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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

More by this author

Jolie Choi

Having experienced her own extreme transformation process, Jolie strongly believes that staying healthy takes determined and consistent action.

11 Health Benefits of Cucumber Water (+3 Refreshing Drink Recipes) Put Down Your Pizza and Find Your Healthy Diet Challenge Buddy By Using “Foodstand” Ditch Your Banana and Kale! Use “The Blender Girl” To Find Your Fun and Tasty Smoothie Recipes If You Exercise but Sit a Lot, You’re Still Unhealthy Walk While You Work, You’ll Be 10X Healthier

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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