Pain, whether it’s shortlived or chronic can be debilitating. However, it seems that we ladies aren’t being as proactive as men when it comes to beating it. New research from the British Chiropractic Association has revealed that women take twice as long, six weeks on average, to seek help for their back or neck pain, while men take just three. In addition, the findings revealed that more than a third of women are turning to overthe- counter medication as a first port of call, ignoring simple fixes such as exercise and stretching, which can prevent and improve back or neck pain. If you are in discomfort, here are some expert exercises and tips to beat pain. Do them from the comfort of your own home to heal aches fast.
Step to it
“A common foot problem is plantar fasciitis, or pain under your heel,” says Tim Allardyce, physiotherapist at Surrey Physio (surreyphysio.co.uk). “Plantar fasciitis is caused by inflammation to the tissue that lies in the sole of your foot. Where that tissue attaches to the heel bone, it can become sore right at the base of your heel. It’s a painful condition that affects walking. Typically, it has links with obesity, so losing weight can make a difference. Also, plantar fasciitis often affects people who walk fast, so slowing down can take stress off the foot and ankle.” Thankfully, there are lots of ways to relieve the pain. “A good exercise is the plantar fascia stretch. Sit comfortably and place a golf ball, rolling pin or squash ball under your foot. Roll the object under the sole of your foot, up and down from the toes to the heel, 20 times a day. This will help to loosen the plantar fascia. In addition, try resting your foot on an ice bag to reduce inflammation under the heel. Hold it in place for 10 minutes a day for 12 weeks.”
The bee’s knees
“Knee pain is common and is usually located at the front of the knee,” says Tim. “One of the best exercises for knee pain is the quad stretch. Because we spend a lot of time sitting and don’t do enough exercise, we tend to get shortened quadriceps. To begin, stand up, holding on to a wall or table, and pull your heel towards your bottom. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat three times. Only go as far as feels comfortable. If your knee feels weak, you could do a sit-to-stand exercise. Sitting on a chair, push through your legs to stand up and then, in a controlled way, sit back down. You can use your hands to assist, which makes the exercise easier, or place your hands across your chest to make the exercise harder. Repeat 10 times a day to build strength in your legs.”
Back to back
If you’re one of the 2.5 million people in the UK who suffer from back pain every day, listen up. Mr Michael Fatica, lead osteopath at the Mayfair Clinic (themayfairclinic.com), has these top tips:
- Roll up a bath towel and place it underneath your lower back when you’re sitting down to encourage the natural backward arch. This takes the pressure off the spinal discs and helps alleviate the pressure build up from desk-based jobs or slouching.
- When you’re at the gym, replace a running or cycling warm-up with a cross trainer session – this will help to provide a gentler rhythmical movement through the spine.
- Stuck in a car? Use a small rolled-up tea or bath towel as a lower back support while driving. Similar to the first tip, this helps to evenly distribute weight through the spine properly.
- Gently stretching in a lunge position helps to ease tension on the front of your back.
- Lay on your back near a doorway with your foot resting on the door frame. This is an easy way to stretch the hamstrings without compromising the lower back.
- Sit with one leg bent at the knee and your foot placed over your opposite straight leg, hugging your knee to your opposite shoulder. This is a great way to stretch the gluteals (buttocks), which eases tension because tight glutes can cause lower back pain.
- Use a tennis ball in a sock to gently massage up the gluteals or muscles either side of the lower back, by lying and rolling over the ball.
A pain in the neck
Have you got a literal pain in the neck? It doesn’t have to be that way. Take a look at this easy-tofollow lifestyle advice from Tim Button, chiropractor at the British Chiropractic Association (chiropractic-uk.co.uk), and feel the benefits for yourself
Take a break
Almost half of women point to sitting still for a long time as a key trigger for their neck pain. If you’re required to sit in one position for extended periods of time, at work or on a long drive, for example, try to take regular breaks to have a walk around, and stretch your joints and muscles every 30-60 minutes when possible.
Incorporating exercise into your lifestyle will help you to build a stronger body that is better placed for dealing with the demands you make of it. If pain is preventing you from exercising, try a gentler form of activity, such as swimming, which will put less pressure on the joints while allowing your body to move.
Around a third of women cite that carrying their bag is a key trigger for their back or neck pain. If you’re one of these people, choose a bag that can be worn as a backpack, or across the body, to spread the load. Keeping your bag light and emptying it of unnecessary items each day can also help to prevent unnecessary weight.
Quick fixes for…
The phrase ‘carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders’ comes to mind here, as chronic stress can lead to tight and stiff shoulders. To combat this pain, warm up your shoulders by either soaking them in a bath or heating a hot water bottle or microwaveable rice bag up and placing it directly on the affected area. This rise in temperature tells your brain to send blood, nutrients and healing agents to the area.
Ever wondered why when you accidentally bump into something you have the urge to rub the area? This is because the friction of rubbing warms your muscles and can ease pain. This reaction is very comparable to that of sports massage and can have similar results, so when you have pains in your wrist, use your other hand to self-massage from your wrist up to your elbow in one firm stroke. Do this multiple times
Stretch out any niggling neck aches by moving the cervical spine. You can do this by putting your chin to your chest, before slowly looking up at the ceiling. Then, move both ears to each shoulder and finish by looking left and right over both shoulders. Hold each of these positions for 10-15 seconds three times a day at their endrange of motion to elongate the muscles in your neck, giving you some muchneeded pain relief.