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How about a massage, sweetheart?

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Back pain is a little like depression or dandruff in that many people suffer from it at one time or another, yet there's no silver bullet to curing it.

If you don't get back pain yourself, you probably know someone who does and they've no doubt got methods for dealing with it - whether that be medication, stretching, core-strength exercises, Pilates, yoga or a little pillow they carry around with them.

According the Medical Journal of Australia, "up to 80 per cent of Australians will experience back pain at some point in their lives and 10 per cent will experience significant disability as a result. Back pain disrupts individuals' quality of life and accounts for an enormous cost to the community".

In a 2009 article in the journal, Andrew Briggs and Rachelle Buchbinder went so far as to suggest back pain be made a National Health Priority Area but conceded this ran "the risk that back pain management could become further medicalised and ineffective interventions could become more accepted".

Obviously, if you're incapacitated by constant, serious pain, you should be seeking some sort of professional medical advice. However, if you just get a variety of different tolerable aches and pains in your back from exercise, work or driving, I suggest it would be massively worth your while to visit a knowledgeable physiotherapist.

Talk to them about strengthening your core and the various stretches you can integrate into your fitness regime and I predict you'll be surprised by how much of difference even gentle variations of traditional exercise routines can make on your back.

When aches and pains accumulate, there's often no better solution than a good long, full-body massage. However, not all of us can afford to pop off to a masseuse or physio for one, and after the first three months of a relationship, I find the other half is often far less enthusiastic to break out the baby oil and squeeze bits of you, than previously.

The solution? Below I've listed four products I've found immensely useful, two of which you could easily source to try before you buy.

FOAM ROLLERS: These are appearing in gyms and physiotherapist practices all over the country for a very simple reason. They work because they allow you to massage just about any part of your body for as long as you want.

I bought one last year at the suggestion of my physio and am convinced it was my best purchase of the year. A friend, who's an ex-rugby player, stayed with me late last year and said it changed his life.

He regularly suffers debilitating back, hip and groin pain and through using a similar roller has been able to keep himself loose enough to pursue his main love of surfing.

I moan so loudly with pleasure using mine, I'm worried my neighbours think I'm watching internet porn at 7am.

BAKBALL: Another friend, another former rugby player, has had serious problems with his neck and undergone several heavy operations to improve his mobility. He recently turned me onto these.

"If I lost mine today, I would stop everything I was doing until I had another one in my possession. It is the single greatest product I've ever used," he said.

As a television reporter, he spends hours in front of computers and driving long distances and the Bakball is small enough he can keep it in his pocket, then wedge it into the area troubling him while sitting or driving and provide relief.

As you can see from the design, it's a refinement of the old lying-on-a-tennis-ball-idea, except the Bakball's twin spheres allow you to hit the muscle either side of your spine at once.

Combined with a daily early morning stretching routine, my mate has recovered a huge amount of his former mobility and suffers a great deal less pain and associated stress.

SOFTBALL: Like the Bakball, or a tennis ball, a regular sporting softball can be used to hit muscles and spots all over your body.

While doing a bit of work experience as a garbo, I noticed a few of the older guys using a softball they'd rescued from the bins in the same way as some people use the above-mentioned tennis ball.

A softball, however, is larger and firmer and when pressed into your glutes or lower back it's like the heel of the palm of a shiatsu masseuse with attitude.

Best of all, if you've got one lying around at home already, it's free.

POSTURE GENIE: This is a new product I was introduced to recently that you lay on your car seat to re-align your posture when driving.

Endorsed by the Australian Osteopathic Association and soon to be available on the NRMA's online store, it is designed to correct your spinal alignment when your body twists because your right foot is reaching for the accelerator and brake pedals.

When this happens constantly, you can put strain on your left sacro-iliac joint, so the Posture Genie slightly elevates your left buttock to redistribute your weight correctly.

I've had mine in the car for a week now and I'm sold.

So that's my two cents worth and, on the subject of money, suffice to say, I received no inducement for mentioning any of these products.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.

