Cheap ways to relieve your aching back

How's your posture right now? Are you slumped over in your chair, craning your neck to see the computer screen?

Over time, those habits could cost you both in terms of health and doctor appointment copays.

Last month I wrote about my ongoing search for a cure for shoulder and neck pain, and how numerous appointments with doctors and therapists cost thousands of dollars over the years and failed to fix the problem. Then, a last-minute appointment with a new massage therapist changed that. To quickly recap, she told me to start wearing my night guard consistently, not just when I felt I was grinding my teeth, and she suggested I replace my 11-year-old mattress. The first tip starting working within a couple of days, and at the writing of that article, I was waiting for my mattress to arrive.

Several readers asked for an update after I had a chance to try the new mattress. Well, I love it. I no longer need to sleep with a body pillow, and my arms haven't gone numb in the middle of the night, which they used to do regularly. I can't tell you with any certainty if buying an organic mattress is worthwhile, but buying a new mattress did seem to help my shoulder and neck pain.

Your Pain in the Neck

Last week I sat down with the massage therapist who cured what ailed me to talk about some inexpensive ways to change habits that cause body pain, as well as ways to relieve aches. Many preventative measures and solutions are cheap (or free), and while your doctor's advice is best, sometimes you need to get through a day or two until you can get in to see someone.

For advice on how to do that, I interviewed Rachael Bercey, a massage therapist at Castle Hill Fitness in Austin, Texas. Rachael specializes in neuromuscular therapy, deep tissue sports massage, myofascial and trigger point therapy, and kinesio taping. She received massage training at the New Mexico School of Natural Therapeutic, earned her neuromuscular therapy certification, and counts among her past clients professional, Olympic, University of Texas, amateur, and weekend warrior athletes. She's also a certified personal trainer.

The following are her top suggestions for frugal ways (most are free!) to prevent or relieve body aches:

  1. Look at how you're sitting right now. Are you pointing your feet because they don't rest on the floor? Is your chair on rollers, and if so, are you using your feet to stabilize it? Are you sitting on one foot (like I often do)? “Your feet should rest on something or be propped on something like yoga blocks or a sturdy box to avoid your feet hanging from or hooking under the chair,” says Rachael. “Even better is to prop the feet at a natural angle rather than flat — a rocking footrest is a possible solution, but a bit pricey.” (J.D. made his own footrest a few years ago.) Also, your monitor should be at eye level, right in front of you, and the keyboard height should be adjusted to where your elbows can hang comfortably at the side of your body, shoulders are relaxed, and your wrists not bent up or down or to either side. “Good chairs are expensive,” says Rachael, “but you can go to the dollar store and find something that will raise your monitor,” she says. Or use something you have around the house. To adjust your keyboard, consider a keyboard tray that attaches under your desk.  Cost: $20 for a keyboard tray
  2. Get up every 45 minutes. Rachael says lack of movement is often the cause of body pain, so set a timer to sound off every 45 minutes to remind yourself to get up and walk around. She says it's easy to get used to the timer and to start ignoring it, so try recording a message to yourself instead. You may be more likely to pay attention to the sound of your own voice. Cost: Probably free, since it's likely there are already alarms and apps on your phone and computer
  3. Engage your abs. When you exercise or stand in line at the grocery store, how is your posture? Do you engage your core muscles? Obviously, you don't need to squeeze your abs as hard as you can while standing in the express lane, but stand evenly on both feet and don't slouch. “If you stand with your legs closer together, it'll help you stand more erect and use the core,” says Rachael. Also, relax your jaw. “Many people clench their jaw when they workout to stabilize their body,” she says. “Relax the jaw and engage the core.” Cost: Free
  4. Drink more water. I know, I know. You've heard it a million times. “Dehydration lowers viscosity in your body,” she says, “which can lead to aches and pains.” The general rule is to take your weight in pounds and divide it in half to get the number of ounces you should drink. If you work up a sweat, drink more. Cost: Almost free to free, depending on where you get your water
  5. Rethink your bags and purses. If you carry a laptop in a backpack, use both straps. “I know it's nerdy, but a waist belt on a backpack is really helpful, too,” she says. If you carry a side satchel, switch up which shoulder you sling it over. As for purses, if you're guilty of toting around the kitchen sink, Rachael says to rethink your necessities. “Think about what you really need, and lighten your load,” she says. “I know ladies who have scissors and tape in their purses — you can find that wherever you're going if you really need it!” Cost: Free
  6. Walk a mile in your shoes. Rachael likened our bodies to a house.”Good shoes are like your foundation,” she says. “If there's a problem there, like a crack in the foundation it'll refer upward, causing other problems.” It's hard to offer advice about footwear, however, because people are so different in terms of structure, lifestyle, and habits. But if your running shoes are worn out, that can cause problems in your feet, ankles, and knees on up. “You also want to switch out your shoes,” says Rachael. “Don't wear the same pair to the gym and then to work in the yard. Rotating is better for your feet.” If you aren't sure if you're in the right shoes, go to a specialty running store or a shoe store that offers gait analysis (you might even go to a few before you decide to buy). Cost: Approximately $100 for a new pair of shoes, though there are both cheaper and more expensive shoes out there
  7. When you're injured, start with ice. If you injure yourself on Saturday and can't see a doctor until Monday, you can alleviate some pain by icing the injury. “Sometimes an injury isn't visibly inflamed, but it's internally inflamed,” says Rachael, “and heat can exacerbate the problem.” Until you know the nature of the injury, start with ice, especially for the first 48 hours, she says. “Cold reduces blood flow to the area and can inhibit pain receptors,” she says. “When you remove the cold pack, the blood rushes back to the area, but sometimes the pain is still reduced or gone completely.” (One exception to the rule on icing: if compartment syndrome is suspected.) Rachael says if you don't like cold sensations like ice packs, try putting a heating pad or warm water bottle on your stomach. “That can distract you from the cold sensation,” she says. Cost: $11 for the ice pack Rachael likes best (or free if you already have one of your own)
  8. Try the tingly stuff. Another pain relief solution Rachael recommends is ointment or gel like Traumeel or BioFreeze. “Traumeel is homeopathic and topical, and comes in ointment and gel form, though I prefer the ointment,” she says. “You can get it at a health food store, and one tube can last a couple of years.” Cost: $20 for 3.5 ounces of Traumeel or $8 for 4 ounces of BioFreeze
  9. Use tennis balls off the court. This is a travel-friendly tip especially great for cramped coach seating on flights, airport layovers, long car rides and other physical discomforts. Place a tennis ball between you and a wall to work out knots and stiff muscles in between your shoulder blades, in your glutes and hamstrings, and other tight areas. “It's super cheap and easy to pack,” says Rachael. “I like using a wall because it gives you more control than if you place it on the floor and lay on it.” Cost: $5 or less for a pack of three
  10. Go high-tech. Got low back pain? Yes, there's an app for that. Rachael says there are a lot of apps that are good for the body. Rachael likes free mediation apps, Nike Training Club to get moving, and Daily Dozen Posture for exercises to improve your posture. Cost: Free for Nike Training Club, $2 for Pocket Therapy and Daily Dozen Posture

I'm not very good about taking breaks or sitting in a good position. For example, right now I'm sitting on the couch with my laptop on my lap and my feet propped up on an ottoman. Ergonomic fail. But Rachael says I can plug in a keyboard and prop my laptop up on a book or two to fix that. Easy enough and pretty inexpensive.

I'm not ready to show her my purse, though. Baby steps, people.

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TB
TB
8 years ago

Man, I can’t believe you had to go through so many doctors before one finally suggested a new mattress!

Poor Student
Poor Student
8 years ago

I would also suggest a foam roller. It costs around $15 and once you begin using it regularly it works wonders. I originally bought it to use after sports, but now I use it everyday for just about anything that is stiff.

I am not a doctor so you should check with one before doing anything related to your back, but my back gets a little sore sometimes and my foam roll really helps me.

Skeptic
Skeptic
8 years ago

Is it the official position of Get Rich Slowly to endorse homeopathy?

Becka
Becka
8 years ago
Reply to  Skeptic

You might want to look up what “homeopathy” actually means.

As a hint, there’s none of it in this post.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Becka

Try: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy

The post mentions a homeopathic treatment for pain (Traumeel).

