Saturday, January 30, 2016

Back Health for Teachers

Chronic back pain is common, and teachers can be extra vulnerable.
Sitting for long periods of time is terrible for your back.  So is bending over at the waist.  I used to do this all the time, to check kids’ work, or to correct their penmanship.  Now I bend at the knees.  No matter how silly it looks, I know it’s the right thing for my back health.

Here are some devices that have helped my back stay healthy and pain-free.

1)       This is the TENS system I bought about 5 years ago.  It's right up there as one of the best purchases I ever made.

It is exactly like the professional machine a physical therapist or chiropractor would use (except the pro model costs $3000).  One or two sessions completely dissolve any lower back pain.

You have to know how to use it.  If you don't, I recommend seeing a professional therapist first.  The rules include: don't let the pads touch, don't place the pads directly on your spine or near your heart.  Place them in the 2 or 4 spots of most pain, and use for approximately 1 hour a day as needed.  Always, always...turn off the electrical device before placing or removing the pads.

One important feature is a timer, so it turns off automatically if you fall asleep with it on.  Another must-have feature is a variety of electric pulses.


2)      My second best tip is to use a lumbar pillow.  I rarely sit without one, as nothing beats preventing pain.  My favorite back pillow is a half-cylinder memory foam shape. The Tempur-Pedic brand is hands-down the best, and for back health, I splurged.  I layer 2 pillows on my deep-set chair.  I put the lumbar pillow arched against my lower back.  

I carry my pillow in a thin burlap bag on those days when we sit all day at professional development.  I simply place the bag against a chair for comfort.

3)     I also use these 2 foam rollers.  They're used to massage legs, hips, back, etc.

And they work wonders!  As you roll slowly back and forth, you get a deep tissue massage.  For the lower back, I place one under the lumbar area and one under the shoulders.  Then I roll over both at the same time.  

A word of warning: your first sessions may be painful, veeeery painful.  That’s good.  It means all your tight muscles are loosening up.  After a week, it’s a pure pleasure. 

4)    An herbal heat pack creates a total home spa experience.  I got this on impulse, and it was one of the great gifts I recommend to anyone for that "ahhhh" feeling at the end of a long day—spent in a classroom or elsewhere.

For back health, I make sure to stretch daily and I have my kids do it, too—even if it’s only for a few seconds between lessons.  I hope I’m instilling a lifetime habit of health.

Of course, if you have chronic back pain, please see a professional first.  Find out the root cause, which may involve posture, muscles, arthritis, or spinal discs.  

And treat your back like royalty.  It is.

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