I write this article while slouched over my computer, with a dull ache across my lower back (caused by pregnancy, I assume) and a slightly sharper pain across my shoulders (likely caused by my monstrously sized 2-year-old)...
The thing is, it isn’t really worrying me, because I can’t remember a time when my body wasn’t in some sort of pain. Aren’t we all? Between carrying children, breastfeeding and slaving over computers, who isn’t a little bit sore … All of the time?
Apparently, this isn’t how things are meant to be. In fact, it should look quite different. Jackie Messaike – of Jackie’s Sports Massage in Sydney – is here to tell us not only how to minimise neck and back pain, but how to avoid it altogether.
Jackie, I’m sitting up straight, and I’m listening.
Visit Jackie’s Sports Massage | Header image by Nikole Ramsay
It is just us … Or are we all suffering from neck pain? What are some of the common causes of neck pain?
No it’s not just you – it is everybody. With increased work hours, stress and hours behind a computer neck pain complaints are increasing and sales of Nurofen are through the roof! Neck pain is commonly caused by poor posture and hunching forward which results in tight upper back/neck muscles and disc issues in our cervical spine. Headaches, neck pain and limited range of movement are all too common and something needs to give as we need to help our bodies cope with the stresses of the all too hectic, fast-paced modern life.
What are some of the benefits of massage?
The benefits of massage are endless. More commonly they are:
- Pain and muscle tension relief
- Enhanced mood and energy as endorphins are released helping us to feel more calm and happy
- Stress relief as it lowers the bodies cortisol levels
- Improved sleep with enhanced relaxation
- Injury prevention as a massage releases muscles before their tightness causes inflammation and damage to discs and joints
What’s more, the power of touch is very important and we need physical contact to thrive. Many people in our society are starved of being touched for significant periods of time and that is detrimental to the quality of one’s life.
How often do we need to be massaged to truly experience the benefits?
At Jackie’s Sports Massage we recommend weekly massages for your first few treatments and then when your body starts to show signs of improvement, we work out your ideal maintenance plan which is different for everybody, depending on workloads, stress and exercise regimes. As a general guide, we say most people should be having a monthly massage as a minimum requirement for a healthy lifestyle.
As well as booking in for a massage, what are some of the things we can do to prevent and relieve pain? (Particularly for us who are breastfeeding or working in front of a computer all day?)
Heat packs are a great home remedy for upper back and neck pain. I recommend clients take their heat pack with them to bed at night and lay on it for 10 minutes before sleep. The heat pack really helps the muscle tension to let go and aids in a good night’s sleep.
What tips do you have for pregnant women who are battling aches and pains?
After giving birth myself to three boys, I know all too well the aches and pains of pregnancy. My tips are to ensure you keep moving daily with walking, swimming and light weight-bearing exercises (such as squats or lunges) to ensure your glutes stay activated and your muscles strong. Pregnancy massage is a must as this will help relieve any muscle tension building in your back or neck plus help with the fluid retention in your legs or arms which is all too common with pregnancy.
When we’re constantly lifting children, our bodies can suffer. Any tips for doing this in a safe and pain-free way?
Yes, remember to switch sides and don’t always hold your baby on the same hip shoulder. Try to balance it out left to right as evenly as possible. And the same lifting rules apply… Bend from the legs, not from the lower back. Keeping your muscles loose with regular massage is vital plus a strong core throughout motherhood is a must, so try to get into a weekly Pilates session wherever possible. There are some great online Pilates courses for when it is just too hard to get out of the house. Epliates Online is one I highly recommend to all my clients.
What are good exercises/fitness programs to get into to help loosen up our aches and pains, without making things worse?
As above … Epilates Online is awesome. Keep moving with walks or swimming. Gentle squats and lunges are great to keep the glutes strong, which will help protect our lower backs. Heat packs are another great remedy for busy mums to help relax any muscle tension that builds throughout our busy days.
Is there anything we should really try to avoid to keep our bodies feeling good?
Inactivity and sitting around all day needs to be avoided. Our bodies are designed to move, so keep moving and as tired as you may be, try to fit in some exercise every day… Even a brisk walk around the block will help. Our bodies also do not like bending forward so try to not be in flexion/poor posture for long periods. Open your body up with gentle extension movements like gentle back bends over a swiss ball for support, with your arms stretched out overhead. (Of course, this exercise can only be done once fully recovered from birthing, and approximately 12 weeks after any C-sections.)
What is your top tip for new mothers hoping to look after their bodies?
Don’t wait too long to get back into an exercise plan that works well for you.
6-12 weeks is plenty of time to recover from birthing so as soon as you are given the all-clear from your medical professional, start to implement exercise into your weekly routine. New mothers should check in with their massage therapist before they start exercising again so that we can make sure all muscles are loosened and ready to get started into some activity to ensure you remain injury free. Tight muscles are injury prone, so loosen up with massage first before you start to tone up with exercise.