“I work out, I go to yoga, I eat right and get enough sleep – so why do I still get so much back pain?”
Do you recognise any part of that cry of woe? We frequently see people who put a lot of effort into living mindfully, and yet they still can’t seem to change their pain. But often, the big things that they are doing right are sabotaged by the little things that they are doing wrong.
Of course, before we can form an opinion about the source of their pain, it’s necessary to do an assessment. At Jericho Physio, our “whole body” approach means that we find out what your symptoms are, and then we look a little further. Sometimes, it is the habits of movement that you have adopted that are the problem. Those bad habits are causing you to move in less than optimal patterns and, over time, they’re causing you pain.
Look at your desk.
Have a good look at your workspace – and your desk in particular. Is everything on the right side – your mouse, phone, coffee mug and writing pad – or do you use both hands? Overusing, or only using one side of your body, is going to result in strain injuries. Do you get up and move around? Do you have the option of a standing desk as well as a sitting one? Prolonged sitting is one of the major causes of back pain.
Look at your kitchen.
Think about your cooking routine. Can you vary how you do your food prep – alternating between standing and sitting on a stool? Do you always have to reach and twist in the same direction for utensils, pots and pans, or to get something from the fridge?
I know these actions sound as though they would cause minimal strain, but if you repeat the same action enough times it can add up fast – especially if it reinforces similar patterns at work. Bend your knees instead of your back to get things out of the fridge. You can even sit down to empty the dishwasher to avoid repetitive strain.
Look at your sports and recreational activities.
Try to play something that uses both sides of your body: kayaking rather than canoeing, Pilates rather than racquet sports, cycling rather than golf. It’s not that you can’t do those one-sided sports, but you need to “pay to play” by doing a workout or activity that uses both sides evenly, before and after doing a one-sided sport.
Look at your posture.
Yes, you knew this one was coming and you’ve heard it all before, but posture has an effect on everything from your breathing to that aching back you’ve been complaining about!
- Stand on both legs evenly,
- Be aware of your tailbone (a slight kegel squeeze is helpful),
- Be aware of the space between your shoulder blades (a slight pinch down and together will help you align),
- Line your ears up over your shoulders.
When you’re standing, check yourself in the mirror occasionally to see if you are carrying your head in the middle. When you’re sitting, sit back in your chair evenly on both “sit bones”. Let your chair support you.
Look at your sleeping position.
Your body does its healing at night, so it’s important that you are in as neutral a position as possible.
If you are a stomach sleeper, I have bad news for you – you have to give it up! Sleeping prone is hard on your neck and back because nothing is neutral.
Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees so that your legs are the same distance apart at the knees as they are at the hip. Use one regular pillow, or two small pillows, to support your head and neck, with your chin tucked in and down a little.
If you sleep on your back, try placing a pillow under your knees and tuck your neck pillow around your head and neck so that they stay more in the midline. I know that you will find you’ve kicked the knee pillow out every morning for a while, but keep trying. Your body will thank you!
Small habits add up.
While some of these activities and tasks may seem too minor to be the source of your pain, it’s their cumulative effect that really matters. If your day is filled with tasks that are set up so that you twist repetitively to the right, it’s the sum total of those movements that may be causing you pain at the end of the day. It won’t matter how hard you work out, or how much yoga you do, you will have to change your repetitive patterns of movement to change your pain.
Physio can help you change how you move.
At Jericho, we have several ways of helping you “reset” movement patterns that may be causing you pain. The first thing we do is observe how you stand and move. We examine you for lines of tension in your body. We treat you for any pain. And we talk to you about your daily routine.
From that point, we may prescribe specific exercises or stretches to balance out your body, or we may suggest you try a Feldenkrais treatment or classes.
Resetting how you move is a team effort. We can treat and educate you in the office, but the real change starts with you – by carrying an awareness of how you move throughout the day, you can begin to change the habits that are causing you pain.
Troubled by chronic back pain? Come see us! Please call our office at 604-228-1474 to arrange an appointment, or use our online request form.