There are many exercises you can do to help relieve neck and back pain, but sometimes your condition is just so sore, the last thing you want to do is move about. Research suggests that returning to activity as soon as possible is advantageous for healing many musculoskeletal complaints so prolonged bed rest should be avoided.
Having said this, you will invariably require some rest time before you can engage in any restorative or therapeutic exercises. The following remedies are positions or movement patterns you can use to spare your spine further damage during this restful period.
Rolled towel exercise for neck pain:
A lot of neck pain complaints, mostly postural, can be attributed to poor sitting whilst at work. The natural curve of the neck is concave from behind and is known as the cervical lordosis. Whilst you may start off the day sitting with good posture, up straight nice and tall, invariably sitting posture will deteriorate throughout the day.
It is common to find workers sitting at their desks poking their chins forward towards the screen. Anatomically speaking, poked-chin posture involves increased flexion at the lower part of the neck, and increased extension at the upper part of the neck at the base of the skull. This disrupts the normal cervical lordosis and gives rise to stiffness and pain at the base of the skull and aching and discomfort around the shoulders. This is all because the body is now having to work extra hard to hold the head upon the shoulders.
To relieve the symptoms from sitting in this way, try using a rolled towel behind your neck when lying down. Ensure the towel is rolled thick enough such that when you are lying, your head is flush with your upper back, but not so thick that it props your head up like a pillow. Do so for 10-15 minutes. At the right thickness, you should feel well supported around the neck and able to relax the neck muscles completely thus giving them a much needed rest. Furthermore, over time this will passively restore the cervical lordosis.
Rolled towel exercise for upper back pain:
For the same reasons as above, desk workers in particular may suffer pain and discomfort in their upper back and shoulders region. Any posture that involves prolonged forward bending can result in pain between the shoulder blades and in turn, tightness or stiffness in the surrounding musculature.
Lying supine on a rolled towel placed vertically down the spine is an excellent way to undo the effects. A towel is preferred to a foam roller purely because of the softness of the towel versus the firmness of a roller. As you will find, this exercise is quite intense and you may only be able to tolerate a maximum of two minutes lying in this way.
When lying like this, allow your head, neck and arms to drop back as far as possible. These parts together act as a lever that helps to bend your spine back the other way. It is ideal to do this exercise on a bench so that your arms can drop further down past your body. To add further intensity to the exercise, you can perform it with arms outstretched.
The 90/90 position (a.k.a the astronaut position)
The 90/90 or astronaut position is an excellent rest position to try when you are suffering extremely painful lower back pain. Getting into this position decompresses your spine, taking any unwanted load off painful or injured areas so that you can at least catch your breath for a while. Whilst resting here, your body can get to work healing itself.
At home, you would try this up against your couch. Lie on the floor and bend your hips and knees both to 90 degrees so that your legs are lying on the seat of the couch. Stay here for about five minutes. It is called the astronaut position as this is the position your seat would face inside a space ship prior to blast off!
An alternative to the astronaut position is hook lying. Again, this is a rest position in which painful lower back pain should be relieved. It also reduces compressive forces through the lumbar spine but perhaps not so much as the astronaut position.
You simply lie on your back with your knees bent so that the soles of your feet rest on the floor. The exercise gets its name as the posture supposedly resembles the shape of a hook. Imagination may well be required.
Squat to sit
Painful lower back injuries make it particularly difficult to move from a standing to a sitting posture, and vice versa. You should use the squat movement pattern when trying to sit down or stand up. This gets you to bend at the hip joints as opposed to bending through your [already painful] spine, and is thus spine sparing.
Lunge to get to the floor
When you are suffering a painful lower back condition, it can be extremely difficult to move to the floor to pick an object up. You may also need to lie down to perform some of the above exercises and so knowing how to move safely to a lying position is vital.
Performing the lunge movement pattern allows you to protect your back at all times whilst moving to the floor. You have most likely heard people saying, bend your knees, but this really doesnt offer any help. When you think about movement patterns and how they can better assist you to perform different functions, you will have a better understanding on how to use your body safely and more efficiently.
*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.