Archive for the Pain Relief & Prevention Category

A Brief History: The Evolution of Ergonomics

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In the 1940s, an advancement of machinery and equipment during and post-World War II lead to a disharmony between people and the equipment they were using. There was an increased risk of human error and poor user performance. In order to avoid negative effects of human limitations, equipment had to be designed to take advantage of human capabilities consequently, establishing the scientific discipline we know today as Ergonomics. While the early focus of ergonomics was on aviation and aircraft controls, it has become a standard practice in designing computers, cars, and other consumer products.

With 33% of work-related injuries being caused by poor work station setup, occupational ergonomics is a top priority for many employers and employees. Over the years, there has been a shift in the way companies look at ergonomics. Companies were reactive when addressing proper ergonomics, oftentimes waiting to react to injuries or employee complaints, whereas today, the approach is proactive. Companies use tools, equipment, and best practices to prevent injuries and reduce the level of exposure. Companies are now encouraged to have integrated design phases, which take equipment, products, layout, and standard ergonomic guidelines into account when designing workspaces. Another shift in the discipline has been the method of assessment. Years ago, employees would attend classroom training sessions, in-person evaluations by a certified staff member, and chair-fitting rooms. Today, there is a stronger emphasis on employee-driven, in-office assessments. Chairs and workstations offer full range of adjustability, workstation design is based on computer use, and employees are able to assess and adjust their own workstations.

Here at Relax The Back, we continue to learn and improve our knowledge on ergonomics, and the tools and equipment that can be used to reduce and prevent injuries.  Read more information on ergonomics or visit your local Relax The Back store to speak with one of our trained specialists about a free workstation assessment.

 

Prevent Pain When Gardening

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Spring is officially here, which means more time spent working in the yard. While gardening can be a leisurely, therapeutic activity, it can also lead to aches and pains. Hauling wheelbarrows, wrangling hoses, and constantly kneeling over to weed, mulch, and plant puts strain on your lower back, spine, and shoulders. Fortunately, there are techniques and tips to help prevent pain and keep you enjoying your favourite hobby:

  • Lift with your knees when picking up heavy objects such as a wheelbarrow or bags of soil. Avoid lower back strain by lifting with your knees and hips, as they are better equipped than your back when lifting heavy objects. A posture support like the Cybertech Spine Brace encourages proper posture, which also helps prevent back injuries.
  • Invest in quality tools. Old or broken tools with lot of wear and tear can make simple jobs a lot more difficult, so the next time you see that rusty rake, think about investing in a new set of tools that are ergonomically designed and have cushioned grips. In the end, taking tool shortcuts can only cause more damage than good.
  • Weed on your hands and knees to keep your spine elongated for less strain and pain. Pay attention to the placement of your shoulders over your wrists as they bear most of the responsibility when reaching, grasping and supporting your body weight. If you begin to feel unnecessary, uncomfortable tension, slowly ease out of your current position to avoid straining any muscles.
  • Stay hydrated will help you maintain energy throughout your gardening work as well as keep muscles and joints lubricated. Try to drink 6-oz of water every 20 minutes if you are working hard and sweating. Also, try taking a few minutes every half hour to cool off and rest in the shade.
  • Plan a circuit to avoid repetition. Stiffness and soreness can be linked to repeating the same task, over and over again, for long periods of time. Set aside time to alternate between tasks: weed for an hour, plant for an hour, rake for an hour, water for an hour. Breaking up your time spent in the garden into different to-dos will reduce muscle strain as well as help keep down feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • Stretch and ice after you’ve completed your tasks for the day. Gentle stretches will help you avoid strained muscles and stiffness the next morning. If you are feeling a strain in a muscle, apply and ice pack, such as these reusable cold therapy pads, to the sore area before bed. It will help reduce inflammation.

As always, we recommend you talk with your healthcare provider to determine if gardening is safe for any pain conditions you may have.  For more tips on pain prevention and relief, follow us on Facebook and Twitter or visit your local Relax The Back store to speak with one of our trained specialists.

A Guide to Good Posture at Work

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Over time, ongoing back and neck pain can develop due to poor posture while sitting and standing. It is very important to be aware of your posture at home and on the job.  Not only can poor posture cause back and neck pain but it can also cause damage to your spinal structure. Fortunately, these pains and discomforts can be avoided with a few simple tips.