Becka
Becka
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Yeah, I tried to delete this comment because I realized immediately after that it was awful and wrong, but apparently the powers that be decided to let my embarrassment stand. It’s probably good for me! 🙂

Fat Bob
Fat Bob
8 years ago

There’s a lack of evidence for many of the therapies suggested in this article.

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  Fat Bob

And you know why? Because pharmaceutical companies do not fund studies of non-pharmaceutical therapies for back pain.

Diedra B
Diedra B
8 years ago

These are great suggestions I’ll be passing on to my Mom. Thanks April!

Kraig @ Young, Cheap Living
Kraig @ Young, Cheap Living
8 years ago

Great tips. This past year, I started having lower back pain. I went to a chiropractor, who wanted to put me on a 90 day program that would cost over $1,000. I decided not to do it and see what happened (I know, I’m terrible). It hasn’t gotten any worse since then, 3 months ago. I’m going to try more walking and see if that helps now that it’s nice out. I’ll also write down these points here. I think they are very good. Thanks!

Karellen
Karellen
8 years ago

“Dehydration lowers viscosity in your body,”

WTF does that even mean?

“Traumeel is homeopathic…”

Oh, never mind. Personally, I’d be wary of taking medical advice from anyone who knows quite so little about how medical treatments are proven to be effective or not, or high school chemistry. Still, as you wish…

csdx
csdx
8 years ago
Reply to  Karellen

I’m no medical expert, but I’m betting it means blood viscosity, since you’ll generally have less water, so there’s an effective higher concetration of blood cells. Not sure if that is actually a bad thing, maybe it makes a clot more likely?

Though I do agree homeopathy is rather ridiculous. All they are really is just placebos that have been shaken.

Karellen
Karellen
8 years ago
Reply to  csdx

Then surely she should just say it “lowers the viscosity of your blood”. But even that makes no sense. Why would having *less* water in your system make your blood’s viscosity *lower*. Surely that should make it *higher*? If I could think of, or if someone could give, a plausible explanation then I’d be willing to consider the notion that the statement could be true. Pulling a hypothetical example out of my ass, it could be that, as overall fluid levels in the body fall, water is drawn out of the skin and sweat glands in order to prevent further… Read more »

Cass
Cass
8 years ago
Reply to  Karellen

Indeed, engineer/biologist here, and concentrating your blood raises its viscosity, not lowers it. It does, in theory, raise your clotting risk, though in most people without a predisposition toward clotting issues (whether genetics or lifestyle) it’s not a big deal. However, dehydration is generally considered to be one of the compounding factors involved in traveler’s deep vein thrombosis. Dehydration does cause pain in some people, depending also on severity–headaches and muscle aches, though the latter is more common in active people who are actually exercising. But muscles are very sensitive to dehydration because they require large quantities of metal ions… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  Karellen

You could always look it up. The entire body, not just the blood, is full of water. “Viscous” means (briefly) thick. Dehydration affects all tissues, including nerves, muscles, and connective tissues. Dehydrated soft tissues are less extensible (flexible) and more prone to tears; also more prone to shrink and pull on the skeleton and nerves. Well-hydrated tissues are slippery, soft, and extensible. I really don’t see why people are so hostile to non-medical therapies, especially on a blog about personal finance. Which would you rather do: drink water and stretch and be pain free without any cost, or live on… Read more »

SJM
SJM
8 years ago

Great article!

I’ve had to take on a 70 mile commute (one way) and have supplemented the damage that does to my back with a lot of these strategies (especially setting a timer to move around… that changes everything!).

I would add to this list using a bolster pillow at the desk and in the car. It has helped my posture happen even when I don’t concentrate on it.

TB
TB
8 years ago
Reply to  SJM

My uncle used to be a truck driver and swore by a bolster pillow on the seat in his truck.

DollarStretcher
DollarStretcher
8 years ago
Reply to  SJM

I used to hate my car’s bucket seats. Then I bought an Obus Forme backrest and it made a huge difference. Kinda pricey but now I love my driver seat.

My University Money
My University Money
8 years ago

The bottom line is in terms of almost all care for your body is that the more preventative work you put in, the bigger physical and financial rewards you will reap down the road. That is why governments like China invest huge amounts of money into forcing people to do stuff like Tai Chi – it is far more efficient than paying for the health costs associated with paying for an inactive/obese society.

