where women celebrate their ageless authenticity

Answers For My Aching Back

In an ideal world, I’d love to put my back pain behind me. These days it’s become a constant companion, just aching for relief.

Seems I’m not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, close to 80% of adults suffer from lower back pain, ranging in intensity but nonetheless impacting our mobility and quality of life.

As with any ailment or chronic issue, seeking a proper diagnosis and treatment from your physician is always the recommended route. But I asked myself – now that I’m a statistic – how did I get here? The presence of pain arrived like an uninvited guest taking up residence.

Woman sitting on bed with a backache

Since I believe my wellbeing starts with me, I did some searching. Here’s where my curiosity landed me.

  • Bed check: Opt for firmness – too soft a mattress may feel comfortable, but “sinking” into it can cause misalignment in the spine resulting in more pain and stiffness when you wake up. I was definitely in need of a mattress flip refresh at the time I read this; my body imprint was fully “embedded” (pun intended). Body position also plays a role. While health experts may encourage you to be on your back, it ultimately just depends on what’s most comfortable for you. Whenever pain inhibits my sleep I rest on my side in a fetal position with a pillow in between my legs, which helps open up the hip joints and relieve pressure by reducing the curvature of the spine.
  • Don’t pick it up: Heavy and awkward items are best to let lie until you have an assist. As someone who likes to do things myself, it took me a while to realize that when I ask for help it actually makes my husband feel great and it isn’t a burden at all.  I’ve also changed up where I place key objects I use frequently so they are easily within reach without twisting that strains my lower back.
  • Sitting factor: Since I’m working at my computer all day I’ve made sure my computer monitor is in alignment with my sight line so I’m not craning my neck. VariDesk offers some great workspace sit/stand solutions, and since I’ve changed it up I’ve noticed I am also more productive. Taking a quick walk for a few minutes to break up my day also relieves muscle tension and gets my circulation going.
  • Anti-inflammation eats: Since arthritis runs in my family, I’ve looked at what I put in my body to help ease inflammation. According to experts from Harvard Medical School, beneficial foods for anti-inflammation are: fruits (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges); fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines); green leafy veggies (spinach, kale, collards); olive oil, and tomatoes. Foods to avoid are refined carbohydrates (white bread, pastries); french fries and other fried foods; soda and sugar-sweetened beverages; red meat (burgers, steaks), processed meat (hot dogs, sausage), margarine, shortening and lard.
  • Topical relief: A throwback to my days as an athlete, icing helps relieve the immediate pain (no more than 10 minutes at a time) for the first 24 to 48 hours after I strain my back. After two days I alternate between ice and heat. The ice reduces the swelling and numbs the pain while the heat improves flexibility and stimulates blood flow.

It’s no secret that our physical condition also impacts our mental health. When we can’t participate we feel like a bystander who’s missing out, sidelined by a weakness that further draws us into our protective shell. It’s in those times especially, that we must work to honor who we are deep inside. Maybe in letting go of the fear of not measuring up, we may find a new strength we never knew we had.

I’m just sharing some of the new tools I’ve added to my collection for life’s adventures. Perhaps there’s a takeaway nugget that resonates with you.

All wellness content on Intentfully FiT is provided for general information and conversation only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your own physician or any other healthcare professional or medical practitioner. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional treatment, diagnosis, or medical advice, and should never be relied upon for specific medical recommendations.

Woman massaging her aching back