Updated: Oct 6
As a Reflexologist and Massage therapist, I've had the privilege of helping many of you experience relief from various aches and pains, with a particular focus on back care.
Our backs are the unsung heroes of our bodies, supporting us day in and day out. Unfortunately, we often neglect them until they start complaining loudly with discomfort and pain.
Here I want to stress the importance of looking after our backs, share some back stretches and exercises that can help alleviate back pain, and explain how regular massage or reflexology can be a crucial part of your back care routine.
Let's explore why it's important to care for our backs and how practices like massage, reflexology, and simple body movements can make a world of difference.
The Importance of Back Care
Our backs are incredible complex structures, consisting of bones, muscles, ligaments and nerves. Providing support to our entire body and facilitating movement.
Unfortunately, they're also susceptible to pain and discomfort due to our modern lifestyles.
Poor posture, extended periods of sitting, and stress can all take a toll on our backs. Neglecting back care can lead to chronic pain, decreased mobility, and even more serious health issues over time.
Some generalised (minor) causes of back pain may include - Falling, Lifting heavy objects, Straining a muscle or ligament, Poor posture, Living a sedentary lifestyle / No regular exercise, Sitting for too long, Feeling stressed or ‘run-down’.
Taking Better Care of
1. Being mindful of your posture when sitting, standing, and walking. Avoid slouching, and ensure your workspace is ergonomically designed to support your back - especially if you have to spend a lot of your day sitting at a desk.
2. Get Moving! Regular activities such as walking, swimming, or yoga/pilates, helps strengthen the muscles that support your spine and maintain flexibility.
If you spend a lot of time sat down during your day - make sure you make the effort to get up and move around regularly.
3. When lifting heavy objects, bend at your knees and hips, not your waist. Use your legs to lift, keeping the object close to your body. Get someone to help.
4. Stress can contribute to muscle tension and back pain. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness to manage stress effectively.
Back Stretches and Exercises
Here are a few simple exercises and stretches that can help alleviate back pain and improve back care:
1. Cat-Cow Stretch
- Start on your hands and knees.
- Inhale while arching your back and lifting your head (Cow Pose).
- Exhale while rounding your spine and tucking your chin (Cat Pose).
- Repeat for 1-2 minutes.
2. Child's Pose
- Kneel on the floor with your big toes touching and knees apart.
- Sit back onto your heels and reach your arms forward.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
3. Side Stretch (standing or seated)
Stand up/sit up straight. Interlace your fingers with your palms facing upwards, or take hold of the opposite wrist. Raise your arms above your head. Bend to the right, then come back to centre and bend to the left. Repeat as required.
4. Back Release Knee Hugs
Lie on your back, straighten one leg on the floor (or knee bent with foot on floor) keeping your hips parallel. Gently hug your other knee into your chest. Hold for a few deep breaths. Then repeat on the opposite leg.
This can also be carried out by hugging both knees together towards your chest.
5. Bridge Exercise
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Lift your hips toward the ceiling, squeezing your gluteals (bottom) together.
Hold for a few seconds, then lower slowly. Repeat 10-15 times.
(Note - These are suggested for mild/minor back aches & pains - if you're experiencing any pain or discomfort, please consult your GP or healthcare professional and consider the activity beforehand.)
How Massage and Reflexology Can Help?
Regular Massage and/or Reflexology sessions can play a great role in your back care routine.
Here's how they can benefit you:
Muscle Relaxation - Massage and reflexology techniques help relax tight muscles, reducing muscle tension that contributes to back pain.
Improved Blood Circulation - These therapies enhance blood flow to the affected areas, promoting healing and reducing inflammation.
Stress Reduction - Stress is often a significant contributor to back pain. Reflexology and massage are excellent stress relievers, promoting relaxation and reducing stress hormones in the body.
Pain Relief - Reflexology and massage can target specific pressure points and muscles associated with back pain. The techniques used during these sessions promote relaxation and reduce muscle tension, providing relief from discomfort.
Increased Mobility - These therapies can improve joint flexibility and range of motion, allowing for better overall back function.
You may be thinking - “ Ok, I can understand how having Massage can help, but I'm not sure about Reflexology as you’re working on my feet - not my back?!”
Reflexology, in particular, is rooted in the idea that specific points on the feet correspond to various parts of the body, including the back / your spine. By stimulating and working on these reflex points and nerve areas, reflexology can help reduce stress levels, making you feel more relaxed and reduce pain levels.
Your back is your body's foundation, and taking care of it is crucial for your overall well-being.
By maintaining good posture, staying active, managing stress, and incorporating simple stretches and exercises into your daily routine, you can help prevent and alleviate back pain. Additionally, regular massage or reflexology sessions can be an effective way to support your back care efforts.
Prevention is better than cure!
If you have any questions or concerns about your back health, don't hesitate to ask and always speak to your GP or healthcare professional (massage therapist, physical therapist (pt), physio, chiropractor, osteopath to name a few ...) if you're struggling with persistent back pain.
Further reading -
Ali Iles (MAR, MFHT) is a Reflexology & Massage Therapist based in Downend, Bristol, UK.
Offering Complementary Therapies, providing you with time for relaxation - relieving tension and helping to improve your sense of wellbeing and health.