Get Rich Point
Get Rich Point
8 years ago

The 10 points, mentioned, seem to be helpful, but I wonder why the most important point was missed:

What about doing exercise or jogging?
Let me make it very clear, no matter what else you do, if you do not exercise regularly nothing can help you regarding these pains; sooner or later they will emerge.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Get Rich Point

Exercise is generally good, jogging however is actually likely to increase your back pain.

E.g.:
http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/sports-and-spine-injuries/running-and-lower-back-pain

Some methods like POSE or shoeless running attempt to address this problem, but most casual joggers have never heard of such things.

Barb
Barb
8 years ago
Reply to  Get Rich Point

jogging for back pain would not be good, to say the least. As someone with sever arthritis, Id sayt hat jogging certainly has not helped my health. Exercise in general, of course.

Jason
Jason
8 years ago

1. Quick assessment for shoulder health. – Stand normally with your arms at your sides and a pencil/pen in each hand. Look at where the pencils are facing. Most people will have their trajectory crossing right in front of their body which is indicative of rounded shoulders and likely kyphosis (rounded upper spine). – Corrective action is to stretch your chest because it’s probably too tight. Second is to actively pull your scapulae back so that pencils are facing straight ahead. This will take some work to remember to do, but catches on after a few weeks. Also get that… Read more »

David
David
8 years ago

I heard from a customer of mine who said that all back problems come from two muscles near the small of the back being week. She mentioned a simple exercise that she learned about 40 years ago – she claims that it has worked for every person that has tried it.

She said she was 73 – I thought what she had to say was very interesting.

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago
Reply to  David

huh…..so what is the exercise?

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  David

“all back problems come from … ” is an inappropriate response even from a medical professional. There is no such thing as a single cause of all back problems!

Marianne
Marianne
8 years ago

I didn’t realize drinking more water would help regular muscle pain. I suffer from migraines and knew that dehydration can lead to these but thought it wasn’t necessarily my issue since my headaches and migraines come directly from intense neck and shoulder pain. I do generally try to drink extra water when I have a migraine anyways but didn’t realize that this could help with the neck issue as well. I always forget the ice as well. I never think of it and then I go to the chiropractor and they say, ‘did you ice it?’ and I go geez… Read more »

Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
8 years ago
Reply to  Marianne

I get migraines too, and I definitely don’t drink enough water regularly (I work in a lab, which means no water allowed at my bench). The one thing that’s common to all my migraines is lack of sleep. If I don’t allow myself to sleep well for a week –> migraine. Also, I think diet can play a role, things like carbs/sugar and gluten. I know a few people who eat “Paleo” because it helps with their migraines.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

Interesting! I hadn’t thought of cutting grains to see if that works for migraines.

I find it interesting how many experts (doctors and alternative practitioners) say to pay attention to what you eat and how you feel, not “go read the latest studies on this.” Our responses to foods and food additives are individual so sometimes we have to learn by trial and error.

Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Yes, everyone’s body is different. I find it odd that people are willing to pay for pills with a ton of side effects, but changing their diet is just too extreme (and organic is just too expensive). I wish doctors would be more in tune with how food, sleep, and lifestyle affect our biology, rather than just being focused on drugs. An example is gluten and epilepsy. I know 2 women (not a big number, I know) who were cured from epilepsy when they cut gluten. No doctor ever told them to try that, though. They just prescribed pills and… Read more »

Adam P
Adam P
8 years ago

“Place a tennis ball between you and a wall to work out knots and stiff muscles..in your glutes and other tight areas.”

Wow. I just found my new party game. Thanks GRS!

Ino
Ino
8 years ago

Since when does a personal finance website give advice about medical conditions that the writer is obviously not qualified to write about?! “Dehydration lowers viscosity in your body.” Really? You think? I would guess dehydration would INCREASE blood viscosity, i.e. make blood stickier and thicker. (For example, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21163119) And I am not a medical specialist either, I am just employing a smidgen of common sense and questioning the why’s and wherefore’s of this article. And I would never, EVER presume to write a medical article and risk misguiding readers with health problems and concerns. What has GRS been morphing… Read more »

Wes
Wes
8 years ago
Reply to  Ino

Couldn’t agree more – this isn’t an herbal medicine blog, it’s a personal finance blog. This site used to be about financial narrative; now it’s filled with SEO fodder and “quick tips” articles that are better suited for the mainstream financial rags. It’s sad how much it’s gone downhill in the last year or two.

