Busy moms everywhere are looking forward to the start of a new school year. The August and September months bring a rush of meet-the-teacher events, back to school nights, school supply shopping, signing up for sports teams, and joining the parent-teacher groups.
If managing chronic back pain is on your back-to-school ToDo list too, don’t miss this quick guide to recognizing your triggers and tackling it for good.
Common Sources of Back Pain for Moms
Poor posture – whether it’s at work all day, running kids from activity to activity, or simply waiting in the school drop-off lane in the afternoon, chances are you are spending a good amount of your day sitting. While sedentary behavior has been linked to increased risk for many types of lifestyle diseases like heart disease and diabetes, it’s also the way you sit that could have a negative effect on your health.
Slouching in your chair with your spine in a c-shape where your shoulders are hunched forward, your spine is curved outwards, and your tailbone is tucked in is a surefire way to succumb to back pain. As the muscles in your back compensate for the unnatural shape of your spine, they become strained, inflamed, and stiff.
Text neck – more than ever, moms are glued to their smartphones – for work, socializing, scanning the news, checking in with family, making shopping lists, and more. If you find yourself craning your head and neck far past your shoulders to stare down at a smartphone you’re holding at your waist, you could be doing serious damage to your spine.
Text neck, or Forward Head Syndrome, has been shown to increase the pull on your back muscles by upwards of 30 to 60 pounds for each 15-degree increment you tilt your head forward. The harder your muscles have to work to essentially hold your head up, the tenser and more inflamed they become.
Disrupted sleep – restarting a school year routine can take days to weeks for some families and getting back into yours could affect your sleep. Low-quality slumber can quickly add up to back and neck pain the following day not to mention mental fog, fatigue, and headaches. The quality of your sleep depends on both how long you allow yourself to sleep, how supportive your pillow and mattress are, and how cool and quiet your environment is.
When it comes to back to school back pain, don’t forget about your kids too! A new school year often means a heavy backpack to carry around all day, especially for kids in middle and high school. Lugging around 10 to upwards of 25 and 30-pound backpacks can lead to muscle strain, headaches, neck stiffness, shoulder pain, you name it.
If your child is overloaded, help them find a way to alleviate the extra weight. Perhaps it’s finding digital versions of their school books, getting a more supportive backpack with a waist belt or even better, a backpack on wheels which they can pull instead of carry.
Recovering from Back Pain
Don’t let achy muscles and a stiff back be your constant companion this school year. Keep these smart tips in mind for recovering from and managing back pain.
Stick your tail out – one of the best ways to support your spine during all those hours you find yourself sitting is to stick your rear end out when lowering down to your seat. This position turns the pelvis out and keeps you from rounding out your back which straightens your spine and alleviates pressure on the vertebrae and discs inside it.
Upgrade your bed – if you are waking up each morning with back pain, it’s time to assess your sleeping situation. Take steps towards pain relief like making sure you’re not sleeping with a pillow which angles your neck upwards at night or using body pillows for stress relief and neutral spine alignment (especially if you sleep on your side).
Keep exercising – routine physical activity can help prevent you from gaining extra weight that contributes to back pain as well as strengthen core muscles that support a strong back. It’s hard to find time during a busy school year to exercise everyday so work in short spurts of activity during your daily tasks like doing 30 seconds of squats with a load of laundry, holding a plank while food cooks, or simply taking stairs instead of the elevator at work.
Be smarter with technology – avoid the effects of text neck by holding your phone up in front of your face when texting or skimming social media, using a computer at eye-level to send messages or place calls, or using talk-to-text features instead of typing each message out you wish to send.
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