5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Reduce Your Back Pain

Eighty percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain affects half of working Americans.  Sources estimate that there are over 206 million people in the U.S. workforce.  That means over 103 million people will at some point suffer from back pain. That is a staggering number!

woman back pain

Here are a few more interesting facts about back pain:

  • Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010.
  • Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work.  In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
  • One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.2
  • Experts estimate that as much as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives.3
  • Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
  • Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.4

These facts come from the American Chiropractic Association.

As a licensed massage therapist, I see a lot of clients with back pain.  Most of the time I am able to help them relieve the pain and resume normal activities. Often clients get some immediate relief, some times it may take a number of sessions to maintain a comfortable back.  Over the years I have noticed that we often set ourselves up for back pain and there are a number of small but important modifications we can make in our lives to reduce back pain and even reduce the risk of back pain in some cases!

Here are some of the small actions we can take today to reduce back pain and improve the quality of our lives.

#5. A healthy back starts from the ground up.  This means wearing good supportive shoes and maybe even insoles or orthotics.  Having our feet in proper position and feeling comfortable is the best start to reduce the risk of back pain.  Uncomfortable shoes can cause foot/heel pain, and this pain can set the stage for a series of compensation patterns that change your gate and posture, and ultimately contribute to musculoskeletal pain in the legs, back and elsewhere.

Athlete running road silhouette
Are your shoes road weary?  Worn shoes can cause musculoskeletal pain that leads to back pain.

If you are wearing the same shoes every day for work, you probably need to replace them within three to six months, perhaps sooner if you are standing / walking a great deal.  The same holds true for athletic shoes.  Really, any shoe that is being exposed to regular work should be examined carefully for wear and replaced at the first sign of discomfort or wear.

#4. It amazes me the number of women and men who carry boat anchors over their shoulders!  I am being facetious, but I am trying to make a point here!  So many people today are carrying computer bags, gym bags and oversize purses that weigh too much.  Remember a 20 pound weight exerts more than 20 pounds of force if it is being carried over your shoulder on a two inch wide strap. Take a look at what you are carrying around every day. Do you really need to carry it all?

The busy working woman
A recipe for neck and back pain: carrying a heavy bag over the shoulder, cradling a phone between shoulder and ear, and having neck and head position out of correct alignment.

If so, maybe you should consider a rolling bag. Years ago my employer had employees parking in a deck located several blocks from our office building. I had no choice but to buy and use a rolling bag. Within a couple of weeks I noticed that I had less fatigue and soreness at the end of the day.  I never went back to using a shoulder bag.  Even though I left Corporate America over 14 years ago, I still have a rolling bag for those occasions when I know I will be dragging a lot of supplies with me.  I even bought a rolling cart for my massage table to make sure I don’t fall into the trap of carrying my table from a shoulder strap.  Do your back a favor and stop carrying heavy bags with your shoulders!

back pain illustrationAnd guys if you are still carrying a gigantic wallet in your rear pocket, you are crooked.  A thick wallet or any other thick object in a back pocket tips your pelvis when you are sitting. A crooked pelvis puts uneven pressure on surrounding muscle groups and changes the shape of the back. It is impossible to sit up straight and even with a level pelvis when there is too much in your pockets.

#3. Now let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects: sleep.  Good quality sleep can be a huge catalyst for an improved life.  Some day I will tell you about sleep apnea, but today we are talking about back pain and how to prevent it.  If you have ever slept on a poor mattress and woken up with a backache, you know how important good spinal support  is for the back.  If you suffer from back pain, a bad mattress makes matters worse. If you don’t have back pain, but sleep on a poor mattress, you will eventually get back pain.

spinal alignment
A supportive mattress and pillow help keep the spine in correct alignment. This provides better quality sleep and reduces risk of back pain.

The spine needs to be in alignment, from the base of your skull to your tailbone.  This means having a supportive mattress (and pillow) that allows you to feel supported with your spine fully aligned.  Pillows that are too high or too low create incorrect curvature of the spine and can also contribute to back pain, to say nothing of neck pain too!

 

looking down at phone man.jpg
Looking down strains neck muscles and upper back muscles.  This position also allows the front muscle line to contract, making it more difficult to keep healthy alignment.

#2. There are several habits we also need to consider as contributors to back pain and a couple of these are related to our dependence on technology.  Two of the most common habits that contribute to neck and back pain are cradling a phone between the shoulder and ear, and looking down at screens.  It is so tempting to try to multi-task when we are in a hurry. Cradling the phone between shoulder and ear frees our hands to do important things, right?  This is a sure path to a sore neck or upper back.  With the advent of ear buds, better head sets, and blue tooth, there are plenty of other options. Your neck and back will thank you for it.

#1. Being careful of our seated and standing posture can produce dramatic improvements in our overall well being and reduce back pain.  We are often not aware of how much our posture has changed over time.  Check how you are sitting in your chair right now.  Is your spine straight, chest lifted, head centered over shoulders? Or are you slouching, with your head forward of your body? Checking in and taking standing and stretch breaks are really helpful if you sit at a desk all day.  If you have a

proper-sitting-posturejpg-af2cd4eb657babed

desk chair that does not promote correct posture relative to desk top, computer screen, and keyboard, see about getting a better chair. There are now adapter kits that can turn your desktop into a standing desk configuration.

#1.1 Our muscles store patterns. These patterns can make it hard to change habits.  Working with a healthcare professional like a licensed massage therapist can be the key to getting successful results in reducing or eliminating your back pain.  You can locate a qualified therapist through professional referral sources like massagetherapy.com

LMACHALA

Lisa Machala is a licensed massage therapist and practitioner of CranioSacral Therapy. She owns Winning Edge Bodywork in Farmington Hills, Michigan. If you would like to book an appointment, please click on http://bit.ly/WEBbookNow.  Or visit http://www.winningedgebodywork.com for more information.

