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OuchIt’s a warm day in early March.  We’re coming up to a full moon.  The toads are busy mating in the pond and it’s the time of year when you feel like opening the windows, going through the cupboards and throwing away all the clutter.

I’ve cleaned all the windows, swept the floor and have put a banana loaf in the oven, the smell of which is wafting towards me as I sit at the table with a mug of tea, watching the sunlight dance across the floor and wondering what is next on my to do list.

The door opens and Running Boy comes in, bent over and half-crouching, one hand on his lower back.  He lets out an anguished groan, mutters something about a sore back and falls heavily, face down on to the sofa.  As I look over at him my eyes wander down to his feet and I notice he still has his shoes on.  I wince as my eyes travel further to my cleanly-swept floor that is now covered with a fine layer of sand and soil from outside.

I go over to him and remove his shoes, placing them outside the door, and as I grab the brush he explains to me that he’s pulled his back by rather over-enthusiastically scrubbing the outside decking.  It must be mad March fever.  Deluded feelings of invincibility and youth.

Grabbing a tube of arnica gel from the bathroom, I fetch my box of essential oils and search out my favourite anti-inflammatories and analgesics, mixing a few drops of each oil into a paste with a couple of tablespoons of the arnica gel and applying it gently to Running Boy’s lower back.  He gets to lie on the sofa for a while, drinking tea and eating banana bread while I put the remainder of the arnica and essential oil potion into a little pot for use over the next couple of days.

In a few days’ time when the pain has died down I’ll massage his back, making sure I really work the muscles of his whole back as well as his glutes.  Whenever one area has locked up and tightened there is always a knock-on effect with the surrounding muscles.  I’ll also point him in the right direction for activating his transversus abdominis, or core muscles, which can be done through small, subtle, focused movement and is neither difficult nor strenuous.

This is usually when I feel like a stuck record, repeating the same information again and again to friends, family and clients alike.  If you repeatedly suffer from lower back pain that has been diagnosed as “non-specific back pain”, then there is a huge chance that your core muscles are not activated, therefore not protecting you from injury like they should.  There, I’ve said it again!

On the other hand, if you suffer from upper back pain with the same “non-specific” diagnosis then it could be something as simple as a combination of stress and a desk-based job.  I have found that this can often be solved by a series of massages combined with some specific yoga stretches.

Running Boy is now fine again.  A couple of days discomfort at worst and no need for pain killers.  Whether he will keep on with the core strength work is another thing.  We shall see…..

If you can relate to anything I’ve written here and also suffer from “non-specific back pain” meaning that you have had yourself checked out and there is no other sinister cause to your pain other than general posture or awkward lifting or bending, then you may find the following links useful:

My top eight essential oils to use for back pain – as I mention above these can be mixed into arnica gel for a soothing topical application.  They can also be added to a small amount of carrier oil (10-15ml of sunflower, sweet almond oil or similar) and gently massaged into the affected area.

Yoga stretches for upper back pain and stiffness – this video shows a great, easy to follow sequence of yoga moves to help upper back pain that has been caused by sitting in the same position for too long, using a computer for long stretches of time, or general stress and tightness in the area.

Yoga moves for neck pain and TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorders) – although this is not specifically for the upper back I found that these yoga poses really helped loosen my shoulders and neck which can also be a problem area.

A short video on how to activate your “transversus abdominis” or core muscles.  When I say activate I’m really talking about bringing awareness to this muscle group so that you can start to engage them in everyday movement and activities.  I don’t believe that they should be singled out and overworked as this will just cause more imbalance.

What about you?  Do you suffer from back pain?  I’d love you to leave a comment.

Here’s to a happy, pain-free March ♥

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6 Comments

Julie · March 6, 2015 at 10:18 pm

Great help and I must have miscounted cause you are still on computer, you really ought to be doing this professionally xxxx

    elizabeth · March 8, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Ha yes Julie, that’s the idea! I’d love to be doing this full-time 🙂 xx

Jewels · March 7, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Good thing for Running Boy that you were there with your magical oils and expert masseuse hands. 😉
I’m definitely going to check out the video for upper back pain and stiffness. Thanks Elizabeth! Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend! 🙂

    elizabeth · March 7, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Ha – yes – he doesn’t get to take painkillers and ignore it like other people 🙂 Hope you check out the video – it’s a really nice sequence for the upper back – especially if you spend too much time at a computer like me! Have a great weekend x

Kathy B. Gentry · March 7, 2015 at 11:37 pm

Boy, am I glad I stumbled onto you! Do I have back pain?!? YES. I’ve had back pain for a number of years, but not as badly as the past 4 years. Herniated disc – numerous medications, severe leg pain, etc. My nuerologist has tossed the idea of back surgery, to me, which I don’t feel is a good idea. I am going to try your oils, but I do know my stomach muscles need work w/out exploiting my back in the process. Huge stress levels have aggravated an already injured area (caring for a 97 yr. old parent) w/early stages of dementia. To wind up this saga, I do look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time!

    elizabeth · March 8, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Kathy, thanks for leaving a comment. I sympathise completely – I know what it’s like to have a herniated disc. I decided not to have surgery as my back responded to exercises that targeted the deep abdominals but I do know that in some cases when the pain has gone on for a long time that it may be worth considering.

    Obviously I’m no expert on disc problems but I do know that for me doing very small subtle exercises helped. Literally lying on my back with my feet on the floor, hip width apart, and my knees bent I would breathe into my stomach (belly breathing as opposed to breathing into the ribcage only). On the exhalation I would try to pull my belly button back towards my spine and my pelvis up and in towards my belly button (like the last video in my post) I was careful not to engage the upper abdominals as I did this. I repeated this about three times a day for ten minutes at a time – focusing very much on my breathing and holding my hands on my lower belly to make sure I was engaging the muscles. These are slow, focused movements. It took a good few months to get out of pain and a lot longer to feel like I was back to normal but I was able to do it. At the time whenever I felt a twinge of pain whatever I was doing I would stop and try to re-engage the deep abdominals. This often made an immediate difference and I could carry on pain-free.

    You mention stress and I think that this certainly exacerbates problems like this. My improvement directly coincided with a two week holiday from work so my stress levels were naturally lower than normal.

    I had also been having regular massage sessions from a very sympathetic and knowledgeable therapist who worked deeply with essential oils and she was able to relieve pain in areas where my muscles had been going into spasm.

    Finally, I worked closely with an excellent physio and visited his gym three times a week (for about six months) where we worked on strengthening my deep abdominals to relieve the pressure on the overworked muscles of my lower back. We also worked on strengthening the glutes which I was under-using, as well as specific exercises to help stretch out my left side which was bent out of shape as my body tried to avoid the nerve pain.

    I often think that I was very lucky to find the right health professionals to help me. I had already been to see a number of others who were unable to diagnose what was wrong and had told me that the only option was to manage the pain. I didn’t accept that so kept looking until I found someone who could help.

    Certainly the oils I mention (in the linked post) should help with pain but I would also try to find a good physio and massage therapist as well because the most empowering thing you can do is to take your health back into your own hands and take control of your healing.

    Good luck! And please feel free to use the contact form if you would like to get in touch with me privately.

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