101 comments

  • The best advice I ever received after visiting a chiro for my back several times for only temporary relief came from a retired physio.
    She told me to do exercises where I tried to put my chin to the base of my neck which stretched the neck muscles which was a cause of my back pain. If it starts I can do it.
    The next bit of advice was to roll up an old towel and place it in a pillow slip with the pillow so I sleep with my neck supported. Magic pillows did not work, a standard pillow and an old standard bath towel does.
    But I think that working with hand tools and getting down and up has helped build my back into a much more solid unit. I can balance myself on the balls of my feet bending down in a crouched position when working.
    Using hand tools rather than powered ones means my hands are stronger and my wrists and arms are better. Working out on a gym machine at home also works but the fat belly remains sadly.
    I still get aches and pains and my arms can be sore if I have been working with old bolts and set screws. But it is due to a long days work in the sun or shade fixing an old car.
    As for the car seat posture item, a manual car should cure that problem.

    Commenter
    The Old Guy
    Location
    Marrickville
    Date and time
    October 10, 2013, 10:53PM
    • Yes, exercises are good, but the key thing that helps me with flares of my back pain, caused by a herniated disc, is ICE. Lying for 15 minutes on an ice pack (not longer!) a few times a day deactivates the pro-inflammatory chemicals released by the injured disc, and stops them inflaming the emergent nerves near the spine. Try it. The other key thing is a Theracane (google it, magic for painful "lumps" in back muscles).

      Commenter
      Revert2Mean
      Date and time
      October 14, 2013, 9:33AM
    • I found that minimising my once chronic back pain required a holistic approach:
      - Keep back and core strong
      - Ice and heat as appropriate
      - Chiro & or physio
      - Massage
      - Stretching
      - Rolling
      - Anti inflammatories
      - Eating better including being aware of which foods are inflammatory for me
      - Valium at night to break a spasm
      - Yoga
      - Seating correction stuff for work (ie set up desk properly)
      - Exercise most days

      Commenter
      NFC
      Date and time
      October 14, 2013, 2:32PM
  • I get lower back pain with a dash if sciatica on a semi regular basis after long bouts of standing. It is agonising and immobilising when it happens.
    I go and see an Osteopathic massage person that I would like to keep as a pet. It's expensive and wonderful.
    In between those times I do stretching exercises, pilates and dance classes so my body moves in different ways regularly.
    There is also something amazing about a good night sleep that refreshes the body too. If I could have those more often I'd be happy.

    Commenter
    M
    Date and time
    October 11, 2013, 8:05AM
    • Daily exercise to strngthen the back muscles, and stretch periods during the dsy, are ways to reduce the risk of back problems.

      Commenter
      alto
      Date and time
      October 14, 2013, 8:33AM
    • I lay on my back with an arched firm cushion placed under my lower back spine, then I slowly relax my body weight and feel the muscle tension easing whilst my spin arch stretching.

      Honestly, it saved me from operation last year, after countless useless visits to the physio. I feel great now, and do lay on my back with the cushion every few days when I have been standing for long time or driving/sitting for a long time.

      Try it. it is free and it works. It is also so easy to do.

      Commenter
      Jabein
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 14, 2013, 11:24AM
  • Physios and Osteos are great. But beware Chiros, or at least read this article (which a Chiropractic association sued to stop, and failed :"I will leave you with one message for Chiropractic Awareness Week - if spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market."
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/apr/19/controversiesinscience-health

    Commenter
    Backtrack
    Date and time
    October 11, 2013, 9:46AM
    • I'd be a cripple without my chiro.

      Commenter
      keepmovin
      Date and time
      October 14, 2013, 8:51AM
    • + 1

      Commenter
      BlackIce54
      Date and time
      October 14, 2013, 9:18AM
    • There's a chiropractor in the eastern suburbs who is booked out for months. Reason? he is a miracle worker. Ask me, I wouldn't have been able to walk if it was not for him. No amount of negative, medico/pharmo driven drivel about dangers of chiropractic will deter me from vising him. Doctors have no idea about spine health. If you want help for your back, consult a professional. Chiropractors are back specialists, first and foremost.

      Commenter
      Borg
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 14, 2013, 1:28PM

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