You have back pain, and are miserable. I imagine it’s been getting you down for a while, affecting your every movement. Maybe it’s been disturbing your sleep, your ability to work or to look after your family, and your relationships.
And you’re worried that it may never pass, that you may have to resign yourself to a life limited by back pain; that you won’t be able to go on that trip you’ve been planning; to take that career leap when it’s offered to you; or to play with your children or grandchildren. It’s a baffling and alarming mystery.
When James came for his Toe-in-the-water lessons with me, he was in terrible shape. His back pain was so bad that he had been to the hospital Accident & Emergency department, who had given him prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatories. But even after taking these, he could still barely walk. He hadn’t been to work for a week, and had barely slept for several days.
And this wasn’t his first bout of severe back pain – it was a state he’d been in several times before. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he was a doctor, and felt that he ought to be able to deal with it all himself.
The best first step for back pain
The first thing I got James to do is something you can do for yourself too, which is to lie down for some ‘constructive rest’. This is a way to start calming the nerves and muscles of your back – and, by extension, of your arms and legs – so that you can start to let your body find its own way of moving with less tension, without pain.
It’s a bit of a magic pill – not an instant one, but one which, if taken regularly, will be the first step on a path to recovery.
So, what is constructive rest? You’ll need a few books, and a floor space or table large enough to lie down on – not a bed! Then you lie on your back on the floor or table with your head on the books, with your feet flat on the floor/table, and your knees pointing up at the ceiling. Place your hands on your ribs or tummy, with your elbows pointing out to the sides.
You’ll need enough books under your head that the back of your neck is not compressed back and down; but also not so many that your throat is constricted or squashed. Every person needs a different height of books, so try it out until you find what’s right for you.
Just on its own, even without help from anyone else, lying down in this way for 10-15 minutes will help you: it changes your relationship with gravity, and gives the discs between the bones in your spine the chance to expand. And it reduces the workload of your neck in holding your head up, and of your legs in holding your body up.
It really is the most constructive rest you could give yourself!
Try it – a little and often is best. In James’s case, working with me in constructive rest for 1/2 an hour was enough to make a real difference to his back pain and ability to walk. His subsequent work with me gave him the skills he needed to return to his normal life with confidence.
Let me know in the Comments below how you get on.
Or, if you are suffering from neck or back pain, have found this blog useful, and would like more help, then download my “Freedom from Pain” steps by filling in the form on the right of this page.
If you’d prefer personalised 1-to-1 help, addressing your particular back pain or other challenges, then fill in the form below or give me a call to arrange some Toe-in-the-water lessons.