Broke Guy
Broke Guy
8 years ago

The “Mattress” story reminds me of something similar that happened to my Grandfather recently. He is 76 and has had back problems really bad this year. So much that is activity level has gone WAY down. He had been to chiropractors, doctors…the whole works. It wasn’t until my Mom suggested that it could be arthritis, and he should take arthritis pain meds that it got better. Day one of taking the over the counter arthritis meds, he started to feel tons better. Not one single doctor suggested that a 76 year old man could have arthritis…..

Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
8 years ago

Being well-rested can help your posture as well. You’ll be more likely to posture yourself in a comfortable, ergonomic position if you’re not tired.
I think stretching regularly is very important as well.

The only thing that sleep and stretching cost is time.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

I was surprised the post didn’t mention stretching, actually. When I worked on my feet (and on concrete floors!) I started suffering from lower back pain despite my sturdy shoes. I saw a physiotherapist and he said the problem was tight muscles in my legs. The stretches he recommended made a big difference.

It really depends on the person, the cause and the type of pain, but stretching helped me.

Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
8 years ago

I have Spondylolisthesis and the less I stretch, the more it acts up. My legs will get tight, which puts more pressure on my back, which causes my legs to tighten up more etc. I try to stretch at least once a day to avoid the cycle.

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
8 years ago

My chiropractor is the best treatment for my back and worth 100 times my $20 co-pay.

When you need ice, use bags of frozen peas or corn. You can use them over and over again. Just don’t try to be frugal and eat them when you’re well!

Thad P
Thad P
8 years ago

An excellent set of steps to lower back pain relief. I have struggled with this for 25 years. In the past 6 months I have become increasingly convinced my weight (as in too much of it) affects my lower back as much as anything else. As I have lost weight, my lower back has felt much better.

Bella
Bella
8 years ago

This article was good Arpril but I think your homeopathic slant (which often is low cost) lost a few people. It is unforutnate though – because there seems to be great divide between the medical community who push painkillers and the homeopathic that push everything else. Unfortunatly most Docs and Naturopaths don’t give their patients enough credit and tell them what they really need to do – Get to a healthy weight. And walk every day. If only our insurance companies would spend a fraction of what they do on pain pills on helping people get to a healthy weight.… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  Bella

Yes.

I realize that anecdotes prove nothing, but every time I gain 15-20 pounds (unfortunately a frequent event) I get vicious lower back pain. Once I lose the weight it goes away.

Excess weight also causes you to shift the way you walk and even sit, which in turn can led to hip, shoulder, and neck pain. It is a very important element, which this article completely ignores.

Homeopathy is nonsense. Prince Charles is apparently a great believer in it, which is enough for me to consign it to the rubbish heap.

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Queen Elizabeth has always been follower as well and she is looking very good for 86 years old. During the wedding last year she just hopped out of her carriage like a young chick and I was very impressed.

Jimmy M
Jimmy M
8 years ago

I’m surprised more people don’t do this – but for about 10 years I’ve worked as a programmer and I have used a $15 skateboard from target as a footrest.

I can’t skateboard nor do I have any desire to, but it’s mobile, it tilts and it’s the perfect height to sit in a very natural position.

It’s infinitely better than those expensive footrests in every way and you can find cheap cheap ones at stores like Target or Walmart.

Kris @ Debt-Tips
Kris @ Debt-Tips
8 years ago

I’ve dealt with a bad back for a long time, and walking is one of the best activities you can do, either walking as exercise or just a break from sitting. And if you do sit a lot, get up and do some light stretches too. And don’t wait until it hurts either.

bon
bon
8 years ago

Go to Amazon and check out the reviews for “Heal Your Own Beck” by Robin McKenzie, or the reviews for any of his books! these books are $10-15 slim paperbacks.

These were recommended to my husband by an excellent physical therapist.

After years of intense pain, chiropractors, medication, multiple physical therapists and doctors, the McKenzie method is the only thing hat has kept my husband pain-free (and now able to do triathlons!) as well as, doctor/chiro/PT free for the past 2 years.

