Heat up my heat pack for my bad back

I have been sitting here in an absolutely freezing cold office all day. It’s been a really awfully gloom and wet typical Melbourne Winter day here today and I look out of my window at my computer desk and all I feel is lucky to be indoors! I mean, it’s so icy that even with the heater on inside, it’s still cold and the heater is already on twenty two degrees! What’s going on?

I leave my desk for five minutes (to heat up my heat pack for my bad backs) and I return to my desk and my office chairs feel damp, it’s that cold! Ok, I know, perhaps if I closed the window it would not be as bad, BUT, I hate feeling so boxed in constantly so have a window open and a nanna, oops I mean throw rug over my lap while I work. Yes, it is certainly a sight worth laughing over considering I am on the lower end of early thirties in age.

I have been very glad to be working at home today as it has meant that I have not needed to leave the house once. Not even to open the front door as I have had no deliveries today either which has just been lovely. Ahhh, the benefits of working from home meaning that I am still in my pyjamas now and it’s past 8.00pm here! Yes, I have had a shower….but got into clean pyjamas after as they were the toastiest thing I could think of.

Get the perfect height for your computer desk

Here is how you too can get the perfect height for your computer desk to ward off bad backs for life, well, for the most part anyway. These tips will reduce the risk of strain caused by inappropriate computer desk height.

How do I check my desk height is correct?

  • Your computer desk should be at approximately the same level as your elbows (your elbows should be 90 degrees). If it’s too low, raise by lifting it up with boards, blocks or books under the legs and if it is too high, you can lower it either by cutting the legs down to a better height, or raising the height of your office chair. You can even use a footrest if you need to adjust but don’t want to cut anything off that beautiful investment piece desk you bought!
  • Consider purchasing an adjustable height desk. These desks are quite popular and may come in especially handy if you are not the only one who uses your desk.

How do I reduce neck pain and bad neck posture when sitting or working at my desk?

  • You should always aim to keep your shoulders relaxed. Doing posture awareness exercises and bringing your shoulder blades back can certainly help and are worth a try.
  • Learn how to position yourself with good posture. There are many websites that will show you how.
  • Make sure you’re the right distance from your computer monitor at all times.
  • Use your work breaks to stretch and exercise your back or neck, walking around helps also.

Office must have: an ergonomic kneeling chair

When it comes to office must-haves, I’m sure the first things on your list were an awesome computer, a phone, maybe even a desk. Lately, the first thing on my list has been an ergonomic kneeling chair . Having recently experienced a bad bout of back pain, my bad backs  could no longer handle a regular chair and I had to go on a hunt for something new. Spending such long hours at my desk each week meant that my posture was growing increasingly worse, and my pain and headaches were also worsening as a result. This was affecting not only the quality of my work but my social and family life as well. I was grumpy and tired all the time and kept taking medication that only served as a blanket solution to the problems. The chair has undoubtedly changed my life – I’m happy, my work level has increased and most importantly, my back pain has almost disappeared. An ergonomic kneeling chair works on the basis that it keeps your spine in proper alignment at all times. By positioning your body so that it can’t move either way, you no longer have to worry about slouching or hunching over while you work. My entire change in attitude has resulted in a few of my colleagues purchasing a kneeling chair for themselves as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my workplace introduces them as a whole pretty soon. My doctor also told me to reassess the way that I sleep, and what I’m sleeping on to help with my back pain. He suggested a memory foam topper  for my mattress, which supports and holds your body in position while you sleep, meaning less work for your back as a result. I definitely wake up less during the night and feel loads better in the morning, so the combination of the two is definitely working for me!


Ergonomic chairs

Ergonomic chairs can play a huge role in being largely beneficial to the reduction and removal of work-related back pain. Because we spend so many hours a day sitting at our desks, if your chair isn’t designed to keep you spine properly aligned you may experience upper and lower back pain, and even headaches and neck pain as a result. Ensuring your chair is ergonomic will help to improve productivity, reduce pain and improve posture. Bad posture can easily become a serious issue if not treated quickly with the right chair and office equipment.

A kneeling chair  is a great alternative to your usual office chair. Encouraging a balanced, neutral seating position, the kneeling chair aligns your spine and takes pressure off of your stomach and lower back muscles. They allow you do adopt a relaxed and comfortable seating position whilst also ensuring your posture is correct and body properly aligned. By easing your hips into a forward tilt position, the kneeling chair encourages and ergonomic posture that helps to prevent back and neck pain through perfect alignment. Avoid favouring one side through crossing your legs and make sure that your line of vision is perfect for reading the computer screen.

By investing in an ergonomic office chair, you will be ensuring that you no longer get pack pain as a result of sitting at your desk. Your office mates will be incredibly jealous, and the benefits of ergonomic office furniture are endless. You will soon see how the investment is well worth the spend – to rid yourself of back pain and headaches at work is priceless. Think of all the work you’ll be able to get done!

Best Ways to Prevent Back Pain

At some point in our lives, most of us will experience back pain.

Whether you’ve got an acute, chronic or referred pain condition, chances are that you will feel debilitated or overwhelmed by the unpleasant sensations.  Your life might even be affected to a point where you can’t participate in day-to-day activities.

As Bad Backs guest blogger and physiotherapist Matt Baker explains, “Pain is a complex symptom that can affect us both physically and mentally. Your response is as individual as you are.”

