There is nothing more healing than a good night’s sleep. It allows our bodies to repair, rejuvenate and recover from the wear and tear we place on it daily. There are lots of things we can do can ensure we not only receive a good night’s sleep, but help heal pain naturally. Here are a few things to begin your healing process each night.
Picking the right type of mattress for your body and your health is important. Sleeping on a firm mattress is best for most sufferers of back pain. But remember, too much firmness may place pressure on sensitive areas. Test drive your mattress before you buy. Many mattress makers allow a 30 or up to a 100-day warranty to test drive their mattress before you make a major commitment in purchasing.
Throwing in the Towel
Placing a towel under your knees while you sleep helps with keeping your body aligned. This technique is easy to do. Roll up a traditional bath towel and place it under your knees while lying back. It will help support your spine by helping your legs stay aligned as well. This also reduces stress on your lower back as well as your hips. Remember, this only works when you also have a pillow under your head to support and align your neck and shoulders.
The way you sleep can cause you discomfort when you arise. When you move in bed, try to move your entire body as one unit. Don’t twist and turn at the waist. Experiment with positions such as lying on your back or your stomach; both have advantages and disadvantages. If you choose to sleep on your stomach, place a rolled-up towel under your lower abdomen and pelvis. If you prefer to sleep on the side, draw your legs closer to your chest and place a pillow (full body pillow works well here) between your knees. Whichever way you prefer, remember that supporting your spine, neck and shoulders is imperative.
Adding a stretching routine to your day can help to ease the tension in your body, increase mobility and alleviate pain. The stretches we recommend don’t require any equipment or much time but they can provide sustained pain relief if practiced regularly.
As always, check with your physician first before performing any exercise and keep the following tips in mind:
Chin to Chest Stretch
While standing upright or comfortably seated, begin to bend your head forward, bringing your chin to the chest. Stop when you feel a stretch in the back of your neck and hold. Watch demonstration here.
Ear to Shoulder Stretch
While standing upright or comfortably seated, begin to bend your neck to one side, bringing your ear closer to the top of your shoulder. Stop when you feel a stretch in the neck and hold. Repeat with the other side. Watch demonstration here.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and hands by your side. Now, begin to tighten the muscles in your lower abdomen and buttocks, flattening the small of your back against the floor. Hold for 20 seconds and release. Watch demonstration here.
Single Knee to Chest Stretch
Lie on your back with both legs bent and feet on the floor. Slowly begin to bend the left knee. Wrap your hands around the knee, shin or thigh and gently pull it closer toward your chest. Hold and then slowly release the leg back. Repeat with the right leg. Watch demonstration here.
Knee to Chest Stretch
Lie on your back with both legs bent and feet on the floor. Slowly begin bringing both of your knees toward your chest. Wrap your hands around the knees and gently pull them closer while also curling your head forward. Keep your shoulders flat on the floor. Hold and then lower your feet back one at a time. Watch demonstration here.
Spine Twist Stretch
Lie on your back with both legs bent and arms spread to the side. Slowly begin to lower your knees to one side until you feel a stretch in your spine. Hold and then release back to starting position. Repeat with the other side. Watch demonstration here.
Seated Lumbar Stretch
Seat comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly begin to bend your upper body forward until you feel a stretch in your back. You can wrap your hands behind your knees and pull for an additional stretch or let them touch the floor. As a variation, you can rotate to the painful side. See demonstration here.
Forward Bend Stretch
Stand upright with feet about shoulder-width apart. Slowly begin to bend forward, letting your hands slide down your legs as your body lowers. Stop when you feel tension in your back or the stretch becomes painful. Hold and then slowly come back up to starting position.
If you suffer from back pain, probably the last thing on your mind is exercise. Though it may feel counter-intuitive, the lack of exercise can sometimes exacerbate a painful condition. In fact, studies indicate that people who incorporate exercise and flexibility into their wellness routines manage pain better than those who do not.
Limiting your movement and avoiding exercise can actually weaken muscles over time, which can both worsen your posture and exacerbate joint problems. On the other hand, exercise offers a wealth of physical and mental health benefits, including improved range of motion, weight control, reduced risk of certain cardiovascular diseases and stress reduction.
When you exercise, your body releases “feel good” chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins not only trigger positive feelings but they also act as the body’s natural painkillers, reducing the perception of pain. Some studies have concluded that even moderate exercise can improve a person’s threshold for pain, which can make performing daily tasks easier and more manageable.
Types of Exercises
It’s important that you consult a physician before starting any exercise program, especially if you suffer from chronic pain. Your goal should be to identify exercises that don’t produce additional pain when you perform them. For most people, low-impact exercise such as brisk walking, aqua-aerobics or swimming is a good place to start. Stretches and yoga are also gentle but effective at alleviating back pain.
In the next article, we’ll go over some simple stretches for the upper and lower back that you can do at home without equipment.
Most of us lift something every day, whether it’s a heavy box at work, groceries at the store or a package delivery at home. It’s easy to miss the importance of proper lifting form because it’s a movement all of us perform without a second thought. Unfortunately, bad lifting technique greatly increases your risk of serious and debilitating injuries such as a lower back strain and compression of a spinal disc, especially if you repeat the movement on a consistent basis. Follow these tips for how to maintain proper lifting form so you can prevent back injuries and keep yourself safe:
Other Lifting Tips: