Four Unexpected Ways to Minimize Back Pain (#4 Will Surprise You)
Few things in life can slow us down like back pain. At best, it reduces productivity when we’re at work, and diminishes our enjoyment of activities when we’re at home. At its worst, back pain can be downright debilitating.
As back pain sufferers, we’ve all read articles written by leading experts, know the vast number of over-the-counter medication choices, and may have even seen a specialist like a doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, or massage therapist.
If you’ve tried just about everything and still seek relief, here are our top four tips that you may not have tried:
1. Harness the Mind / Body Connection
As baseball great Yogi Berra once quipped: “Ninety percent of this game is half mental.” While the statement is humorous, it’s truthful, too. There’s no question that our pain affects us physically. But as Psychology Today, writes, experts are finding powerful links between back pain and psychological stress. Fortunately, those strong connections between the mind and body can be leveraged to create legitimate, effective solutions for back pain. While chronic sufferers have plenty of reason to be skeptical, Harvard Health Publications writes that there is a wealth of supporting evidence that “mindful-based stress reduction” (MBSR) can offer significant relief for many back pain sufferers. The article also states that there is growing data to support that “cognitive behavioral therapy” (CBT) and hypnosis can also be effective. In addition to formal psychological therapies, “mindfulness” can be achieved through a wide range of exercises, many of which can easily be done at home. Examples include:
- Deep breathing
Psychology Today also states that back pain can be caused by an emotionally traumatic experience. In those instances, you can often find back pain relief by working through the trauma with a therapist. In another article, Psychology Today suggests that eliminating sources of stress from our lives (unhealthy relationships, unsatisfying jobs, etc.) can also reduce back pain.
2. Be More Active, Not Less
When we are in pain, our instinct is to take some pain medication, and then take it easy. This may sound counter-intuitive, but the source our back pain is often a lack of physical activity, not too much activity. Another culprit can be weak muscles, particularly in our core. WebMD suggests breaking a little sweat to keep low back pain at bay. Here are some examples:
In addition, Athletico, a nationwide chain of physical therapy centers states that a lack of flexibility can lead to lower back pain. They recommend a series of gentle, easy-to-do stretches, including those similar to the “cobra,” “child’s pose” and “cat/cow” poses you’d find in a yoga class. In fact, Everyday Health also recommends yoga as a way to reduce back pain.
3. Properly Lift Heavy Objects
If you’ve heard the term “lift with your legs” the last time you helped someone move, that person was showing concern for your back. That’s because a great way to minimize back pain is to prevent pain-inducing injuries in the first place. Whether lifting a box in your office, or picking up a child, the Mayo Clinic recommends using the correct technique and posture to avoid hurting your back.
4. Use a Standing Desk
More and more research is supporting the idea that sitting in chairs is a major cause of our back pain. This especially true when we have poor sitting posture, since it places extra pressure on our spines. Standing desks get us out of our chairs, and offer a variety of ways help reduce back pain. Here are some examples:
- Better posture. It is easy to adopt a slumped over, non-ergonomic body position when sitting. This is much harder to do while standing. Make no mistake, you still need to employ proper ergonomics such as placing the monitor at a correct height, making sure desk and elbows are the same height, keeping knees slightly bent, etc. However, a standing desk naturally promotes better posture, which can in turn help reduce your back pain.
- Increased back and core strength. As mentioned earlier, having weak core muscles (a muscle group which includes your lower back) is a contributor to back pain. The act of standing gently exercises your core throughout the day.
- Weight loss. You burn on average an additional 20-50 calories per hour while standing, which can assist in shedding those extra pounds. Less body weight means less pressure on your back, which can mean less pain.
- Keeps you moving. Sitting in a chair all day can put stress on lower back, shoulders, neck, and more, leading to a variety of back pains. In addition to poor posture, this pain is often caused by lack of motion for prolonged periods of time. Standing when you work promotes movement, which can help reduce this effect tremendously.
If you don’t want to stand the entire workday, an adjustable height desk can be the way to go. Also known as a sit down stand up desk, a height adjustable desk enables you to mix standing with sitting, increasing healthy movement. Just be sure to maintain correct posture for the times you choose to sit down, as well as when you stand.
Standing Desks Help Keep You Free of Back Pain
As you can see, taking specific actions to prevent and/or minimize back pain coupled with a standing desk will provide significant and long lasting health benefits. If you suffer from back pain, a standing desk converter or a full-sized sit to stand desk should be seriously considered as an effective and important part of your health and wellness program. You can also add ergonomic desk accessories such as a floor mat, wobble stool, or footrest to maximize comfort and reduce fatigue throughout your workday.