Kris
Kris
8 years ago
Reply to  bon

Yes, reading a book can cure back & shoulder pain! It worked for me!

Ten years ago I read “Healing Back Pain” by Dr. John Sarno, and it was the cheapest cure.

The cure worked for my mom and a friend as well. Go read the reviews on Amazon…they are glowing.

You can get it used for $5.

Colleen
Colleen
8 years ago

Read the book “Healing Back Pain” by John Sarno. A used copy is cheap and you will never have back pain again.

Ross McCabe III
Ross McCabe III
8 years ago

The comments on this article remind me that everyone has a different set of health challenges. The common thread across April’s article and the comments are the need for proactive steps for our bodies.

We all need an action plan to have an active lifestyle and avoid recoccuring injuries.

Regardless of the fixes that you choose for chronic problems like back pain, the cost will add up be over time. Make the investment up from in your time and develop a healthy lifestyle plan with a professional that you trust.

Divyesh Dave
Divyesh Dave
8 years ago

I know Bikram Yoga studios are not free. But I want to point out that Bikram Yoga really helps in reducing or totally eliminating back pain ( due to heat stretching the body muscles ).

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
8 years ago

Some of these might work, but given that the single source for the whole article is a homeopathic massage therapist I am going to disregard the entire thing.

Nobody at GRS has a medical degree, folks. And you know what’s cheaper than a pair of new running shoes? The co-pay for a visit to your doctor to talk to someone with medical training who can actually look at you and see what might be wrong and give you personalized recommendations.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago

Though doctors aren’t always the best for this kind of thing (random muscle pain)– physical therapists can often help things that doctors can’t. My sister benefited enormously from the sports therapist for her team when she was in college (and was able to pass on exercises to fix problems I also seem to have inherited a propensity towards). But yes, medical training is a wonderful thing.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

A friend of mine went recently to a doctor for this type of problem and all he got was a prescription for Vicodin. Useless!

I second the recommendation for physical therapy.

csdx
csdx
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

If it was in CA, maybe they’d have gotten medical marijuana instead.

April
April
8 years ago

I mention seeing a doctor a couple of times, actually, and would never suggest someone not see one.

These are just simple, inexpensive tips to help prevent pain or to give you changes to think about, not to cure or diagnose. Most of them are pretty basic ideas that Rachael expanded on — good posture, moving around, supportive shoes — but if you feel they’re dangerous or ineffective, by all means, don’t do them.

DB
DB
8 years ago

Why would we ever think that doctors have all the answers? They are extremely highly trained in specific areas, and it’s certainly good advice to work with them as appropriate. But exercise and nutrition can make an enormous difference in health or lack thereof, and most doctors that you or I are likely to go see are not trained in those areas and usually not up on the research. The advice I got from my doctors about exercising during pregnancy (don’t ever raise your heart rate above 120 bpm) is a great example – it was just wrong, and fortunately… Read more »

Esme
Esme
8 years ago

I agree with the recommendations for physical therapists- and I also know from personal experience that massage therapists CAN identify issues that doctors can’t. I tore two tendons in my hip (below the glutes,in the joint) when I was 18.I was incapacitated and unable to walk (and in agony), so was brought to the hospital, whereupon the doctor took one look at me in the emergency room, said ‘I dunno what it is’, shot me full of Demerol and promptly forgot about me (Admitting had lost my file) and left me there to hallucinate alone for the whole night. I… Read more »

Maria
Maria
8 years ago

The link to the DIY footrest is broken.

