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5 Ways to Save your Back While Stuck at Home

Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t have to mean staying stationary. If you already have occasional or chronic back pain, it’s so important to take extra care of your spine during this time! Even people who rarely experience back pain may see new flare-ups due to increased time spent sitting at home.

For many, work stations at home are not ergonomically ideal or perhaps even nonexistent. On top of that, social-distancing and closed fitness facilities are likely to reduce our overall level of activity and mobility throughout the day. Combined, prolonged, poor posture and reduced mobility are the main ingredients for increasing back and neck pain. But have no fear! There are still many ways to prevent your back pain from kicking up, even while stuck at home!

1. Stand Up & Take a Load Off

When we sit for too long, the burden of our weight is placed abnormally on our spine and can cause damage over time. Before long, those small loads add up to real pain. It makes sense when you consider that our bodies were designed to stand, sit, crawl, run, kneel, bend and move through the world in many different ways. It was never designed to sit in one position for prolonged periods, day after day. Sit too long, too often, and it can lead to bulging discs and weak, brittle muscles that are prone to tearing and other damage.

The solution? Limit your sitting to half-hour periods with a few minutes of standing in between, and you’ll reduce the uni-directional forces on your spine. In other words, if you sit for a long time at work or at home, stand up and walk around a little bit every thirty minutes. Aside from participating in regular strengthening exercise, like Pilates, this is the easiest way for the average person to prevent back injury (and heal your back faster if you already have an injury).

2. Watch for Curves

We have natural curves in our spine that help us handle stress and loads.  Whether sitting or standing, it’s important to maintain these curves.  When standing, our spinal curves occur more naturally and are usually easier to maintain.  When we sit, the protective curves in our spine are harder to maintain and often disappear.  And while a healthy core and strong back muscles are important to back health, they won’t protect your back if you sit for long periods, or when the curve in your lumbar area disappears while you’re sitting.

Fortunately, the solution is as simple as rolling up a towel and placing it between your chair or car seat and the small of your back (just above the belt line). Using a purpose-designed lumbar roll is my favorite choice, and what I use for low-back support. You can use a lumbar roll in your office chair, car, and on the plane if you’re flying! If you want to learn where you can get on of your own contact us about them here. Or see in more detail how to use them in our free e-book!

3. Extend instead of Bend

The human spine (and entire body) craves balance, which means both extension and flexion.  But we spend the majority of our time in flexion, bending over to put shoes and socks on, brushing our teeth, driving, sitting at work and then driving home. At home we bend forward to cook, sit some more as we eat and then curl up on our couch or an easy chair. As long as we’re not gymnasts or circus performers, it’s safe to say we could all use a little more extension in our day.  A really good exercise is to stand and place your hands on your lower back for support and then arch back as far as you can go.  Repeat this 10 times, at least once per day.  This is also a great activity to do when you are interrupting your sitting during the day.  If you’ve never arched you back like this before, it may feel stiff or even hurt a little at first. But, with a gradual increase in frequency, it will feel less stiff and more natural over the course of a few days.  If it doesn’t, or becomes troublesome for you, stop and consult with a qualified physical therapist who specializes in back pain.

4. Stay Hydrated

We all know that drinking water is important, but don’t forget WHY! Water lubricates the joints, keeps the body’s soft tissues and fascia hydrated, and boosts exercise performance (yes, including at-home Pilates!). Water also improves skin health and elasticity — keeping you looking (and feeling) young! Water is also essential for digestion, flushing the body of waste and reducing unnecessary snacking. Water makes up 90% of our blood – which helps regulate the body temperature, deliver oxygen to all the cells in our body, and improve concentration and reasoning. Now more than ever, to stay healthy and mobile – make sure you are getting at least 7-8 cups of high quality H2O per day!

5. Build Stability

Mobility and then stability! Stability comes from a strong core. It can seem challenging to maintain strength with little equipment at home, but there are, in fact, plenty of ways to activate your muscles without any equipment at all! A basic strengthening flow daily can help keep our muscles active, blood flowing and reduce likelihood of pain. The flow you see below targets some of our most commonly weak muscle groups in a simple-to-do floor routine.

 

If you like these tips and want to learn even more ways to prevent debilitating back episodes, you can sign up for access to our FREE COVID-19 back pain survival guide right here!  And don’t forget to check out our Virtual Pilates programs if you’re looking for a way to exercise in your home that will target — and resolve — back pain. We have virtual small group classes at least once every day, Monday through Friday. We’re here for you through this quarantine and beyond!

Why You Need an Accountability Team

The Importance of Accountability

Lately I’ve been feeling like there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do, and to be honest, it’s thrown me off track a bit! We have so many awesome things going on here at CJ Physical Therapy and Pilates, and despite how exciting our development and growth has been recently, it can be stressful to stay on top of everything.

However, I need to remind myself how lucky I am to have good, supportive people around me who I can rely on as my “accountability team.” They’re the people who will hold me accountable for the things I really need to be doing, redirect my focus if I’m pouring all my energy into less crucial tasks, see things I’m not seeing, and sometimes to simply give me the thumbs up (or down). For me – that’s my husband and my AMAZING team at CJPT and Pilates (many of whom you’ve had the awesome chance to meet)!

The lovely ladies of CJPT & Pilates!

Strangely enough, this topic has been coming up A LOT lately with our clients too!

I can’t tell you how many times someone comes into my office stressed out and worried because they didn’t get to do their exercises this week, they didn’t do them exactly right – or worse – they try to delay or put off getting help because they don’t have time to do the exercises…

Helping you help yourself

First – getting help for a back, neck, or knee problem that’s been lingering for awhile – or that you’ve been putting off for awhile – isn’t just about doing exercises. That’s actually where most people are confused and get it wrong (if it were that simple – well, frankly – I’d be out of a job!).

Where I help people the most is by becoming a part of their support and accountability team! Often when I first meet with someone, it starts with getting to know what’s going on in their life. How busy are they? Do they spend most of their time in a plane or car because of work? Do they have three little kids, or grandkids, they’re trying to keep up with? Do they have one or two really energetic dogs that have them running around the house or yard all the time?

I want to know what your real life is like. That way we can come up with a realistic plan that will set you up for success. Expecting you to suddenly go to the gym every day when you don’t even have a membership is kind of ridiculous. So is expecting you to NEVER bend over when you’ve got two little kids at home, for example. It’s important that you are working with someone who understands you, your life, and is prepared to be part of your support and accountability system. You don’t need someone who is just going to make life more difficult for by recommending unrealistic treatments or imposing demands that simply won’t work (or more importantly LAST) with your individual lifestyle.

Here for the Long Haul

Now, being a physical therapist in the traditional sense, it would be very easy for me to do some manual work on the table for each of my clients, and even go through some therapeutic exercises that I know will get rid of their pain quickly. BUT… does that actually get you through a physically and mentally strenuous week? Does a quick fix really help in the long run?

No – and that’s why having a support and accountability team – especially when it comes to your health – is absolutely vital.

Don’t work with people who simply put bandaids on the problem in the form of drugs or quick fixes. Work with someone who is willing to dig in and find a real solution, support you along the way, and hold you accountable for the time and energy that you need to invest in your health as well!

If you’re interested in adding a specialist physical therapist (and/or Pilates instructor) to your accountability team, you can reach out anytime or even request a time to talk to one of our specialists for FREE. Thanks for reading – and for holding ME accountable to sharing this advice with you!