He recommends cold or heat therapy as an effective way of getting pain relief. For acute injuries, cold therapy (in the form of crushed ice, a bag of frozen peas or gel ice pack) can be used to help constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling around the damaged area.

Meanwhile, heat therapy (via hot packs or infrared heat) can be applied to chronic, longer-term injuries to relax muscles, reduce pain and ease mobility. “Heat therapy causes dilation of the blood vessels, which improves circulation, bringing fresh blood to the injured area, helping the body to receive the ‘fuel’ and ‘building blocks’ required for tissue repair and remove unwanted waste or dead tissue,” explains Matt.

Back pain is an incredibly complex condition. So while cold and heat therapy are fantastic pain management tools, we all know that one of the best ways to treat back problems is to prevent it from happening in the first place!

Recently we posted an article about posture management for bad backs. We discussed the mechanics of maintaining an optimal posture in daily life, from work to driving, housework, gardening and even relaxing at home. We also talked about knowing when to help yourself and when to seek the support of qualified professionals.

We’ve had a fantastic response to that article, so we thought we’d delve a bit further into preventive measures for back pain.

Guide to a healthy back

Here’s a simple, yet comprehensive check list to follow for a healthy and happy back:

  • Develop body awareness and don’t push through the pain barrier beyond what is healthy for your back. Educate yourself about body mechanics.
  • Practice good posture, otherwise known as the ‘plumb line’ or neutral pelvic position.
  • Sit ergonomically in your work or home office with good lumbar support, a proper chair and your computer adjusted at the right height.
  • If you have to sit for long periods of time or work in heavy manual labour, take regular breaks to move and stretch.
  • Be careful when lifting, stretching or moving objects. Use your legs and never your back to pick things up.
  • Stretch your neck, hamstrings and other parts of your body before playing sports or doing any vigorous exercise.
  • Develop strong core (abdominal and back) muscles to support your back.
  • Try yoga, tai chi or Pilates to build your back, get better posture, and improve balance and flexibility.
  • Regularly visit a qualified professional to maintain a healthy back before any problems arise.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by avoiding smoking and keeping a healthy weight. Being overweight unnecessarily strains your back muscles.
  • Exercise regularly. Swimming and walking are low-impact but highly effective activities.
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of nutrients (such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin D) to build strong bones and prevent back pain.
  • Manage your stress with relaxation techniques.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress to protect your back and enjoy a good night’s rest.


Managing Pain through the Mind, Body, Spirit Matrix

If you’re one of the many Australians out there who suffers from a chronic back condition, it might be hard to imagine that you can ever live a pain-free life.

Problems often start as a simple muscular imbalance. When left untreated, they can deepen into the cellular level or even start to affect the central nervous system’s pain receptors. At this point, people start to lose confidence in their body’s innate capacity to be healthy.

But it is possible for people with lower back pain to live a pain free life, without depending on medication.

There are a range of therapists and health professionals out there who say that the key to achieving a pain-free life and reclaiming one’s natural energy and vitality lies in healing the  mind, body and spirit. But before that can happen, first there needs to be a shift in mindset.

Maria Davis, the founder and director of Melbourne-based Embodimove, is an example of someone who has made it her professional mission to help people with a range of conditions, including lower back pain, enjoy ‘living pain free’.


“People with either acute or chronic long term pain caused by muscular and skeletal conditions can lead a pain-free life,” Maria says.

“I’m not simplifying or trivialising pain because we have to respect those messages, but there is a clear potentiality for unravelling the pain matrix. People need to make a decision to step over the line and be open to the possibility of healing because pain is a message, often a very strong one.”

Maria has developed unique treatments that integrate somatic movement, remedial and therapeutic massage, Pilates, exercises and intuitive healing to retrain the body and mind to understand what it’s like to be pain free.

“Using a variety of techniques, I work with the central nervous system, fascia tissue, connective musculature, pain inhibitors and receptors to give people a feeling of what it’s like to be pain free, whether for a second, a minute, an hour or days,” Maria explains.

“Over time, that grows into greater awareness, consciousness, potentiality and bliss. The dynamics of the thinking process is changed because we’re retraining the neural synapses to activate the body’s support mechanisms.”

In the case of someone with sciatic pain, for instance, Maria will investigate the whole body as one energetic field, examining all its different parts and functionings.

“I work on the physical – getting rid of stuckness by touch therapy modalities. I also treat the body as a whole and respect the connectivity which underlies a lot of the pain we feel in our bodies,” she says.

 For more information, visit http://www.embodimove.com/

An example of another practitioner who advocates the mind-body paradigm is Dr John Sarno, an American physician who has written several books about the mind and its relationship to back pain over the past few decades.

He has long argued that the brain and stress from repressing unconscious emotions such as anger leads to a condition known as Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS). This in turn causes chronic problems such as back pain.

On a physical level, what happens is that the unconscious emotions lead the nervous system to mildly restrict the oxygen supply to the involved tissues. It is the mild oxygen deprivation that causes the pain.

Dr Sarno says that because the brain cleverly creates pain as a distraction to avoid dealing with difficult emotions, psychological, not physical treatments are needed to deal with back pain. It’s that simple.

To read more about TMS, click.

Author: Katherine MacPherson