Tag Archive for: back pain relief

Back Pain

Could Back Trouble Be the Root of Your Knee Pain?

One of the most important things to get right when it comes to successfully resolving knee pain is to make sure you’ve correctly identified the root cause.

Sometimes, your knee pain is due to a problem within your knee joint – such as with arthritis or torn cartilage. But other times (and more often than you think) – the source of your knee pain can be coming from elsewhere – such as your lower back. 

Did you know that 25% of the time, your knee pain is due to a problem within your back – even when you don’t have any back pain?

One of the tell-tale signs you’ve misidentified the root source of your knee pain is that it doesn’t go away after trying everything that “should” help it. Perhaps you’ve tried ice, heat, pain medication, foam rolling, strengthening, stretching – even physical therapy – but no matter what – your knee pain just won’t seem to go away. If the root source of your knee pain is within the knee joint – and you address your joint with any combination of the above mentioned interventions – it will help.  

But how do you figure out if the root cause of your knee pain is in your lower back? 

Pay attention to how your knee pain behaves. When your lower back is the source, you’ll typically have difficulty pinpointing exactly where your knee pain is. It may feel dull, achy, or even numb at times. It might move around, or perhaps travel up or down your thigh. One day your knee might feel great, and you’ll think the problem is finally gone – while other days it could feel excruciating. When your knee pain is more vague and moves around a lot, or it comes and goes throughout the day for no apparent reason, there is a good chance that your back is the root source. With true knee pain, you can usually point to where it hurts and describe pretty well when and where it will bother you.

So how does a misdiagnosis like this even happen?

One of the biggest culprits is imaging. If you’re over age 40, and you get an X-ray or MRI taken of your knees, there is a 60-80% chance they’ll find arthritis or meniscus (cartilage) tears. Studies have shown that arthritic changes and meniscus tears are a normal part of aging, so they will show up on your images whether you have any knee pain or not. While I have many stories about people getting the root cause of their knee pain wrong – one in particular stands out in my mind that I want to share with you. 

I remember a 56 year old tennis player who had knee surgery to “clean out” some wear and tear from arthritis and a meniscus tear. This was after trying several months of physical therapy that had “failed”. She was told the procedure was routine and that her recovery would be quick. Sadly, after three months, she was still limping around and her knee was feeling worse than pre-surgery. The pain had moved, it spread more to her thigh now and it ached a lot more at night and when she wasn’t moving around. She could play tennis, but her knee felt more tired now and her leg would just ache. When she came to me for a second opinion, the very first thing I did was screen her lower back for problems. She thought this was weird at first because she had never had any real back pain. But it turns out that when we started moving her back around and testing it – her knee pain reacted to this. The root cause of her knee pain was actually in her spine. So it made sense all the physical therapy she had for her knee, and the knee surgery didn’t work.

If you’ve been suffering from knee pain for a while, and typical treatments don’t seem to be working, it’s worth considering that the root source of your problem could be your lower back. 

If your knee pain seems to come on slowly or out of nowhere, if you have trouble pinpointing exactly where the pain is, if it moves around and changes from day to day, or if it runs up or down your thigh – it’s worth getting your lower back checked by a mechanical pain specialist before give up all together – and especially before jumping into any surgery or procedure on your knee.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch or sign up for her upcoming Masterclass for Knee Pain Sufferers CLICK HERE.



Sciatica

Battling Sciatica? Here’s what to Avoid and what you should do Instead

Did you know that nearly four out of five people will suffer from a debilitating back pain episode at some point in their lives and that it can result in sciatica?

“Sciatica” is a term used to describe searing pain, burning, or numbness that runs from your back and down your leg, often below your knee and into your foot. It occurs because something in your lower back is irritating the nerve that sends signals to your leg. It can be caused by anything that puts pressure on and/or irritates your sciatic nerve –  such as herniated or bulging discs. 

What a lot of people don’t know is that you can have sciatic symptoms without actually having any back pain. Sciatic symptoms can occur just in one place in your leg – like your knee and/or foot – or run down the whole leg as described above. Regardless of how your sciatica is behaving – there are some general “best practices” that almost all versions of sciatica will respond to. 

Here’s what you should avoid when you’re battling sciatica – as well as what to do instead:

What to Avoid:

1. Soft beds and couches 

While it may feel better in the moment – lying in soft beds or couches will ultimately aggravate your sciatica. When you lie in soft beds or couches – it forces you into a slouched posture – which puts unwanted pressure on your already irritated nerves. What’s tricky is that you often won’t notice the aggravation while you’re in the slouched position. It won’t be until later, perhaps when you get up to walk or move around, that you’ll feel worse. Because of this, people mistakenly attribute the aggravation of their sciatica to the activity they just did instead of the prolonged, slouched position they were assuming perhaps just minutes or hours before.

2. Child’s pose and stretching forward.

Just because a stretch feels good, doesn’t mean it is good – another big misconception when it comes to sciatica. Since sciatica is often caused by a bulging or herniated disc that is putting pressure on your nerve – you want to avoid anything that is going to increase that pressure. When you stretch forward – like in child’s pose – you’re opening up the space in between your vertebrae (intervertebral space). In between each vertebrae lies your discs. Although it feels good “in the moment” when you’re stretching forward – and may even temporarily relieve your sciatica – this relief won’t last. By opening up your intervertebral space – you’re making it easier for your discs to protrude out and irritate your nerves – unknowingly prolonging or worsening your sciatica.

3. Letting your MRI dictate treatment.

As already mentioned, sciatica often involves bulging discs – and an MRI will typically confirm this. But here’s what you might not know… Research has shown us that lots of folks (more than 60%) have bulging discs showing up on their MRI’s, but they don’t all have back pain or sciatic symptoms. What that means is that while sciatica is often caused by a bulging disc, a bulging disc doesn’t always guarantee you’ll have sciatica. Why is this important? Because when you allow your MRI findings to dictate your treatment plan, you’re more likely to undergo a procedure or surgery that might not be necessary. Removing the bulging disc material or fusing your spine together might take the pressure off the nerve temporarily, but if the underlying issue is a movement or mechanical problem, and it’s not addressed, it’s only a matter of time before your problem comes back and/or shows up in a different area of your spine.

What to Do:

1. Go for Walks. 

Walking is one of the best things you can do for back pain – even though it may seem counterintuitive to do so when you’ve got pain running down your leg. Walking is an upright activity that is generally good for sciatica versus the slouched, curved posture you have when sitting. When you walk, pay close attention to what happens in your leg. Do your symptoms worsen or start to get better? If they worsen, certainly stop and seek professional guidance. But if your leg starts feeling better – then the walking is likely good for your sciatica.

2. Pay attention to your Posture.

This may seem trivial – but maintaining good posture is critical when you’re suffering from sciatica. When your sciatic nerve is irritated, it becomes highly sensitive to postural changes in your lower back (especially slouched postures). Whether you’re sitting or standing – you want to maintain the natural S-curve of your spine as best as you can. I recommend to my clients they use a lumbar roll whenever they are sitting to make maintaining this posture easier. Correcting your posture alone is often not enough to get rid of your sciatica, but it can keep you from getting worse, and prevent it from coming back if you’ve successfully eliminated your sciatic symptoms.

3. Talk to a Mechanical Pain Specialist.

Did you know that 70-80% of all musculoskeletal pain is mechanical in nature? Both back pain and sciatica can fall into this “mechanical pain” category – which is caused by slowly developing movement problems or habits that eventually result in stiffness and mobility restrictions in your spine. These restrictions can lead to irritated structures, such as nerves. So if your sciatica is due to a mechanical problem – it’s not going to permanently improve with pills, procedures or surgery. You’ll need to find a mechanical pain specialist who can help correct and restore your movement patterns for a long-term solution you can maintain on your own.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her guide to back pain CLICK HERE or to get in touch, email her at [email protected].

avoid back pain when raking leaves

5 Tips to Avoid Back Pain when Raking Leaves

We are in peak leaf-raking season right now in New England. Leaves are everywhere – and the daily sound of leaf blowers in my neighborhood has become somewhat meditative. I love Fall – but I don’t love raking leaves. And raking leaves is even worse when you’re suffering from back pain.

The good news – it’s not as hard as you think to avoid back pain while doing this repetitive, monotonous activity…

Here are 5 tips to help you avoid back pain when you’re raking leaves:

1. Take a walk before you start.

Walking is a really great activity for your back in general, but it’s also a really easy way to warm-up your entire body ahead of an hour or more of repetitive raking. Personally, I love nothing more than taking a walk in the cool, crisp Fall air.

Why not take a quick walk around the block before you get into your raking?

This simple activity will bring blood flow to your arms, legs, and spine – and get all your joints moving and warm ahead of the full body activity that is raking.

2. Stretch every 30 minutes.

The biggest “danger” to your back when it comes to raking leaves is the repetitive nature of it – specifically the frequent bending and rotation of your spine.

Our spines were designed to hold us upright, not to bend and twist over and over again in the same direction. One of the simplest ways to protect your back while raking leaves, or any other repetitive activity, is to take quick and frequent rest periods to stretch. Every 30 min or so, stop what you’re doing, and give yourself a simple stretch backwards. This very simple action can go a long way in avoiding excessive back pain while raking.

3. Bend with your legs and hips.

As mentioned above – one of the worst activities for your lower back is repetitive bending and rotation – which is very easy to do if you’re not paying attention while raking leaves.

One way to avoid this is to use your hips and legs to bend and rotate. Using your legs and hips to bend and get lower to the ground when raking minimizes the bending at your spine – and pivoting at your pelvis to throw the leaves away minimizes the rotation to your spine.

Don’t get me wrong, your back will still likely be sore after taking even when “doing everything right” – but the stress will be significantly less and can help you avoid throwing out your back a day or two later – because yes – this is the timeframe when it will usually occur if you didn’t use good habits while raking your leaves.

4. Engage your core.

You don’t need six-pack abs to prevent back pain while raking leaves, but being mindful of your core can be super beneficial and it certainly won’t hurt you. Most back injuries occur when you least expect it… coughing, sneezing, picking something light off the floor.

These activities are so mindless and automatic that you’re typically not paying attention to what your core might be doing – or not doing. Raking leaves is an equally mindless activity. Each time you pull the rake toward you or lift it, think about drawing your belly in and engaging your abs. This will help keep your spine more supported and stable while raking.

5. Keep moving afterwards.

What you do after raking is equally as important as what you do during to help prevent back pain.

One of the biggest mistakes people make after a repetitive or strenuous activity (like raking) is to slump on the couch or recliner and rest. This is one of the worst things you can do to your spine because it’s more pliable and vulnerable after strenuous activity. When you put yourself in a relaxed and sustained bending position – after all that repetitive bending – it can be the icing on the cake.

You go to stand up and “boom” – there goes your back. I see it all the time. Do yourself a favor and go for another walk after raking to cool down, and be mindful of the posture you rest in after all that hard work.

Hopefully these tips give you a few things to think about before you go raking, and most importantly, avoid unwanted back pain so you can enjoy this beautiful fall season.

Are you local to Portsmouth, NH and looking for help with your back pain?

Consider speaking to one of my specialists.

You can tell us everything thats been going on and we’ll see if we’re fit to help you – and give you all of the information you need to make the best decisions for your health.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her guide to back pain CLICK HERE or to get in touch, email her at [email protected]

plantar fasciitis

Your Pain’s Location May Not Be Its Source

Your Pain’s Location May Not Be Its Source

Pain is a confusing topic. And there’s lots of advice out there on what to do about it.

Should you rest? Should you exercise? Apply heat or ice? Do you see a doctor? Or let it go away on its own? 

Before you can even think about a solution to your pain, you must first accurately determine where it’s coming from. If you have pain in your knee, and it’s coming from your back, for example, the best treatment in the world isn’t going to fix it. Inaccurate diagnosis of pain is one of the biggest reasons why so many people suffer longer than they need to, and why they undergo unnecessary surgeries. You must accurately determine the source of your pain for treatment to be effective. And the location of your pain is not a reliable way to figure out where it’s coming from. 

For example,

I’ve met people who’ve suffered from unrelenting tennis elbow for years, only to find out it was coming from their neck. It’s why all the elbow and arm treatment in the world wasn’t solving their problem. I’ve met people who’ve undergone major knee surgery and it failed – only to find out later they never actually had a knee problem. Their pain was coming from their lower back – it just got missed – or was never even considered.

Isolated extremity pain (knees, elbows, shoulders) is one of the most mis-diagnosed problems in the musculoskeletal world. In a study published in the Journal of Manipulative Therapy, Richard Rosedale, et al found that over 40% of people suffering from isolated extremity pain had a spinal source responsible for their symptoms. In other words, the pain they were feeling in their knee or shoulder was actually coming from their back or neck (respectively).

Confused? I don’t blame you. But more importantly, how do you reliably figure out the source of your pain when it’s not always where you’re feeling it?

As already mentioned, the most common place for this to happen is with extremities.

If you’ve got shoulder, elbow, or knee pain, and you don’t recall having a specific injury to it, you must consider that it could be coming from your spine. There’s a 44% chance that it is. Where this gets really confusing is that typically, when you’ve got isolated knee or shoulder pain that won’t go away, your doctor will order an MRI. And if you’re over 40 years old, the MRI will almost always show “something”. It could be a torn rotator cuff, torn meniscus, arthritis, or wear and tear.

What most people don’t realize is that these findings are quite normal and happen naturally as you age. Just because they show up in your MRI – doesn’t mean they are responsible for your pain. Despite studies showing this to be true, doctors continue to order these tests and rely on them to make important decisions about treatment. It’s how people end up undergoing unnecessary procedures or surgery.

Whenever I meet someone with isolated extremity pain, especially if it came out of nowhere, I always consider that it could be coming from their spine. How can you figure this out? Well, it’s challenging to figure it out on your own. But if you work with a movement specialist who understands this concept – you’ll be able to figure this out accurately. The basic premise is that if you can move your spine in specific directions – repeatedly – and influence the symptoms you feel in your extremity – then there is a very good chance your problem is coming from your spine. Or at the very least, your spine is involved. And whenever your spine is responsible solely or partially for pain elsewhere – and it’s ignored – your problem will persist and likely get worse over time. 

If you’ve had pain in one of your extremities for a while now, and it’s not going away, it’s possible you’ve missed the source.

That source could be your spine. And if you’re considering some kind of surgery or procedure, you definitely want to rule this out first. Specialized movement exams are one of the most reliable ways to figure this out – studies have proven it. If you’ve had unexplained pain in your knee or shoulder that isn’t going away, look for someone who understands this and can give you a proper movement exam to accurately identify the source of your pain.

Ready to get help with your pain?

Request to speak to one of my specialists to see if we would be the right fit to help you get out of pain. CLICK HERE to request a Free Discovery with one of my specialists.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group.

Tips to Fix Morning Back Pain

Morning Back Pain? Things you can do.

One of the most common complaints from chronic back pain sufferers is back pain first thing in the morning.

For some folks it rears its ugly head on occasion and appears out of nowhere – as if they’ve thrown their back out. For others it’s like ground-hog-day – they go to bed feeling great but wake up every morning feeling stiff and achy. 

Why does this happen? Shouldn’t your back feel better after a good night’s sleep?

Back pain impacts people in different ways. Both the location of your pain as well as the time of day you feel your worst can be indicators of where your back pain is coming from and what’s going on.

Some of the most common causes of morning back pain include:

  1. Poor sleeping position
  2. A crappy mattress
  3. Bulging discs

Let’s go through each one and talk about tips to help morning back pain.

1. Poor sleeping position

The sleeping position that aggravates you is going to depend on the underlying cause of your back pain. Sometimes sleeping on your back with legs elevated is what makes your back feel worse in the morning – even if it feels amazing while you’re in this position.  For others, sleeping on their stomach is the thing that wreaks havoc on their spine. 

The most back-friendly position is to sleep on your side. Side-sleeping allows you to put your spine in a neutral position – which is where you get in the least amount of trouble.

It’s really challenging to achieve a neutral spine when you’re on your back or stomach.  If it bothers your hips or shoulders to sleep on your side – I recommend placing a pillow under your waist as well as your head – and if needed – also one between your thighs.

2. A Crappy Mattress

Over the course of my career, I’ve probably been asked at least 1000 times what the best mattress is to sleep on. The answer is “it depends”. Your most important concern should be to find a mattress that you feel comfortable on and that gives you the best night’s sleep. This is different for everyone. Some prefer soft and plush, while others prefer firm and supportive.

But here’s the thing – if you don’t have an underlying back problem then the surface you sleep on will be irrelevant. In most cases, I find that when a mattress aggravates your back, it’s a sign that you’ve got a back problem brewing that needs some attention.

That being said – for those that do suffer from generalized, chronic back pain – a firmer, more supportive mattress is going to be your best bet.

3. Bulging Discs

This is the most common reason I see for morning back pain.

Your vertebral disc has three primary functions:

  1. Absorb shock
  2. Help hold the vertebrae of your spine together
  3. Contribute to the mobility in your spine

The interesting thing about vertebral discs is that they are made up primarily of water.

Over the course of a normal day – and over the course of life – your discs will compress and decrease their water content. At night, your disc literally re-hydrates and can gain up to 17-25 mm of height. While this may be beneficial to someone who’s arthritis is to blame for their back pain, it is not beneficial for someone suffering from a bulging disc.

Remember when I mentioned that your disc is partially responsible for mobility in your spine? When you have a building disc – that bulge restricts your mobility. If it fills up with fluid overnight – you’re going to wake up feeling a lot more restricted and in a lot more pain.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix I can reveal for you on this one. The best advice I can give you is that if you’re waking up every morning in a lot of pain and you’re afraid to move – there’s a good chance you’re suffering from bulging discs, and you should see someone who can help you with this.

If you’re waking up every morning with back pain…

then hopefully this information helps you have a better understanding as to why it might be happening. Although a crappy mattress could be the reason, I caution you not to default to that. More often than not, there’s an underlying problem in your back that needs to be addressed.

But the good news is that 80% of the time there is a natural, movement-based solution that can address your back pain successfully without relying on pills or procedures.

Are you experiencing back pain and looking to get help without pills or procedures?

Request to talk to one of my specialists to see if we would be the right fit to help you get out of pain. CLICK HERE to request a Free Discovery with one of my specialists.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth, NH. To get a free copy of her Guide to Easing Back Pain and Stiffness – click here.

 

 

Herniated Disc

How Ignoring Back pain could ruin your New Year’s Resolutions

Now is the time when people shift their focus to the New Year and start thinking about new and exciting goals for themselves. But ignoring back pain could ruin your New Year’s resolutions.

According to statista.com – the three most popular New Year’s goals are:

1) Doing more exercise and improving their fitness

2) Losing weight

3) Saving money.

 Would you be surprised to know that if you are currently suffering from back pain – and you continue to ignore it – it could significantly impact your chances of success at achieving any of these goals?

 Let me explain.

 Let’s start with doing more exercise and improving fitness…

Most people think that if they start exercising more – especially their core – it will solve their back problem. Not necessarily. While the research studies show (overwhelmingly) that exercise is one of the best treatments for back pain – what they don’t reveal is that there are typically some key things that must be in place in order for exercise to be effective.

For example, you must have good mobility before you start focusing on stability (or strengthening). If you’ve got a stiff back, general exercise could be all you need, and you’ll notice improvement. But you won’t know until you get going and by then it could be too late.

What if your back is stiff because it’s compensating for something – say a bulging disc or muscle weakness? If that’s the case, and you go all in with an exercise program in January, it’s only a matter of time (usually about 3 months in) before your back becomes worse, forcing you to abort your grand plan for the new year. When stability is there for a compensatory reason, it’s important to figure that out before adding more exercise or strengthening to the mix.

This is one way back pain could derail your New Year’s resolution of doing more exercise and improving your fitness.

Say you want to lose weight.

This is a fabulous goal. And if you’ve got back pain, losing weight will surely help. But once again, it’s critical to understand why you’ve got back pain in the first place.

For example, being overweight is rarely the cause of back pain. A few extra pounds can certainly exacerbate your back problem, but it doesn’t usually cause back pain all on it’s own. The most common causes of back pain are mechanical (movement) problems. In other words – bad movement habits such as sitting all the time, bending and rotating too much, or having terrible posture can all lead to back pain slowly over time. If you lose weight, but never correct these mechanical/movement problems, your back pain isn’t going to improve.

When it comes to the process of losing weight, in addition to watching your diet, more exercise is often incorporated into a weight loss plan. If you’ve got back pain, it’s more than likely due to poor movement habits. More exercise will not address these, and worse, could exacerbate the problem. If your back pain increases, not only will you not want to exercise, but you could be more inclined to sit at home and eat more – completely derailing your New Year’s resolution of losing weight.

Finally – we come to saving money.

What on earth could back pain have to do with this? Well, you’ve probably heard the saying: “If you think wellness is expensive, try illness”. And this couldn’t be truer.

When you ignore back pain, it’s only going to get more expensive to address later. As back pain worsens, you’ll have less willpower to bear it, and you’ll be more likely to opt for expensive fixes such as outpatient procedures and surgery. Not to mention the rehab that needs to take place afterwards for an optimal recovery and the expensive tests that need to take place before-hand to ensure you’re ready for surgery. When you ignore a back problem it’s only a matter of time before it becomes unbearable. And when we’re desperate, we make poor decisions, which often leads to more money spent than necessary. All that money (and more) that you set out to save as part of your New Year’s goals eventually goes to waste.