Betty
Betty
8 years ago

I am 50yo and here is what has worked for me. Yes, it is anecdotal, so take it FWIW. 1) working out with 3-lb and 5-lb dumbell weights for about 5 minutes, do some yoga stretching poses for about 10 minutes, 2x a day. These have been effective for upper and mid-back pain. Lower back pain is easily alleviated by this simple exercise: grasp an overhead bar and pull your knees up towards your stomach. 2) my giving up grains, particularly wheat, has reduced or eliminated nearly all of my joint and other body pains. (eating a “paleo” diet —… Read more »

K-ro
K-ro
8 years ago

I don’t think any one approach has all the answers. I don’t know the value in some of the other approaches (e.g., homeopathy), but the older I get the more evidence there is that medical science is only one part of the whole picture. Years ago I started having knee pain and weakness. Had the appointments with the osteopathic medical doctor, had the x-rays, had the MRIs. His advice – “nothing I can do; learn to live with it.” (I was only 40 for pete’s sake!) By chance, I found a massage therapist who does trigger point. After 3 sessions… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  K-ro

Have you ever heard of integrated medicine? I think the fields of “traditional medicine” and alternative and complementary medicine (CAM) are going to overlap more than we think in the future. (At least I hope so!)

J
J
8 years ago

Although certainly not cheap, I can testify personally that a good chair is KEY to avoiding pain. My work chair is an $800ish chair, and is the most comfortable chair I’ve ever sat in (now, if only it was a recliner =P ). In the past, I’ve had work chairs that sent me to the chiropractor. Switching chairs was the magic fix. It’s certainly not cheap, but you have to weigh its cost vs value. With how much time you spend in that chair, is it worth the cost? For me, yes. For you? Well, that depends on how much… Read more »

Sharon
Sharon
8 years ago
Reply to  J

Wow, $800?? A much cheaper and more effective solution: sit on an exercise ball. Sitting on an exercise ball when I’m at the computer effectively eliminated my lower back pain–and it got rid of my neck pain too, because I’m not slouching forward with my head tipped back, the way I do in a regular computer chair.

Jennifer
Jennifer
8 years ago

I have been having sciatic nerve problems since October and all of these tips are very good ones. using them over the past few months have helped alleviate my pain tremendously.

Valerie
Valerie
8 years ago

I just raised my monitor by 4 inches and I’m noticing an immediate posture improvement. Every time I want to slouch, I can’t see the monitor properly and I sit up straight again. That being said – Homeopathy? Really? “The principle of dilutions (or “law of minimum dose”) states that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness. In homeopathy, substances are diluted in a stepwise fashion and shaken vigorously between each dilution. This process, referred to as “potentization,” is believed to transmit some form of information or energy from the original substance to the final diluted… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago
Reply to  Valerie

I have found tremendous relief in an alternative medicine therapy. It’s called Sinus Buster – it’s pepper spray that you shoot up your nose. The sinus relief I feel is instantaneous. I haven’t taken Sudafed since they changed the law and I had to start showing my drivers’ license. And previously, I’d probably taken Sudafed every day for six months out of the year for a decade. I’ve turned more people onto Sinus Buster than I can count – particularly folks with high blood pressure who should avoid Sudafed. I should add that I believe in regular medicine. But I… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Valerie

“Enjoy wasting hard-earned money on your placebo effect.”

Well, if it works….

Andrea
Andrea
8 years ago

This post really made me make some changes. I sat up straighter, moved my head, put my feet down flat…it’s nice to have a reminder once in a while!

PB @ Economically Humble
PB @ Economically Humble
8 years ago

Great tips! My temper bed was a great investment and solved many issues, including crappy sleep. I elevated my monitor at work and take micro-breaks every 30 minutes to stretch my hands, neck and body. Eventually, I’ll make a standing desk.

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago

Well I have one of those old, non fit bodies that gets aches and pains. However, I find that when I get a joint or muscle pain somewhere the best thing to do is stretch. I look up a book that shows the best stretches for certain areas and it has always solved the problem. Cheaper than going to a doctor who will give me pain killers or a chiropractor who want you to come back twice a week for a month

Christa
Christa
8 years ago

I am terrible about my posture at the keyboard, and I certainly notice a difference when I’m sitting up straight. I am much better about getting up once an hour now, though.

Rob
Rob
8 years ago

I suffered from neck and upper back pain for 3-4 years. I work on a computer all day and was regularly going to physical therapy. I stopped short of taking any meds for the problem. The solution… strength training. I finally got myself into a routine of regular weight lifting, and I have been pain free for over 2 years. It is amazing what sitting a computer all day long does to your body. Particularly, the loss of muscle strength and the increased use of ligaments to keep yourself in your chair. Ligaments aren’t meant for such things and complain… Read more »

Jenna, Community Manager at Adaptu
Jenna, Community Manager at Adaptu
8 years ago

Also, check out local massage schools, you can get amazing massages at a huge discount.

