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Last Updated on February 2, 2018

Doing This Will Get Your Back Ache To Back Off

Doing This Will Get Your Back Ache To Back Off

When you think of back-breaking labor, you might imagine someone carrying heavy loads all day. You may not realize that sitting at a desk has it’s own back-breaking repercussions.

If you’ve ever gotten up from your desk with a stiff and achy back, you know how miserable and crippling back pain can be. Office workers may not be doing as much heavy-lifting as a manual laborer, but they definitely don’t get off the hook when it comes to aches and pains.

Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and the second most-commonly treated medical problem in the United States.[1] Eighty to eighty-five percent of Americans suffer from recurring back pain.[2] A whopping 31 million Americans are suffering from back pain at any given moment.[3]

Our work environment can play a big role in recurring back pain. Sitting at your desk for hours on end puts pressure on your lower back, which can leave you feeling sore and stiff at the end of the workday.[4]

The health impact of sitting has been compared to smoking

If someone asked you to lift a heavy dumbbell right now, you’d immediately know if you asked too much of your body. Your arms or shoulders would tell you that they weren’t happy, and you’d probably stop trying to lift the weight.

The pain caused by sitting is a bit harder to spot. When you sit, you might feel a sense of comfort or relief. You won’t notice the ache that begins gradually until one day, it’s difficult to move.

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“Sitting is the new smoking,” the phrase first uttered by Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, summarizes the insidious nature of sitting-related injuries.[5] Sitting, like smoking, used to be considered a harmless activity, but research is showing that it can cause health problems. Sitting too much can even shave years off your life.[6]

Sitting too much seriously kills your productivity

You know how hard it is to work when you feel under the weather. If you suffer from chronic back pain, it means that you don’t feel good most of the time. It costs half a million dollars in health care spending and missed work time for every thousand people suffering from back pain.[7]

Health care spending is quantifiable, but how back pain affects individual workers is not always as easy to understand. Concentration on work-related tasks takes a big hit when you are in pain. When a bout of serious back pain strikes, it can keep you from being able to focus on your projects.

Concentrating when you can feel the pain coming on is nearly impossible. At the first twinge, you may already know that you are going to be in for a long day. It’s just like trying to rest after you’ve hit the snooze button repeatedly. You can’t go back to sleep because you know the interruption is coming.

As back pain goes from being occasional to chronic, it can have an impact on the way that you walk or sleep. If you aren’t able to stretch or get a good night of rest, this can make it even harder to work with a clear head.

There are ways to find relief

Just because back pain is so common doesn’t meant that you have to become hopeless when it affects you. There are several things that you can do to relieve tension in your back.

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1. Use a hot or cold pack to ease your pain.

Whether you should apply heat or cold depends on the cause of your pain. If your pain is coming from prolonged periods of sitting, or there doesn’t appear to be an obvious injury, then heat may be the best thing for you. Heat relaxes tense muscles that could be triggering your pain.

A hot shower can offer many of the same benefits as using a hot pack. Whether you use a hot pack,electric blanket, or shower, try to let the heat hit the affected area for at least 15-20 minutes. Some commercial heat packs will work for up to eight hours, and can be worn under your clothes at work.

Pain from an injury or arthritis may respond better to the cold. The cool temperature reduces the blood flow that causes swelling and inflammation. There is less evidence to support using cold packs to relieve lower back pain caused by postural problems or prolonged sitting.[8]

When you apply cold to an injury, start out by applying ice for about ten minutes every hour on day one, and decrease it to 10-15 minutes per day three times per day as you heal.

2. Give yourself a massage.

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Getting a massage from a professional massage therapist can provide some relief, but daily treatment of chronic back pain is likely to break your budget if you take that route. Instead, you can learn a few basic self-massage techniques to relieve the pain yourself.

Massaging trigger points with your fingers, a tennis ball, or other tools can offer you relief.[9]

3. Know when its time to call your doctor.

We can do everything right at home and still experience back pain. Pain that is persistent and disruptive–even after you’ve tried different treatments at home–may require a professional help. Back pain that stems from trauma, or sharp “electric” nerve pain should also be addressed by a professional.

Sciatica, slipped discs, and spinal injuries require the help of a doctor so that you don’t further aggravate the problem. [10]

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Your doctor can perform additional tests, refer you for physical therapy, recommend adjunct therapies such as yoga, and develop a pain management system with you.[11]

Prevention is easier than treatment

When you feel pain, your body wants you to stop doing what you’re doing so that you don’t cause irreparable damage. A recent study found that about 41% of respondents don’t do anything to proactively address back pain.[12]

Get into the practice of listening to your body so that you can notice and correct pain-inducing behaviors.[13] With a few simple actions, you can prevent or significantly reduce back pain.

  • Learn proper posture. Our bodies are made to be in motion, which means that sitting is already problematic for us.[14] Hunching at your desk is one of the leading causes of back pain, and it’s easily corrected by being mindful of your posture. Slouching can feel more comfortable to us if we are tired or need to strengthen our core, but having good posture is our first line of defense against back pain.[15]
  • Choose an ergonomically-sound chair. If you must remain seated for several hours per day, then having the right chair is paramount. Choose a chair that supports the natural curves of your spine and allows you to put your feet on the floor for extra support.[16] Arrange your work station so that your monitor is at eye-level, and avoid cradling the phone between your shoulder and ear.[17]
  • Take stretch breaks throughout your work day. Even if you don’t mind sitting for extended period of time, get up every half hour to stand and stretch. Walk a lap or two around the office, take a drink of water, or perform a few standing stretches to get your blood flowing. Even 1-2 minutes of this can make a big difference.[18]
  • Support your muscles to protect your spine. Think of your skeleton as the framework for your body. The muscles that surround your bones protect them and enable you to move. Building strong back muscles can help you prevent spinal injuries. Strengthening your core will also make it easier for you to maintain proper posture throughout the day.

Your spine has your back every day

When you think about how much we ask of our spines, it’s no wonder that we encounter back pain from time to time. Back pain can affect your quality of life and sabotage your productivity if left untreated.

Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to tend to you spine. When you take actions to support your back, it will support you. As fitness guru Bob Harper says,

“You’re only as young as your spine is flexible.”

Reference

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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