Back pain? Blame the daily strain – not your mattress!
Purchasing a mattress is a big investment. You did your research, tried every bed you could possibly lay on and yet, after a few months, you find yourself still in pain and disappointed. Before you throw your pillows up in frustration and blame your new mattress, look closer at how you treat your back throughout the day.
Back pain & daily activity
While a mattress can sometimes be the reason for a bad back, yours may be aggravated more by your daytime activities than your nighttime sleeping. Evaluate your level of activity throughout the day. How much time do you spend sitting? Do you make time to exercise? Lack of activity may be the destructive offender here.
Many of us spend hours sitting, unaware how we slouch, hunch over or strain our backs. We sit at our desks, sit in traffic and after a long week all we want to do is sit on our couches and relax. Even physically fit people endure a marathon of sitting. Practicing daily sitting exercises can help strengthen your back muscles and alleviate stress and strain on your spine.
Dance at your desk like no one’s watching
We sit for an exorbitant amount of time at work, and while our brains need small breaks throughout the day, our backs need time to be activated as well. The perfect way to maximize both necessities is to turn away from your emails and start moving. You may feel a little silly when trying these exercises while sitting at your desk, but your back will thank you. Set a timer on your phone at regular intervals, let’s say every hour, and then move to your favorite song.
- Stand up & sit down – It’s that simple. Breathe in, without using your hands stand up while you exhale. Sit and repeat. Do it while you’re on the phone or reading emails.
- Look up to release upper body – Sit up in your chair, or stand if you prefer, stretch your arms overhead and interlock your fingers. Turn your palms up toward the ceiling while you lift your chin up to gaze toward the sky. Inhale, exhale and release. Repeat as needed.
- Leg hugs & stretch your back – Sit on the edge of your chair and place your feet together, flat on the floor. Lean over with your chest touching your knees and your arms dangling loosely to the floor. Be sure to release your neck as you bring your hands behind your legs and grasp your opposite wrists, or elbows if you can reach that far. Feel it in your back, shoulders and neck? Hold, breathe in and out, releasing your hands to the floor. Repeat three times, or as often as it feels good to you.
Burn calories while you’re burning gas
Long commute? Focusing on the road during longer drives and tightly gripping the steering wheel can intensify stress, which means more neck and upper back pain. Gentle exercises in the car can ease stiffness in your joints, help with stress and tension and a bonus – burn calories. Try these exercises to avoid back stiffness when it’s bumper to bumper out there on the not so open road.
- Neck – Sit straight, look forward and tilt your head to one side, slowly and gently pushing your ear into your shoulder. Be sure to keep your shoulders low and relaxed. Hold for five seconds and then switch sides. Repeat five times on each side.
- Back – Sit as straight as possible, allowing your back to be slightly arched. Breathe in while you tighten your abs slowly bringing your belly button toward your spine (remember to keep your back straight!). Continue to keep your abs engaged and focus on breathing normally while holding the tightness in your abs. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times. Add time and repetitions to challenge yourself!
- Arms – Place your hands at the 3 and 9 o’clock points on the steering wheel and execute push-ups by moving your chest and head together as you bend your elbows. Squeeze your shoulder blades as your head reaches the wheel and then release your back slowly. Repeat 5 times.
Don’t be a couch potato. Be a yoga bear!
We all deserve those evenings on the couch, watching our favorite show, wearing our comfy sweatpants and enjoying a calming glass of tea. If you want to feel a little more guilt-free and a lot less pain before bed, try some of these yoga exercise during commercial breaks.
- Butterfly pose – Sit on the ground, bend both knees and bring your feet together while you use your hands to open your feet up, like a book. Using your elbows, gently press your knees down towards the floor to open your hips a little more. Pull your belly button towards you. Relax your shoulders and look toward your TV show or to your feet. Remain in this pose for 5 breaths, and slowly start to bend forward, bringing your torso towards your legs. Remember to keep your spine as straight as possible. If you want more of a stretch, extend your arms out in front of you for 5 breaths or as long as you want.
- Standing forward bend – For those of you not familiar with yoga poses, this is a more concentrated version of touching your toes. Stand up straight and tall as possible allowing your body to align itself, inhale and reach your arms straight above you, looking up toward your fingertips, and keeping your tailbone tucked to protect your lower back from strain. As you exhale, engage your abs and slowly fold forward with a straight back, tuck your chin in toward your chest, relax your shoulders, and continue to bring your head toward your toes, creating a long spine. Keep your legs as straight as possible, and put your weight forward into your toes. If you are able, place your hands on the ground, fingertips lining up with the toes. Hold here for five breaths and come back up slowly. Read about more: popsugar