"Will I have to Miss Work Because of This?"
I'm a stay at home dad with a one year old and a three year old. Needless to say, I do a lot of lifting. Mostly of my kids. But I'm on my feet for at least 12 hours each day, running around tending to these little guys, and trying to keep the house in order.
So when a back spasm hits, I start to panic! Oh crap, how will I be able to do anything. Will my wife need to miss work because I'm stuck in bed. The fear kicks in and I need a solution fast.
Luckily I've discovered this sweet little trick to help my muscles relax before things get really bad.
I just use a simple household item that most people have. And if you don't you can buy one for less than $4.
It's really a life saver if you know how to use it.
Self-Massage is a Short-Term Solution
My muscles, hard as ropes, sometimes taking on a life of their own, deciding to contract and start pulling my ribs out of place, leaving me a mess. Luckily I can do self-massage with a baseball.
I typically do it against a wall, starting with the hardest muscles. I like to lean against the wall, pressing on one spot for at least 10 seconds before moving on. Taking a few deep breaths to "let the ball in".
Then I move the ball around, while still against the wall, searching for tender spots, or really hard spots.
My goal is to balance out the tension on the left and right sides of my body, and release the muscle. If one side is super tight, I'll focus more on that.
The thing is, the massage works really great for a short term quick fix. But the next day, the tension usually comes back, and I need to massage again.
I have actually massaged every day for months with no permanent changes. But then I figured out how to get rid of the pain inducing tension for good. (I'll talk more about this at the end).
Where to massage?
I like to massage what they call trigger points. These are tender spots of balled up muscle or knots that cause referred pain. Pain coming from a different place than you are feeling it.
For example, if you think your knee is hurting, the pain could be coming from a trigger point muscle in your thigh.
Check out these common lower back pain trigger point locations and their referred pain areas.
But What About The Long Term?
What I needed was a good stretching program. Stretching is the long game. It takes longer to see any results (6 weeks), but the results are much better.
Luckily, I discovered that you don't need to hold a stretch much longer than 30 seconds. So I could stretch several muscles a day for 30 seconds each, rather than 1 muscle for 2-3 mins hoping for a result.
The trick is to do the stretches every day for 6 weeks, to see a cumulative effect. It's about daily stretching, not long holds of stretches.
With this knowledge, I was armed and ready to take on the day using massage for short term pain relief, and then stretching afterwards as an investment for a better back in the future.