Or taking frequent breaks to really move and exercise.
We’re built to move, not sit still. Move your body more. Even if it’s just walking around the yard or swinging your hips. It doesn’t need to be dramatic – just frequent.
And as I described in The Healthy Home Biz Fitness Module, when you make frequent exercise breaks a part of your workday, you gain in energy and focus.
Back Pains Relief Tactic #5: Stretch it
Like any set of muscles, the muscle fibers in the muscles of your back tighten and shorten with use. This makes them stiffer and more prone to ripping and injury.
By gently stretching your back, you help these fibers stay flexible and able to move with you.
I do yoga to keep my back muscles from getting rigid and vulnerable. I love the bridge pose and the cobra pose for stretching my back out in one direction and then I complement these with the child’s pose and the plow pose.
You can see more information about these yoga asanas (positions) right here.
Back Pains Relief Tactic #6: Support it
While I strongly believe that you do your body harm by not challenging it to get stronger, there are times when you need to give it some extra support.
If you’re just starting with a balance ball for an office chair, take breaks and switch off to a regular chair with back support until your back is stronger.
When I do heavy lifting I sometimes wear a back support belt.
Listen to your body and learn to distinguish where you’re giving it a good challenge and strengthening it. And when you’re going to far and risking a strain.
Back Pains Relief Tactic #7: Soothe it
There are days when it’s just been too much. Your back is crying out for a little extra TLC.
In this case I’ve got a host of soothing remedies on hand. Heat is the best overall. I have a collection of salt-filled heating pads you can pop in the microwave and then apply for several minutes of warm relief.
But there are a few additions that complement heat and really help your back muscles recover.
Epsom salts are cheap and effective. When you soak in an Epsom salt bath, you put magnesium right where it’s needed as it soaks in through your skin. I also like arnica cream for keeping the blood circulating.
Back Pains Relief Tactic #8: Nourish it
When you’re building muscles and using them, your body needs the right nutrition.
Muscles need good protein to build tissue. Good healthy carbohydrates give you energy to move. And micronutrients – a range of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals – give your body what it needs to maintain the complex biochemistry it uses to build tissue and create energy.
If your muscles are in pain and inflamed, nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and magnesium help soothe. I’ve used these successfully to help with sore muscles after a long day.
And you may want to try The Healthy Back Institute’s Heel-n-Soothe supplement. I’ve researched most of the ingredients and they’ve put together a fantastic alternative to the unhealthy pain-killers most of us turn to.
Back Pains Aren’t A Necessary Evil That Comes With Working At A Desk
Pain-killers have become an ubiquitous part of our lives. Got an ache, pop some Aleve.
However, these not only hide the root problem, but they even make things worse. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Aleve have been connected to kidney and liver problems.
In contrast, your body has a remarkable capacity to take care of itself – with a little help from deliberate moves you make.
We haven’t had aspirin or any form of pain-killers in the house for decades. And yet we’ve dealt with back pain and other muscular pain that might have taken us out of commission. But instead of pills, we used the 8 tactics I list here to get at the root source of the pain and correct it.
So if you’re suffering from back pain, or worried about it, put these to work in your office as well.
Please share your ideas and experience with dealing with back pain below. We’d love to hear from you.
This post is part of the Your Healthy Home Biz. YHHB gives home business owners specific strategies, tips and inspiration for how to run your home business without running yourself into the ground. To get weekly tips sent right to your inbox plus the invaluable but free guide “The Easy Way To Sneak Exercise Into Your Workday And Get More Done” sign up at www.yourhealthyhomebiz.com.