“Up, down, left, right, jump, drop, pick up, spin, pose.” Those were the cues given to me by my eight-year-old niece over Christmas as we choreographed a dance that we then performed 20+ times. It was fun; it was painful. We did it in slow-mo and then also in “insane mode” which meant having to do the whole routine in under 10 seconds.
I loved every second of it: she was laughing and kept saying “one more time” when I put her down. It hurt me when I eventually had to say “ok, that’s enough now” because my back gave way from all the lifting and spinning and I knew that if I kept going, I would hurt myself quite badly. I am only 28.
The back bears the weight of day-to-day play.
It was the first Christmas when, once all the activities and parties were over and I went back to my home and sat down, all the dances, games, cooking and general excitable exertion came to a head and I needed to relax. I could feel a dull ache in my lower back that twinged and throbbed for a few days; my shoulder blades were sore and my neck felt stiff–I had genuinely maxed out my body, which was something I didn’t really take seriously as a possibility to happen, and the back bears the brunt of what we put our body through.
I don’t want to stop dancing, and I don’t want to begin holding myself back in fear of pulling a muscle. Luckily, it is also the time of year when we reflect and set goals for ourselves. We have seen the room for improvement. For me, I want to work on making sure my back is as strong as possible (that, and explore more mediaeval castles, but this is a blog about back care so I will keep my focus there).
Care-Free or Care-Full Holiday
I enjoy the holidays, I love to spend time with my family and I am lucky enough and at the age where there are new, younger family members who bring the magic back to Christmas. They are excitable and have energy levels that I couldn’t match even after 5 coffees. But I try to match them because I want to add to their enjoyment and I want to help create special memories for them, like the ones I had.
I leave everything about adult life at the door. I don’t have a job, I don’t have a mortgage and I don’t have a leak that is only getting worse with the Scottish winter weather. None of that exists when I am asked to dance, to be a horse or to give shoulder rides.
Even with adults, I want to help out with chores and lighten the burden of all that “boring” behind-the-scenes Christmas stuff that you never really think about as a child: cleaning up, taking empty bottles to the recycling bin, putting the good crockery back into the high cupboard, etc.
No breaks: many hands make light work in the kitchen.
I want to say “yes” when asked to do something that might make someone smile. But I can’t, not always. Not because I want some time to myself or I'm fed up and bored, no, it is only because my back hurts. A dull ache that I know (from working at a company focused on back care) will turn into a long-term problem if not taken care of. Back pain is starting to limit my life in a noticeable way, and it’s scary how quickly it came on.
It’s Only Once A Year
A year only ends once, so surely we can put our body through the wringer just once and then take 11 months to recover. Sure, probably. But, how many of us actually focus on rest and recovery during the year? We are understandably busy and so the end of the year is generally the relaxing period when things start to settle down and we don’t put as much pressure on ourselves and we let ourselves go a bit: we dance.
However, the toll of the previous 11 months is stored in our bodies: days filled with prolonged sitting, poor posture, and ‘forgotten’ evening yoga all contribute to the stress that accumulates in the joints in our back (Kendal et al., 2005).
The back, our central support system, serves as a magnet for stress accumulation because It bears the weight of our daily lives (Orcan, KenHub.com, 2022) and all that stress in the joints is only the first domino to fall: it then goes on to trigger a knock-on effect that travels throughout our bodies, leading to other symptoms such as headaches, shoulder pain, tight hamstrings, Achilles tendonitis and much more.
Learn more about the importance of stiff joints from Chongsu Lee: our resident physio and inventor of BackHug.
I Love My Back...
...But I don't take good enough care of it.
I didn’t expect better back care to be the takeaway from the Christmas period but this new sensation of pain that, for the first time in my life, stopped me from doing something I loved and has caused me to reflect on how I treat my body and how I can better care for it.
So how should I take care of it? You are reading this on a blog from a back care company so you know that I am aware of the risks of not treating the back right and I have written (or helped to write) blogs on the importance of ergonomics and how the mind impacts the body and what exercises we can do to help.
And I do put all this advice into practice: I have a standing desk, I stretch when I remember to and I take at least 30 minutes a day to be mindful of my body, thinking about where it hurts and why that may be so I can make a conscious effort to improve.
Two images that capture the moment I felt something twinge, a face in pain.
Even still, I am in pain.
All those things are good preventative measures to help ease the burden taken on by the back but stretches and standing desks can only do so much. What helps long-term is treating the joints regularly. This is because loosening the joints takes the pressure off the nerves which minimises the pain.
BackHug is a perfect solution for this as it treats and loosens your joints as effectively as a physiotherapist would (BackHug was invented by a physio to replicate the same methodology used in his manual practice). You can use BackHug as many times as you want in the comfort of your own home. Once you have it and make it a habit, you will notice the difference.
BackHug gives you the chance to relax your body while receiving physio-quality treatment at home. Why not try it for 30-days to see if it helps you?
I don’t use BackHug as much as I should. I have the same excuses as everyone else: I don’t have the time, I keep forgetting, and my pain isn’t bad enough yet. However, as I reflect on this Christmas period with a pillow rolled up under my back to give it support and to try and reduce the strain, I realise that my back is weak. It is a problem that is only going to get worse the longer I leave it.
I need to be better at taking care of my back before it’s too late. I want to be able to spin my niece around until she says “Enough”, not the other way around. I want to be healthy, I want to be happy. Only now have I really realised how big of a role my back plays in that feeling: it is make or break, literally.
I don’t want to end on such a downer, so Merry Christmas and a happy new year from everyone at BackHug. We hope you have a happy and healthy 2024.
The UK BackHug Team
The BackHug Hanoi Team