Back pain is one of the most common reasons for visits to the GP and it is estimated that 80% of us will experience a back problem at some time in our lives. Most cases of back pain are muscular in origin, meaning they are related to how your move your body. Chronic back pain can be the result of inactivity, injury, emotional stress, flawed body mechanics or compressed posture. Here are two techniques which may help alleviate back discomfort:
The Alexander Technique helps you understand the cause of your back problem and then teaches you to change your movement style. The technique is a proven method of self-care that reduces pain, increases mobility and provides long term relief. You learn it from an Alexander Technique practitioner who will coach you through a 1:1 learning process tailored to your abilities and needs. Your teacher listens to your symptoms and observes them in the context of your entire movement pattern. Through watching your body’s dynamics in movement, they focus on how you move as you function.
You then use the Alexander Technique to move safely and sensibly e.g. rather than slumping, you can learn to sit upright without strain. The technique enables you to reduce overuse of the body’s surface muscles by engaging your body’s central support system. You can accomplish routine activities such as walking, lifting, climbing stairs, getting out of bed or into a car pain-free. Since study of the Alexander Technique helps you increase sensory awareness, you become more attuned to your body’s signs of tension. You acquire the capacity to lessen or prevent episodes of pain, possibly enabling you to decrease your pain-relief medications.
The Alexander Technique can help you recuperate from surgery, get maximum benefit from your fitness program and help you improve how you do your physical therapy exercises. It also can extend the benefits of osteopathy, chiropractic, massage or acupuncture.
Try the Alexander Technique Semi-Supine: Lie down on your back on a firm surface to give your body adequate support. Place two or three paperback books underneath the bony bit of your skull (rather than the neck) so your head is level. Put your hands on the belly and raise your knees with your feet flat on the floor. The feet should be about shoulder width apart and quite close to the body. Once in position, think and allow the muscles of the neck to release so that all the weight of the head is taken by the books. You want to release all the weight of the body and allow it to be fully supported by the floor enabling the back to open out, lengthening and widening. Don’t push the back or shoulders down – just allow them to release onto the floor. Lie down for about 15 minutes, twice a day. Author’s note: This works a treat in easing back discomfort.
Find a therapist: The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique
Acupuncture began in China more than 2,500 years ago. It involves inserting thin needles at certain points on the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the body has more than 2,000 of these points. They are connected by pathways which create a flow of energy called Qi. Stimulating these points is said to correct the imbalance of qi and improve the flow of energy. Practitioners believe that this helps relieve pain and improve health. It’s thought the effects come from stimulating the central nervous system which may trigger the release of chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord and brain. These chemicals either alter the experience of pain or produce bodily changes that promote a sense of well-being. Acupuncture can help back pain by:
- Providing pain relief (releases endorphins)
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility
- Reducing the use of medication
- Improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises
Find a therapist: British Acupuncture Council