Ten Top Tips to Keep your Back Doing the Job it Should be!
1. Drink Water - Drink water through the day as well as the night. I know it can be dreary and time consuming and means knowing where the toilets are at all times. However, putting this aside, through the day the discs lose water and need to rehydrate. When we do not drink enough water the inner core of the disc (the jelly) shrinks, losing some of its shock absorbing abilities. Rehydrating your discs keeps them healthy which equals less pain and what can be better than that!
Top Tips - Buy a couple of water bottles - leave one at work so you are always hydrated and keep one by the bed. Add some flavours - mint, lemon, cucumber to keep it interesting. Keep an eye on your urine, if its pale yellow or clear you are hydrated.
2. Move and get into a Groove- Movement is essential for a healthy back. The problem with giving up, not moving or being fearful of moving is that all your muscles/fascia are interconnected, so as soon as one area tightens and becomes tense so do others. So, get your inner dancer out, put on some tunes and have a wiggle, a shimmy and throw some shapes. Don't be afraid, listen to your body and have some fun and move to the tunes. Even if it's something small such as shaking out the arms, rotating the shoulders everything helps. Try and walk more frequently even if its circular laps around the living room. If you can, get out into the fresh air as much as possible within your pain threshold and then add a little more distance over time. Being in nature or walking barefoot on the ground is particularly healing. Top Tips - Find some uplifting tunes and strut your stuff, have some childlike fun again and walk walk walk.
3. Socialise - When you are in pain the last thing you feel like doing is hanging out with your friends. I know I became a social hermit in whom my life quickly became insular and separate. There's only so many boxsets of Netflix you can watch (I know there's lots really) however its good to have things to look forward to if you are having a prolonged period off work. Go and see friends even if it has to be shortened visits. Suggest alternative activities like going for a walk and a coffee. We are all social creatures and within a short period of time if we start to forget this, life can seem bleak and depressing which you guessed affects our pain levels. Face to face contact releases a whole range of neurotransmitters one of which is dopamine which gives us a little high and it kills pain. Yeah! Top Tip- Make some phone calls and get your diary out.
4. Breathe/Meditation/Visualisation - I know I have lumped all of these together but they are all equally important. Get out your inner, "Ohm." Apps such as Headspace, Curable and Insight Timer can be helpful if you are starting out and they all have dedicated meditations to help with reducing the feelings of pain. If you can't be bothered with the technology then you can try meditating listening to music, staring at a candle or in silence , really anything that helps but please give your mind some well needed time out. Try just for 5 minutes and slowly build it up into a daily regime. At first your mind may go crazy but just keep bringing it back with the breath and just observing what thoughts come up. If you hate sitting down then try mindful walking - bring your awareness to your surroundings, the sounds, colours, sights on your journey and the feel of how you walk - where do you place your weight when you walk etc.
Use your breath to help alleviate pain and tight muscles, breathe into the sides of the body and into your belly. Breathing helps the body go into a state of calmness and brings down cortisol levels by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This will in turn help to reduce feelings of pain.
Visualisation is also a great tool. Visualise before you go to sleep, on the bus, anywhere really that your back is strong and healthy. See nice plump discs and that you can easily bend, stretch, be flexible and mobile. Add some nice healing colours when you visualise- pink, gold, white, blue and orange. Take your pick whatever resonates with you.
Top Tips - breathe, try a meditation app, use visualisation when you have a spare 5 mins
5. Nutrition - I'm not a hundred percent there on nutrition as I'm a bit of an emotional eater however, I am trying to cut down on foods that make my body more cranky and inflamed. For me these foods tend to be those containing diary, high sugar, flour and food that is overly processed.
Put those cheese puffs, pastries, white bread away and add some more fresh fruit and vegetables into your diet. Then add in some herbal teas (ginger, turmeric - anti inflammatory ones) you can still have the odd coffee apparently it can help with reducing pain (well google says it does so it must be true!)
Top Tips-check your cupboards and throw out the junk, don't deny yourself but equally don't over indulge.
6. Writing for Wellness - Start journalling every day. We all have issues. Whether you are struggling with current frustrations, anger, hurt or memories of trauma. Write down all your negative thoughts and feelings don't hold back and don't edit. After you have spewed up your inner world, tear up, shred, or burn your writing - make a little ceremony if that makes you feel good.
Top Tip - buy a journal and start scribbling.
7. Massage/ reflexology/acupuncture/bodytalk/ reiki - get some healing.
Book yourself in some healing treatments, anything which soothes your mind, body and soul. You cannot beat the value of touch and how it brings positive effects to mood and mental health.
Top Tip - book a therapy get some nurturing. Diarise a treatment every 3 months as you are worth it. Get your friends/partner to give your feet a rub or a shoulder massage.
8. What emotional ghosts have you got lurking and not dealt with?
I have learned through my journey with RTT (Rapid Transformational Therapy) with Sally Garozzo is that life stressors often lead to unexpressed or suppressed emotions. For me, this was particularly from my childhood which meant I was carrying around guilt, unworthiness and anger. Did you feel not enough, unlovable to name a few? Muscles store emotional memory so its worth exploring, uncovering whether you have trapped emotions which are adding to your pain levels. Lots of different therapies can be helpful to release these emotions: NLP, hypnosis, RTT, movement, meditation, breath work, art etc. Find out which one is helpful for you.
Top tip - find a therapist you connect with to get rid of all those icky nasty buried emotions.
9. Sleep - Is one of the most important things to help the body heal. Getting to sleep with back pain can be a nightmare. Set some simple sleep hygiene rules, no screens an hour before bed, no caffeine after 5pm, try having a bath with Epsom salts, put on a meditation app to calm your mind, use any techniques that relax you. If you cannot sleep due to pain make sure you get a medication review with your GP. Take the tablets if you have to so your body gets back into a healthy rhythm. Top tips - set up your bedroom like a Zen palace, get a medication review if needed, try alternative support such as Melissa tea, CBD oil etc to calm the system and or listening to audio books.
10. Self-Care - This is important to maintain a healthy relationship with the most important person you. Self-care is necessary to remind yourself and others that you and your needs are important too. When you are good to yourself you actually have more to give. Think about what you really love to do, start old hobbies, schedule in time for yourself and give yourself permission to say no to people.
Top tips- find a new or start and old hobby again, role play - practise saying no to people if you have always said yes, blank out some time in your diary just for you!