You know you’re getting old when you start complaining about your aching back.
It was last summer when it hit me—my back wasn’t hurting any more. I have had mid and lower back pain forever. I was constantly twisting around, trying to pop my back, hoping that one of the little cracking noises would offer more than a moment of relief. It was easy to blame my back pain on my sorry little temporary twin mattress. But despite no changes to my mattress, my back felt great! For me, I typically get lower, lower back pain just before my period. It’s about the only PMS symptom I’ve consistently had. But even that was no longer a problem after I went through that initial season of focusing on fitness and strengthening my core muscles.
That’s right– the difference had been exercise. Yeah! Exercise! Stomach exercises, specifically. One of the best ways to alleviate issues related to your bodily structure is to strengthen the muscles opposing the problem area. The back is the perfect example. When you’re experiencing lower back pain, strengthening your stomach muscles means your back is doing less of the work to hold yourself up, and that will alleviate the strain and pain on your lower back. If you have pain in your calf muscle, strengthen your shin muscles. Pain in your shoulders? Focus on exercises that will strengthen your pectoral muscles.
Yoga is another great way to help alleviate back trouble. Several years ago, I had this kink in my neck for probably close to three months. It was painful, especially when driving. I couldn’t turn my neck more than half way over my right shoulder without feeling stinging pain along my neck and shoulder. A friend had given me a gift card for a free yoga session, so I went to a slow-paced class called Restorative Yoga. It was very different than what you typically experience in a fitness-oriented yoga session. This was almost like getting a massage because of the slow, deliberate postures supported with pillows and blankets and straps. At one point during the class, I actually heard myself starting to snore because I was so relaxed. By the time the session was done, that stubborn, months-old kink was about 75% better. By the next day, it was completely gone.
As with any exercise, you want to check with your doctor to make sure the problem isn’t something more serious. And that’s not just a legal disclaimer. A friend recently was experiencing excruciating back pain. He went to the doctor and a chiropractor. They adjusted him, prescribed medication—nothing was helping. Finally, one smart doctor recommended testing that revealed a blood clot in my friend’s kidney. Seriously. Do not ignore back pain. It could be a symptom of something more serious. And even if it isn’t, there’s no reason to live with pain that might be easily fixed.