By Yumi Sakugawa, Intent.com
As anyone who’s suffered it knows, it sucks to have back pain. But it doesn’t have to suck for your wallet.
Don’t get me wrong; a professional back massage every once in a blue moon is worth every cent and feels A-MAAAZING! For the rest of the time, though, practice the following 7 tips to relieve your stiff back and neck, and to practice good habits to prevent future back pains in the future.
1. Sleep with more than one pillow to support your back. To minimize future back pain, be mindful of how you sleep. You will need one pillow for your head and neck support, and depending on how you sleep, another pillow to support the bottom half of your body. If you sleep on the side, put a regular-sized pillow or body pillow between your legs. If you sleep on your back, put a small pillow beneath the small of your back. If you sleep on your abdomen, put a small pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen. (Check out a handy slide show of these sleeping positions on MayoClinic.com)
2. Apply heating pads to areas on your neck and back that feel particularly stiff. Heating pads can be easily found at Target, Walmart and nearly all drug stores. Applying heat to a trouble spot helps loosen the muscles and relieve the stiffness.
3. Take a hot bath with epsom salt. Add 1-2 cups of epsom salt in a tub of hot water for a luxurious self-spa treat after a long day of work. Epsom salts are cheap and can be bought at any supermarket or drug store. A hot bath will help relieve stiff muscles and probably remove some of the stress that is causing you back pain in the first place!
4. Make your own massage tool with two tennis balls and a long tube sock. Stick two tennis balls in the end of a long tube sock and tie the ends tightly. You can then sandwich the tennis balls between your back and a wall to rub them against your knots, or lie down on the floor with the tennis balls beneath you.
5. Stack books beneath your laptop so that your neck and head are level when you type. These days, I stack three fat textbooks beneath my laptop so I’m not hunching over the laptop for eight to nine hours a day, and I’m forced to maintain a proper posture.
6. Maintain good posture–and employ every mental trick in the book that will help you keep up the momentum. Slouching adds extra stress to your back, which is why good posture helps prevent future back pain. Plus, good posture just makes you look better and more confident! You may be inspired to check out iPosture, an intuitive electronic device that you strap onto your body which monitors your posture and alerts you if you are slouching.
7. Have excuses to break out of your sitting pattern every at least 30-60 minutes. This is especially if you have an all-day office job in front of your computer. Drink lots of water (which you should be doing anyway!) so you have to make frequent trips to the bathroom, and do some stretches while you’re at it. Go on a mini-walk during your lunch break. Practice your social skills and converse with someone who is on the other side of the room. If you work from home, take mini-breaks to take out the trash, water the houseplants, organize another room.
Bonus tip: do yoga! Oh, yes, so much easier said than done. But yoga is all about flexibility, maintaining good posture and getting your body moving–not to mention extremely stress-relieving. Totally worth the long-term investment for your back muscles, and your overall physical and mental health if you are planning on taking up a new fitness activity anytime soon.