Google search for “back pain relief” and “back pain exercises” sky rocketed by a third during the first lockdown, with new studies suggesting that over a third of Brits reported an increase in pain since the beginning of the pandemic, 36% of people reporting an increase in back pain, 34% headaches, followed by joints, neck and generalised muscle soreness.
These figures don’t come as a surprise in the world of body work when we consider that the pandemic resulted in many people having to change lifestyle, including working from home, cancelling gym membership and most importantly, the increase in uncertainty and other stressors. When looking at the possible causes for this increase in pain levels we have to therefore look at, yes, poor work from home set-ups however the impact of that seems to be quite low! Much more important than a bad set up at home is the reduction in movement and increase in stress levels. Even most of us who were able to keep it cool during this past year of pure social madness, are somehow affected as a collective by the events and energy of our surroundings.
Our human body is Emotion; “E” for Energy and “Motion” for movement, that is, when we look at the smallest particle of our body throughout a microscope, we see nothing but movement and energy. When we don’t move enough, our body degenerates, energy becomes stagnant and stops circulating with ease, we develop restrictions and trigger points in our muscles and fascia which then triggers pain and other symptoms like dizziness or tinnitus among many others. All of this also affects our mood and thought pattern which stresses our body even further, starting a vicious circle.
The first answer is simple! Move! Find ways to get back into exercise if you stopped, rethink your daily routine, save time for yourself and prioritise your health. If you didn’t exercise prior to lockdown but your daily walk to work and back isn’t happening anymore, this is a great opportunity for you to start moving better, in your own way with something that you like doing.
Stress needs to be mentioned as one of the biggest contributing factors to this rise in pain levels. The connection between mind and body is deeper than what we can yet comprehend but we do know that stress, be it trauma or social stress, causes the release of cortisol and other fight or flight hormones. This response triggered by stress is good in an emergency or real life or death situations and its goal is to prepare our body to perform to the best of its capabilities and give us the highest possible chance of survival in a situation like that! However when these stress hormones are released over a prolonged period of time it becomes a problem. Our body hasn’t been designed to sustain this fight or flight mode for long periods of time and that’s exactly what stress does to us. Our mind doesn’t distinguish between a lion chasing you through the jungle and a repetitive worry at the back of your mind. It interprets both as a threat and it activates the stress response. When this threat doesn’t go away (because it’s in our mind and we’re not dealing with it) our soft tissue (muscles and fascia) starts to degenerate, our body stiffens up and we develop restrictions and trigger points that trigger pain and other symptoms.
We can agree that it’s been collectively pretty crazy lately! No wonder our bodies and minds need more attention than ever. We must listen to our body and mind and look after them. Practising mindfulness is a great way to calm down the stress response and I’ll dare to say that it’s something we can’t live fully healthy and happy without. Increase the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (that is the happy restorative system in our body) by getting out in nature, doing exercise, meditating, or leaving time to do something as simple as having a nice dinner. Treat and listen to your body and mind… those happy hormones need to be encouraged!
I like to see pain as a friend, a bell ringing that tells me to look into what I’m doing or not doing, a friend helping me to see what I’m missing or where I’m going wrong. So if you are in pain, don’t ignore it! Look into it! Once the body is in physical pain and or stressed, the external intervention of a professional is the most effective way to turn things around. This is where I recommend you to spend some time doing a bit of research for a good local soft tissue therapist and commit to 4-6 weekly sessions that will help restore your body to a healthier place. A good therapist will tune into and encourage your parasympathetic nervous system (the restorative system), they will treat your body clearing those restrictions and trigger points that are causing you pain and are contributing to that bad mood cycle.
Here it’s important who you choose. Finding the right person for you might take you a few goes at different people, like it does finding your barber or hairdresser. But when you do it’s for life, and believe me, you’ll be glad you found them. Explore Inside Clinical Massage to find the treatment for you.