This infographic by Greatist can help you improve and maintain good posture during the workday:

8 Tips for Traveling with Back Pain

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Travel with Back Pain

Traveling can be hard on your muscles, joints, and nerves. Prolonged sitting puts stress on the spine and stiffens muscles in the back and legs and lugging heavy suitcases puts you at risk for low back injuries.

These tips can help you reduce pain and stress while traveling:

  • Pack Light: Instead of packing one large, heavy suitcase, pack 2 smaller bags. This will make lifting bags into and out of the trunk of your car or overhead bins, and off of baggage carousels much easier.
  • Lift luggage in stages: Move slowly and in stages when lifting luggage into the overhead bin. In separate motions, start by lifting the bag to the armrest of the seat, then to the top of the seatback, and finally up and into the bin. Remember to reverse this pattern when you remove your luggage.
  • When lifting, never twist: Pivot your feet so that your entire body moves instead of only twisting your back. Twisting is a common cause of lower back injuries. If possible, avoid lifting all together by asking for help from a flight attendant.
  • Relief with ice and heat: Bring a Ziploc bag and ask a flight attendant for some ice or stow a cold pack in your carry on. Place between your lower back and your seat for 20 minutes to reduce inflammation caused by lower back pain. A heatable self-massage ball such as Dr. Cohen’s Acuball Kit can provide post-travel relief.
  • Move Around: Change positions occasionally when seated to help avoid leg cramps and improve circulation. Massaging your legs and calves and doing shoulder rolls will also help.  Consult your doctor for a few safe and easy hip and hamstring stretches you can do while traveling. During long flights and if possible, try to get up and walk about the cabin to stimulate blood flow and help prevent blood clots.
  • Get aisle seat: An aisle seat allows you to easily get into and out of your seat. This makes it easier for you to move about the cabin.
  • Sit with support: Airline seats are often worn out with poor lumbar support. Place a small rolled-up blanket or use an inflatable back cushion, like a Self-Inflating Back Rest, to find proper lumbar support during flight. Using a U-Shaped Travel Pillow will also provide proper support.
  • Drink water: Be sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water as it helps cushion and lubricate joints and muscles.

 

Exercises for Upper Back Pain

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Upper back pain may not be the most common spinal disorder but when it occurs it can still cause substantial pain and discomfort.  This pain can be caused through strain, poor posture, or sudden injury. Most complaints come from those who work at computers most of the day. Whatever the cause of pain, doing exercises such as these can help ease and prevent pain and discomfort:

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more pain relief tips or visit your local Relax The Back store to speak with one of our trained associates who can offer recommendations tailored to your physical needs and abilities.

Common Neck Pain Myths Debunked

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Neck Pain MythsWhether a dull ache or a sharp stab, many of us will experience some form of neck pain sooner or later. Solutions for relieving pain aren’t always the most straightforward, with some people finding relief quickly and others dealing with nagging pain for longer periods of time. Below we debunk some of the more common neck pain and treatment myths.

 

 

Myth: The best way to deal with neck pain is with rest

Truth: While short periods of rest can help ease acute pain of the neck or back, doctors generally do not advise more than one to two days of bed rest. On the contrary, general inactivity and rest can cause more pain and allow for an unhealthy cycle of pain/inactivity/more pain/more inactivity to occur. Physicians recommend for most conditions a long-term rehabilitation program consisting of physical therapy and exercise.

Myth: Pain is inevitable so I should just tough it out

Truth: Chronic neck and back pain (pain lasting more than 2-3 months) is very debilitating and can interfere with one’s ability to complete daily activities. If this is the case, treatment for pain must be sought out right away. Allowing the pain to worsen and go untreated can impede the healing and rehabilitation process by interfering with exercise. There is also a risk of increased psychological distress such as depression, stress, and sleeplessness.

Myth: The spine is easily injured due to sensitive nerves

Truth: Muscles, tendons, and ligaments that surround the spine provide a great deal of support, flexibility and strength. Smoking, lack of sleep or nutrition, and other generally unhealthy factors along with poor posture and body mechanics (ex. Improper lifting techniques) can harm the spine. Proper conditioning such as stretching, aerobic exercises, and strengthening are required in keeping the spine healthy and injury-free. Proper ergonomics and neck supports, such as Dr. Riter’s Real-EaSE Neck Support, can help keep neck pain at bay.

Myth: The pain must all be in my head since the doctor found nothing wrong

Truth: Regardless of a physician finding the anatomical cause of pain, pain is always real. It is especially important to proactively seek treatment for pain if one is suffering for more than 2-3 months. It is important to look at all options, , including nonsurgical treatment options, when searching for ways to help alleviate pain.