 

 

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Can Bodywork Relieve Headaches?

In 1989, after years of suffering massive headaches, ear aches, and pain in my jaw, I was diagnosed with TMJD – temporal mandibular joint dysfunction. The causes of this condition were possibly a combination of: orthodontics, whiplash accidents, tooth grinding, jaw clenching, stress, and heavy handed dentistry.  My symptoms were moderate to severe depending on whether I had done something to trigger a particularly nasty episode – something benign like eating a French roll at dinner, accepting an offer of chewing gum, yawning too broadly, or grinding my teeth at night.

Portrait of tired young business woman suffering from headache in front laptop at office desk

 

Any of those triggers would cause a loud popping in my jaw and a massive headache would ensue.  These headaches were sneaky and vicious.  They would start as a dull ache around the jaw joint and then blaze a searing streak of white hot pain up into my temples. These headaches would interfere with my vision, and could make me nauseated to the point of being unable to function at work. Not fun.

I remember waking up in the middle of the night with my jaws locked. I could only open my mouth if I used both hands to pry open my jaw! Stress played a big role in this story.  I was in my twenties and life was throwing curve balls at me faster than I could swing or duck! On the surface I thought I was dealing well with everything that was going on in my family and my work life, but at night my body was definitely telling a different story!

My salvation came in the form of a dentist who specialized in treating TMJD and craniofacial pain. He created a bite splint for me that saved my life. Over the years I also learned some coping strategies – avoid tough baked goods, or cutting them into small pieces, avoid gum chewing, learn to manage stress better (I changed jobs!).

Flash forward several decades. I am still managing my TMJD with these strategies, but a new one has offered great relief, and I have been very happy to be able to share this with my clients. Getting regular sessions of a specific type of manual therapy on my head and neck has made a great difference to my quality of life.

deposit photo headache types machala CST article

Cranio Sacral Therapy (CST) is very light touch therapy done by licensed health care professionals; osteopathic doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists and massage therapists are the most common practitioners of this method.  CST offers real help and hope to people who suffer from all kinds of headaches. It has been a lifesaver for me and for my clients.

I experienced CST for the first time in massage school and was stunned that a technique with such a light touch could produce such powerful benefits to my body. After graduation, I continued to study and use CST and it has become the foundation of my bodywork practice.

I have worked with clients who have had severe headaches due to TMJD, migraine headaches, sinus headaches, and concussion headaches. All of them reported immediate relief in the first session, and with repeated sessions, many no longer have a chronic issue with headaches.

The following story is typical of CST outcomes for headaches. One of my clients suffered from severe migraine headaches. JD would get such bad headaches they would make her vomit. She would have to lay flat on a bed in a completely silent and darkened room until the pain subsided. She worked for a doctor who had tried to help her with the headaches. His treatments were not successful.  She came to see me, and we worked together over several months. JD got relief during her first session.  After a series of sessions, her migraines had almost disappeared! On the rare occasion when she had them, they were far less severe and did not last as long as they had in the past. JD was very pleased with the outcome CST provided that improved her quality of life.

CRANIO SACRAL WOMAN

CST is a very gentle method of helping the body correct and heal itself through the gradual release of restrictions in the connective tissue that encapsulates the brain and spinal cord. Very little pressure is used, so it differs greatly from traditional massage. Most clients experience a session as being very soothing and peaceful. Many dose during the session. At the end of the session, most of my clients report feeling both relaxed and refreshed.

Headaches can have a profound impact on our lives, ranging from nagging chronic pain that makes life unpleasant to severely debilitating pain that makes functioning in daily life impossible. The good news is that there are many non-invasive ways of managing the pain and even reducing  or eliminating headaches through manual therapy.  If you are suffering with chronic headache, I encourage you to look into Cranio-Sacral Therapy.

LMACHALA

Lisa Machala is a licensed massage therapist and practitioner of CranioSacral Therapy. She owns Winning Edge Bodywork in Farmington Hills, Michigan. If you would like to book an appointment, please click on http://bit.ly/WEBbookNow.  Or visit http://www.winningedgebodywork.com for more information.

 

 

Welcome to Winning Edge Bodywork

I created Winning Edge Bodywork because I believe good manual therapy is one of the most under-utilized, yet most effective methods for creating and maintaining vibrant health and an active lifestyle.
As a survivor of two roll-over car accidents and multiple concussions, I attribute my active lifestyle and overall health to regular bodywork. I know this works, because I live it!
Winning means different things to different people, but I believe we all want to win and we all want to be winners at the things that are important to us. I believe most people want to live an active, happy, healthy life. They want to be able to move through their days with ease, comfort, and passion. However you define your Winning Edge, I want to help you achieve it!
I serve clients who are challenged by moderate to severe chronic pain, who just want their active lifestyle back. Having a Winning Edge means reducing or eliminating the pain that prevents you from living a happy, active, fulfilling live.
I serve athletes looking for a competitive advantage by enhancing the body’s natural abilities through specific bodywork. Having a Winning Edge means systematically challenging your body to do and be more, and CORE Myofascial bodywork helps thousands of athletes around the world do just that!
I believe that bodywork is not only a gateway to a better functioning, pain free body, but it is also a pathway to greater possibilities in life. I offer packages and programs that are results-based, so whether you are an athlete looking for specific improvements in athletic capability, or whether you are someone wants to feel better and function with more ease in your body and your life, I can customize a bodywork program that meets your needs and gets you the results you want!
My approach is holistic and my programs involve specific bodywork sessions as well as other Body-Mind-Spirit activities and practices, resources, tools and coaching to help you reach your specific goals.
I look forward to working with you to help you achieve the Winning Edge in your life!