by Sarah Borroum
You can barely tolerate sitting down at the computer long enough to read this article. The lower back is clenched tighter than a street fighter’s fist:, driving agony into every section of your back’s muscles.
It hurts. It hurts so bad you want to cry. But there’s hope. There are quite a few things that you can do right now, right there in your office, to relieve some of the pain. Note: this is a temporary solution. You should visit your doctor as soon as possible, especially if this is related to an injury.
The best thing that you can do is the back-bend stretch. Stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart and slowly, oh so carefully, roll your body downward so that your fingertips are trying to touch your toes. Hold this stretch for forty-five seconds to one minute. You should feel the muscles in your lower back stretching out: they’re unlocking a little bit every time you do this stretch, which is going to relive quite a bit of the tension and pain.
You can do this stretch as often as you want. The pain won’t disappear the first ten or fifteen times that you do it, but keep trying. It should become more bearable with each repetition of stretching. Heating pads, especially those of the moist variety, are excellent for this problem. Put it on the “medium” or “low” setting and leave it on your back for 10-15 minutes at a time. Follow it with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen.
This is also a great opportunity to work on your posture. Sit up straight and square with whatever you are looking at (the computer screen in this instance). Your body shouldn’t slouch or contort itself in any unusual or uncomfortable positions.
You should also get up at least once an hour to walk around. Taking a restroom break is one way to accomplish it, but you can also visit the vending machines, step outside for fresh air, or simply walk around inside to see what’s happening in other areas. You should remain on your feet for five minutes at the very minimum before going back to sitting.
Those solutions should help you get through until your doctor’s appointment. They can also be used even after the doctor starts treatment: in fact, he or she might even suggest some of the same things! It’s best to consult a professional, however, even if you think that you’ll already know what you’ll be told.
However, some of us find ourselves visiting the doctor for the exact same pain every few weeks or months. If there are no injuries or other, obvious reasons for the recurring pains, then we have to look at our lifestyles to see what we can change.
Weight is a big one. If you’re moderately to severely overweight, you should consult a dietician for advice on losing some of it. The good part, other than improving your health, is that you’ll increase your daily exercise to burn off the pounds – and that exercise also happens to be good for back pain. Isn’t it great to take care of two problems with one solution?
Stress is another large factor. Everyone has some amount of stress in daily life, but many people deal with it effectively so that they don’t suffer the physical side effects. There are numerous things that you can do to reduce your stress levels, from yoga to acupressure. These are great for scheduled stress relief, but you also need to do things on your own, every day, to combat the problem.
Reducing your stress can be done with a combination of these things:
-Deep breathing, which will help focus your mind on something besides the ten million things that are stressing you out.
-Exercising, which alleviates the symptoms of your stress as well as prevents it from hitting you so hard in the future.
-Sleeping at least eight hours a night/day, which is recommended by many experts even for people who aren’t stressed.
-Back rubs and massages, which can be given by your significant other or a friend as well as a licensed masseuse.
You should also look at your diet. Is it healthy? Well-balanced? Nutritious? You can consult a dietician, who will help you find and prepare foods that are ideal for your body’s needs. Each body is different, so you might not find that a generic, all-encompassing diet plan works.
And “diet” doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to lose weight. It’s just an improvement in your dietary – or eating – habits. Even the skinniest people (you know, those models who look like half a twig and make you want to vomit) should work with dieticians or on their own to figure out the best foods for their bodies.
You should also look at your life in terms of sitting versus standing.
If your job requires that you stand for long periods every day, keep one foot elevated about six inches off the floor. Switch feet periodically for comfort’s sake. Doctors say that elevating the leg can take up to 200 pounds per square inch of pressure off of your back – which is a lot of pressure that you don’t have to take!
You should also wear comfortable shoes that offer enough support for what you’re doing all day. If you’re desperate to wear your high heels, save them for your last day at that job: you won’t be doing anything constructive during that shift anyway.
If you sit all day, learn ergonomic positions. Office staff and personnel should look for friendly keyboards, mice, and computer positions (i.e. your mouse should be within easy reach if you use it frequently). This is also a good time to ask your boss about getting a better, more comfortable computer chair. If he won’t hear of it, tell him that you think your back pains are work related. If he doesn’t fire you or move you to the mail room (where there are no evil, uncomfortable chairs to torment you), you might stand a chance of getting a decent chair.
These changes won’t make your pain problem vanish in ten seconds, but they’ll all work together to help prevent it from coming back in the future. It’s better than living on prescription painkillers or paying thousands of dollars a year for doctor’s visits.
You’ll also feel better in other ways. Your overall health will improve when you begin working to eliminate the back pain. The rest of your body will take some of the positive effects and put them to good use: making you feel better all around.