The thing with back pain is that nobody really knows why people experience it. Many doctors have declared they have the answer – misalignment to surgical protocols, to everything under the sun has been attempted, yet low back pain is still the second most common cause of disability in US adults.
It accounts for an estimated 149 million lost work days and between 100-200 BILLION dollars annually in lost wages and productivity.
Yes, that is a capital “B” – billion dollars we are leaving on the table because of low back pain. I’d say it’s a big problem that is only getting worse – even with all the advance in technology.
Why? Because the pain people are experiencing is individual, for individual reasons and if you know anything about pain – it manifests differently in different people for different reasons:
- Some people are in pain because of the amount of stress they experience.
- Some people hurt because they’ve had an injury that wasn’t rehabilitated correctly.
- Some people just hate their job and that’s why they experience pain.
- Some people are overweight and experience joint inflammation.
- Some people just need to move better and more often.
Strategy #1 – Reduce Stress
Stress is never going to fully leave – it’s part of everyone’s lives and is actually good in the right doses. It’s the tipping point you want to avoid where you feel like you’re overwhelmed, disorganized and lacking enough time in the day to perform.
One of the best ways to prepare yourself for each days is through routine. I talk about it in the How to Feel Amazing at Work article. Stress comes from every angle – work, money, relationships, lack of recovery, family, nutrition, bills, etc, it’s important to build consistent habits that keep the evils powers of chronic stress at bay.
What You Can Do About It
Take stock in what makes you feel good or happy and fulfilled. We call this “self care”, simple activities that allow you to recover in mind, body and spirit. Some simple stress reducing activities can include:
- Sport or Hobby
This list isn’t extensive but hopefully gives you some ideas to inspire you to take action and practice self-care more often. Remember, pain is like a bucket of water filling up – when you experience pain, it’s because your bucket is overflowing. Self care allows to remove the water before it overflows.
Strategy #2 – Just Breathe
Piggy-backing off of stress relief, a great way to reduce stress is with proper breathing mechanics. I know it seems kind of trivial to talk about breathing but unfortunately, most people breathe all day long in a state of high-stress.
What does this mean?
Well quite simply, you are probably breathing mostly through your mouth and into your chest. This type of breathing is great if you are about to fight or need to run away from a bear, but breathing this way over the course of days, weeks and years yields pain, problems and even more stress.
Instead, start your day off with some focused breath work. Practice 10-20 breathes inhaling through the nose into your bell and exhaling through your mouth or if you are feeling tense, take a 5 breathe break.
That’s right, just stop what you’re doing and practice 5 deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth with a slow exhale.
Another great practice If you want to breathe better is to just close your mouth more throughout the day. Naturally you’ll begin to breathe deeper and slower causing a relaxed feeling.
What You Can Do About It
Here’s a great drill to practice better breathing. It’s called boxed breathing, have a watch!
Strategy #3 – Move Your Body
This is one of the strategies that we talk about most often because well, it has been shown to be one of the most important activities you can do for chronic back pain, and the only real investment you’re making is time.
You have a couple minutes here and there to move a little bit don’t you? It’s counterintuitive to want to move when you have back pain. In fact it’s common to avoid any type of physical activity in order to rest and heal, but that’s exactly the opposite of what we recommend.
Physical inactivity can easily delay your recuperation process even longer. What’s important to understand with movement is that you don’t need to do an extreme amount to see benefits.
This is partly why we film and recommend our daily 2-minute drills. Adding in just 2-minutes of targeted movement/ mobility drills every 30-50 minutes, can have massive benefits to long-term pain and general health.
If you want to add more exercise, by all means. Studies have shown that exercise like strength, cardiovascular and mobility training yield great results compared to those who are inactive.
I’m not going to give you a whole exercise program but if you want that, we have a program for that. What I’d like to provide though, is a few joint mobility exercises that have worked well for people with back pain and discomfort.
What You Can Do About It
The first 2-minute drill below targets your pelvis and your neck. The pelvis is the area below your back pain. If your pelvis isn’t functioning properly, your back can easily bare the brunt of the work. The neck mobility is interesting because neurologically, your cervical spine (neck) and sacrum are connected, so mobilizing both sends good signaling up the spine.
Strategy #4 – Rest and Reset Your Eyeballs
What do the eyes have to do with this? Well…a lot.
See, your vision is at the top of the hiearchy of how your brain assesses threat. If your eyes don’t work very well, then threat goes-up.
If you remember from the Threat Bucket video above, pain can manifest from virtually anything going on in your life – including your inability to see very efficiently. If you spend your time in front of a screen all day, then chances are, your eyes are not getting any better.
Speaking of screen-time, research shows that Americans spend almost 11 hours per day with their eyes fixated to a screen. That’s an insane amount of time to be looking at something other than real-life.
What You Can Do About It
Rest and reset your eyes. Work the muscles the way they were designed to with these exercises.
Without further ado, here are some exercises to rest and reset your eyeballs:
Strategy #5 – Lose Weight
When a talking about pain, we HAVE to consider everything and that includes weight loss for pain and performance. Excess weight can put a lot stress and load on the joints and tissues of the body. The reason that this is so important to understand is because of two laws:
Wolff’s Law – states that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading.
Davis’s Law – soft tissue models along imposed demands. It is the corollary to Wolff’s law, which applies to osseous tissue. It is a physiological principle stating that soft tissue heal according to the manner in which they are mechanically stressed.
What this means is that when your bones and tissues remodel, they are remodeling to manage stress and load. This is not indicative to pain and performance but more so to function and survive. Joint and tissue remodeling can cause a multitude of reasons you experience pain:
- Pinched nerves
- Postural Deformities
and much more.
Strategy #6 – Eat Better Food
This goes hand-in-hand with weight loss but is not the only reason. Food is a chemical reaction in your body and a good indicator that your body doesn’t chive with food is inflammation.
When your body and tissues react with food it’s not suppose to have, you’ll get a reaction. That reaction is essentially your tissues swelling. Achey joints, stiffness and pain are all reactions from inflammation.
If you change your intake of food into higher quality nutrients, then inflammation goes down. Because it’s so individualized we recommend getting food sensitivity testing performed so that you have a clear picture of what foods are and aren’t ideal for you and your body.
In general, foods that are high in nutrients are where you want to source your meals from, which we talk about in our Drive2Thrive program.
In closing, we have to look at the body as a whole and not just the part that hurts. These options are just that – options. Try some on and see how they feel. Explore, try, learn and repeat.
Remember, pain is just a signal that you need to change something. Chances are you just haven’t been changing the right thing in the right amount.