Back Pain during Pregnancy

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Experiencing back pain during pregnancy is not uncommon for most women; between 50% and 80% experience some form of pain. Hormonal changes affect the joints and relax the ligaments in your pelvis, your center of gravity changes, and weight gains associated with a growing baby adds stress to your spine and lower back.

From proper posture to staying as active as possible to heat therapy, consider the following ways to help relieve your back pain:

  • Stay as active as possible with regular stretching and exercise routines
  • Practice proper posture at all times when standing and sitting
  • When sleeping, use a pillow, like the Dreamweaver By Snoozerpedic Body Pillow, to put support where you need it most
  • Wear comfortable shoes – avoid high heels
  • Use a lumbar support cushion while seated
  • Only with your doctor’s consent, take Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Heat therapy to ease muscle tension, spasms, and pain
  • Cold therapy to reduce inflammation

It is important to note that before you begin any type of back pain treatment or exercise, you should speak with your doctor. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more pain relief solutions. Or visit your local Relax The Back store to speak with one of our trained specialists.

6 Resolutions for a Pain-Free New Year

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If last year was spent dealing with pains, aches, and discomforts, vow to make this year a healthier, pain-free year with these 6 resolutions.

  • Resolve to listen to your body: No one knows your body or your discomforts more than you do. Be sure to listen to your body when it is giving you signs – take a break, change your eating or exercises habits, or make adjustments to your workspace or schedule.
  • Resolve to be active: Maintaining a regular workout routine will not only help you feel more energized and productive throughout the day, it will also help prevent future injuries. There are different exercises that can be done to help different parts of the back and spine. While cardio aids in losing weight that would otherwise drag down tendons, muscles, and ligaments in the lower back, a strong core will help support and protect the spine.
  • Resolve to make quality sleep a priority: Make sure you have a proper mattress and pillow to allow for a comfortable night’s rest as well as adequate support of the muscles and ligaments that support the spine. The positive effects of quality sleep include tissue repair and healing, reduced recovery time for injuries and improvements in mood and personal performance, to name a few.
  • Resolve to evaluate your workspace: For desk job workers, back, neck, and shoulder pain may be caused by a poor ergonomic workstation. Resolve to put an end to these aches and pains by setting up your workstation accordingly. Follow this visual guide to office ergonomics to maximize comfort, movement, and productivity.
  • Resolve to stretch: There are many benefits of daily stretching. This allows for flexibility in spinal muscles, helping ensure good posture and proper/normal alignment. Increased range of motion and flexibility help to prevent injuries from occurring. Stretching also relieves muscle tension, reduces fatigue and increases blood flow.
  • Resolve to drink more water: Staying hydrated not only helps with digestion and concentration but it is also very important for muscle recovery, spinal health and injury prevention. Aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces throughout the day. For example, if you weigh 130 lbs. aim to drink at least 65 oz. per day.

Prevent Pain During The Holidays

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While the holiday season brings time off of work, it can also bring about aches and pains due to overexertion. All of the hustle and bustle can contribute to unwelcome muscle fatigue and pain. Here are some simple tips to help you prevent pain during the holidays, so you can truly enjoy your time with friends and family:

  • Exercise: Don’t forgo your workout routine for the holidays. Take advantage of your time off to try a new exercise program or put in some extra time at the gym. Frequently performing gentle exercises like these low back exercises or foam roller exercises can also help keep muscles loose and prevent pain from happening.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and stay hydrated: If you’re attending holiday parties, know your nutritional needs and eat in moderation. Protein, fruits and vegetables provide nutrients for effective healing of soft tissue and muscles. Whereas excessive sugar can turn into fat, which hinders the healing process. Also be sure to always stay hydrated. Chronic muscle spasms and inflammation can be triggered by dehydration.
  • Adequate Sleep: Even when it seems like you have a never ending “to-do” list, making sure you get enough sleep should be a priority. Insufficient sleep can cause aches and pains to worsen over time.
  • Stress less: The holiday rush often times leads to feelings of stress and anxiety. Follow these tips to help reduce stress so you can relax and enjoy the holiday season.

Holiday Gift Guide

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Wondering what to get your loved ones this holiday season? We truly believe nothing brings joy like the gift of comfort.  Relax The Back’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide brings you the best gifts that are sure to relax, relieve pain and discomforts, restore muscles, and bring comfort to all members of the family.

Here are our top ten Ahh-inspiring gifts to help you shop for loved ones this season: