Simple Changes

Simple Changes

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Back Pain!

Simple Changes

Oh, that hurt! I held my breath as I attempted to roll from my back onto my side. I had always been strong and active. I contemplated the pain that ran from my right hip down the front of my leg as I lay in bed. I could understand back pain during everyday activities or overexertion, but trying to turn from my back onto my side while lying down?

I stretched regularly and received an occasional massage. I had gone to physical therapy and to a chiropractor and I took an occasional anti-inflammatory. What else was there? How many avenues could I pursue? I hated exercise.

My responsibilities are physically demanding. I have a large house, property and animals that take more time than there is in a day. That day, as I lifted six fifty-pound bags of animal feed onto the bed of the truck I wondered who would take care of all of this if something happened to me. And then I noticed my upper back and shoulders tightening and my teeth slightly clenching as I turned to walk up the rolling hills that led to the garden. As always, I felt like I had to hurry. I needed to get the gardening done before it got too hot.

Maybe that tension and stress explained the knot between my shoulders, my neck pain and the headaches. I started to analyze my activities. If my muscles were weak, they couldn’t support my body when I leaned forward to climb that hill to the garden. The tendons tightened and tried to compensate. This created tension. I needed to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the strong ones. My body needed to be balanced. Tension was also restricting blood and fluid that was needed by my spine to keep discs healthy.

Walking up another incline I took a deep breath, only this time I relaxed my shoulders, exhaled and dropped my weight into my hands. Standing tall, I felt my shoulders stretch and my neck relax. I decided to make a conscious effort to recognize and eliminate tension, starting that day.

As I started to cultivate my small garden with a hoe, I realized that the right side of my body was doing all of the work. I led with my right foot. My right arm and hand were in charge. My left was mainly for support. I could feel something pulling in my right hip and lower back. That was it! That was the same place I felt the pain when I tried to turn over in bed. I remembered what a massage therapist had told me at one point: “Repeated activities using one side of your body will cause your body to become unbalanced. Use both sides of your body.” I am so right-sided it’s ridiculous, but I decided to give it a try.

So, I rotated my body, taking my right foot back and leading with my left. Switching my hands around, I started to hoe weeds with my left hand and used my right for balance. It was awkward and much slower. It was not the most efficient way to tend a garden as I chopped at the ground between the rows of vegetables. As I chopped, I occasionally missed my target. I wondered what the penalty was for murdering carrots.

Day after day I tried to perform everyday chores with the left side of my body as well as my dominant right side. It became easier over time and the benefits were worth the effort. Within a couple of weeks after I started my new routine, I noticed that there was less pain. A short time later I turned from my back onto my side. Then I realized… the pain was gone!

~ Paula Naughton ~

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