Againstthegrain
Againstthegrain
8 years ago

A couple of things have given me immense improvement: I was contemplating surgery to address chronic inflammation in a bunion that had been bothering me for years. Changing to only wearing very flat shoes with zero heel height and minimal (or even no) arch support (not even a 1/2″ and often wearing Vibram Five Fingers (aka toe shoes) and other “barefoot” styled shoes with ample toe space just about ended the inflammation in my bunion. Turns out the expensive & supportive (sensible) shoes I had bee wearing for the past two decades was just making my feet weaker and more… Read more »

Laura+Vanderkam
Laura+Vanderkam
8 years ago

I had a massage once partly due to a back/neck issue, and the therapist felt the knots and said immediately, do you sit with one foot tucked under you? Guilty. It’s amazing how clearly our bad habits can translate into problems.

PT
PT
8 years ago

I can warmly recommend Foundation Training by Eric Goodman and Peter Parker. No mumbojumbo, just plain physiology/anatomy. Visit their website. Lots of great instructional videos there. This program really helped me get rid of my back pain.

Ms Life
Ms Life
8 years ago

A friend of mine fell down the stairs a few years ago and injured her back. She had to see a physiotherapist once a week, but realized that she could do the exercises on her own so she stopped going. In the meantime, she decided to start losing weight and it struck her that the more weight she lost, the less the back pain got. So for her, the medicine for the pain was just losing weight.

Tania
Tania
8 years ago

I endorse children as the ultimate cheap, but effective massage therapists. One of my boys is massaging my sore back right now as I sit and read this post.

barb
barb
8 years ago

C
A cheap way to reduce aching back for me was BODY TALK.
I had spent yrs seeing a chiro and massage therapist…..someone mentioned BODY TALK.
I finally went and WOW.
The International Body Talk Association has a website to find a practitioner near you.
I do not work for this association, nor do I get pd for this , I am merely passing on a therapy that has worked wonders for me.

Sharon
Sharon
8 years ago

Maybe it’s just me, but these don’t strike me as “cheap” solutions to relieve back pain. A new mattress? $100 running shoes? Yikes! Some really, truly cheap solutions: Sit on an exercise ball at the computer. It helps you sit with proper alignment, and strengthens your core muscles too. I bet an exercise ball plus an old skateboard footrest would be the ultimate combination! If you run, barefoot or minimalist running is the way to go. It forces you into a forefoot strike which minimizes impact and therefore reduces back/joint pain. Don’t pay $100+ for VFFs–pick up a pair of… Read more »

valleycat1
valleycat1
8 years ago

I read somewhere recently that studies are finding that although massage feels good, it doesn’t actually help in the long run for actual muscle strains.

Also, that drinking quinine (tonic water) helps some people, especially for muscle spasms or cramps.

And, my doctor agrees with the ice rather than heat. Check the web for info on how to make your own reusable, flexible ice packs with water & alcohol.

BreeVT
BreeVT
8 years ago

I recently suffered from upper back muscle pain and it was directly related to using my laptop – on my lap. I was hunching over it, in a stiff position to keep it steady, for several hours a day. Stretching wasn’t helping the pain, but a 10 minute targeted massage in one of those big massage chairs sure did. I also slouch much less while working in front of a desktop computer after switching to a “student” chair. The seat depth is much less than an “executive” chair and since I am short (5ft) I can actually sit back with… Read more »

karen
karen
8 years ago

Along the lines of replacing your mattress, you should also consider replacing your pillows. Your neck needs to stay aligned in a natural position when sleeping – and the right pillow can encourage this.

Paul
Paul
8 years ago

Exercise programs with emphasize core strengthening can help a great deal. A good friend of mine swears by Pilates. I found a book on clearance at Tuesday Morning called Core Performance Essentials. The workouts take 30 minutes per day, and I do them every morning. I cannot recommend this program highly enough. For those with serious problems (I have spinal stenosis and spondylolysthesis) I recommend seeing a pain specialist rather than a surgeon. There are a number of treatments available today which are non-invasive and very effective. Back surgery is the definition of a last resort option. Unfortunately, there are… Read more »

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