For those nagging, and sometimes breath-stealing, back pains you just can’t get your hands on.
This simple, self-care method is for back pains that are muscular in nature: you know you’ve tweaked muscles the wrong way, made them do too much or they’re just screaming about being stuck in the same position day in, day out on the job. Be sure not to apply pressure to bone joints, as they might be misaligned, degenerated or in some small way damaged, without your knowing.
What to Use
The tool to use is the golden retriever’s best friend: the tennis ball.
Before you start, be aware that lying on a hard floor provides the strongest pressure so you might wish to begin with lying on a bed if your pain is severe or you’re not too sure about this whole thing. I like to take small steps when trying something new so do whatever is most comfortable for you. The tennis ball provides good resistance, yet has enough ‘give’ to not torture you while the tissues are taking their time about letting go, and the surface of the bed will soften it further.
If there is a position in which you can lie down that relieves the pain to any degree, adopt that position. You want to be able to lie here without holding yourself tense.
What to Do
1. Breathe. Take three full, deep, slow breaths in, and whoosh them out, settling down to an easy, steady breathing rhythm. Now, take the tennis ball in your hand and get ready to start at the periphery of your pain.
2. Place the tennis ball under your back in a place that does not hurt, close to where it does hurt. Rest on it. Get a sense of how it feels to sink down on top of the ball pain-free. Take as many minutes as you need throughout this whole process. Each step can take one to five minutes.
3. When the first spot it comfortable, gradually explore and move the ball in small steps toward the pain, stopping and resting your body weight on the ball as you come across tender or tight areas until you begin to connect with the primary pain zone, then back off a little. Leave the ball in place.
5. Breathe. Rest.
6. Let yourself sink down onto the ball till it becomes comfortable.
7. Maintaining your breathing and keeping your whole body relaxed as much as possible, slowly inch the tennis ball closer again toward the painful area until you reach the edge of it. Do not rush. Stop here.
8. Rest your body weight again on the ball until it no longer hurts and your body feels at ease.
9. Continue, slowly and carefully in this manner around and toward the core of the pain.
You’ll likely find that the core is a very small area now pinpointed. It might take several minutes to alleviate once you are on that point. A few short sessions of doing this might be needed to begin to make a significant difference. Each of us is unique but most of us respond to this simple technique so I encourage you to stay with it, go slow, deepen your breathing and do not hold your body up off the ball.
If it is too painful to sink into, you’ve moved too quickly to that spot. So back off, move outward a little again and repeat the process.
How it Works
The moving toward, away from and around the pain is softening the surrounding tissues and releasing the ripple effect of the initiating spasm. Allow time for response to happen. Facilitating change in the body is not like pressing a button or keypad. The results are seldom instant, although sometimes quick. The connective tissues, like tendons and sheaths, need time to soften and lengthen, nerves need to calm down and muscle fibers need to respond to the shifting inner environment.
Focus on easing, slowing and deepening your breathing. The extra helping of oxygen will assist the process on a cellular level, and the physical movement of the ribs in and out will gently mobilize the spine and associated muscles. Be patient with your poor body for it is doing its best to support you and cannot be rushed. We do have the innate capacity to re-balance ourselves if we allow it.
The 15 or 25 minutes it might take to provide your own pain relief is surely worth the investment if it will eliminate the need for an emergency visit to your massage therapist or chiropractor.
Once your pain has subsided, consider what might have caused it. Did an identifiable event take place or is this perhaps an accumulation of poor postural habits? Are you exerting the right balance of stress-relief activities in your daily life? Would some outside help support you in making the small changes that would prevent such pain in the future and indeed enhance your overall health and well-being?
The cost of corrective healthcare reaches deeply into our pockets as well as our souls. Yet, the old adage, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, is as true today as when it was first spoken. We can all use a little help from time to time and sometimes that’s all we need to re-balance and move forward with energy and vitality.
Try to get the support you need before another crisis hits your back. Of course, I’m always available to keep your body balanced, help you recover from such episodes and work with you to help you take care of yourself. The most important thing when dealing with back pain is that you can take charge of it.
(Note: the information provided in this article is educational in nature and is not intended to substitute for medical examination and treatment. If you have an ongoing condition that is not improving, seek medical attention.)