Instead, get in front of your back pain. For 80% of back pain cases, there is a natural, movement-based solution.

Natural solutions are far less expensive – and much safer long term compared to something like surgery. While the impact of ignoring back pain may seem indirect when it comes to a New Year’s resolution of saving money – it will impact you in some way – at some point – in a monetary way if you don’t address it now.

 When you’ve got back pain (or any pain for that matter) that isn’t going away, it’s your body trying to tell you something.

Don’t ignore it.

It’s only a matter of time before it gets worse and starts to derail more than just your New Year’s goals.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth, NH. To get a free copy of her Guide to Easing Back Pain and Stiffness – click here.

Shoulder Pain

Traveling for the Holidays? Tips to Ease Back and Neck Pain

Are you traveling for the Holidays? Unlike last year, there’s a lot more people getting out of town to see friends and family they didn’t get to see last year. Personally, I love to travel. But what I don’t love is the back and neck pain that often comes with it. The good news is you can prevent – or significantly minimize it – with tips to ease and back and neck pain during holiday travel. Whether you’re traveling by train, plane, or automobile… 

Here are 5 tips to ease back and neck pain during Holiday travel:

 

1. Walk at Rest stops and Airports

Walking is not only great exercise but it’s well known for helping ease back and neck stiffness. Our bodies like to be upright and generally don’t like to be still and sitting for very long. If you’re flying somewhere this Holiday season, walk around the terminal while waiting for your flight instead of sitting. Don’t take the people mover – get those extra steps in and walk instead. If you’re driving somewhere long distance, make a point to stop along the way and be sure to get out and walk a little. Bonus – walking is great for hip and knee stiffness too.

2. Stay Hydrated

When it comes to back and neck pain – people don’t really think of hydration as something that makes a difference. The discs between our vertebrae need fluid to do their job – which is to provide cushion and shock absorption. They can get dry and brittle when not properly hydrated which can exacerbate back and neck pain. When you add travel to the mix, which involves a lot more sitting than you might do on a normal day, you put even more stress on your discs. So remembering to drink enough water when you travel is very important. Opting for foods like watermelon, lettuce, spinach and soups can help you stay hydrated as well as avoiding beverages that contain caffeine and alcohol. 

3. Interrupt your Sitting

If you make a point to walk when you can, and drink plenty of water, interrupting your sitting is going to naturally happen and not be that difficult. As I mentioned already, our bodies were not meant to be sitting for prolonged periods and it’s one of the top reasons so many people suffer from unnecessary back and neck pain. When you sit, there is more pressure on your vertebral discs. But more than that, they start to weaken in certain areas from too much sitting – making you more susceptible for a disc bulge or herniation. Prolonged sitting also puts extra stretch on your muscles. Over time this contributes to them losing their elasticity – making them weaker and more painful – and easier to strain. My general rule is to always interrupt your sitting at least once every 30 min. This interruption acts as a reset button for your spine and helps to minimize the cumulative forces responsible for all of the problems I just mentioned.

4. Stretch in your Seat

If you absolutely can’t stand up and interrupt your sitting – the next best thing is to move and stretch in your seat. While it’s not as ideal as standing up – it’s certainly better than just sitting there. My two favorite stretches to do while sitting are: 1) the chin tuck and 2) thoracic extension. 

To perform the chin tuck…

To stretch your thoracic spine…

5. Use a lumbar Roll

Our spine is made up of distinct curves for a very good reason. They are designed to balance forces and sustain shock – and it’s best if you can maintain them. When you sit, the curve in your lower back (lumbar spine) decreases, or sometimes disappears all together. While it’s perfectly acceptable to sit like this for small increments of time (remember the 30 min rule), your spine will not like this after several hours. Plus, your neck responds by changing it’s curve to a “forward head” position as well. One of the best things you can do is use a cylindrical lumbar roll to help maintain the natural curve in your lumbar spine. Place it right at your lower back any time you’re sitting and you’ll find that your back and neck have a lot less strain. 

Give one more more of these tips to ease back and neck pain during holiday travel a try – you’ll see that easing your back or neck pain by even 30% could have a big impact on your travels.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth, NH. To get a free copy of her Guide to Easing Back Pain and Stiffness – click here.