By Annie Davidson
Struggling with sciatica? Herniated disc hampering your style while hunkering down? Even before the coronavirus shutdown, chronic back pain was one of the most common health complaints in the country. According to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, almost 65 million Americans report a recent episode of back pain.
Add in pandemic-caused emotional stress, hours hunched over a laptop Zooming and working remotely, limited exercise opportunities, and the absence of professional hands-on therapy, and it’s no surprise that more people than ever before are struggling with back pain.
Licensed massage therapist Nikki Yarnell, LMT, who lives in Rye and Manhattan and is founder of Gilded Hands (www.gildedhands.com), which provides massage therapy services in the New York metro area, has noticed an uptick in complaints about back and neck pain among her patients during the shutdown and with more people working from home. And while medical studies have shown the benefit of professional massage in alleviating back and neck pain, it is virtually impossible to do with social distancing.
“Fortunately, there is actually a lot you can do right at home to get these painful conditions under control,” says Yarnell, “while also significantly decreasing your risk of them resurfacing.”
Here she shares some of her tips for helping to ease back pain using her own easy-to-remember SASS acronym:
Don’t forget to stretch, before and after a day of Zooming and otherwise being glued to your screen. Simple stretches targeting the piriformis (hip) and quadratus lumborum (lower back) muscles, says Yarnell, can be very effective for keeping the affected musculature flexible and healthy and increasing your range of motion.
Explore adjustments to make your home office more comfortable. Adding a Tush Cush or simple lumbar pillow to your chair can make a big difference in your comfort level, she says.
Incorporate self-care into your daily regimen. Check out such self-care products designed for holistic relief as Epsom salt for use in a warm bath, Capsaicin pain-relief patches, and topical CBD oils, she suggests.
Work on strengthening your back and core safely to significantly reduce your risk of re-injury. Pilates and swimming, she says, are two of the safest and most effective forms of exercise for people with spinal injuries or conditions.
Above all, says Yarnell, listen to your body. “You want to develop a very sensitive barometer for when your Sciatica or herniation acts up,” she says, “so you can deal with it quickly by making these lifestyle changes.” To help those currently struggling with back and neck pain, Yarnell is available for online consultations and is offering Zoom classes on the topic; anyone wishing to participate is encouraged to contact her at www.gildedhands.com).