As part of Backcare Awareness, the charity Backcare ran a survey about back pain at work with over a thousand people taking part. Over half had experienced back pain in the last 4 weeks regardless of age, sex or background.
There is overwhelming evidence that stress is the most consistent predictor of back pain and the survey results support this. Survey participants most affected by pain were 2-3 times more likely to report feeling less in control, less able to cope. Feeling unsupported or treated unfairly by their boss was also higher amongst those in pain.
Stress can literally cause physical symptoms. Back pain is a common manifestation of psychological stress but tension headaches, chest pain, stomach pain, shortness of breath and insomnia are also possible. Research shows that without these pre-existing psychological triggers posture and lifting are largely unrelated.’
‘That’s all very well’ you might be thinking. ‘We are all stressed. What am I supposed to do about it?’ Well, happily there are number of things you can do. One simple strategy that has been gaining recognition lately for its profound effect on the brain, emotions and in turn, pain, is mindfulness.
Express Guide to Cultivating Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we pay attention to what is happening in the present moment, without judgement, here and now. When you practice mindfulness you are cultivating ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. These techniques help us, not to forget the stresses of everyday life, but allow us to observe them objectively.
Mindfulness techniques can be really helpful for pain relief. Pain is increased hugely by feelings of fear, anger and irritation. By stopping and watching, without emotion, very often the pain decreases substantially.
If you have any pain at the moment try these activities. Start in short bursts of 5 minutes and increase over time:
– Firstly, sit comfortably. Focus on your breathing and the sensation of your body on the floor or chair. Don’t try to change anything about your breath or body, just be aware of it.
– Notice—really notice—what you’re sensing in these few minutes. Any sounds and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness
– Scan down through your body from head to toe tuning into your body’s physical sensations. If you are feeling pain where is it, how does it feel? ‘Watch’ it, like a curious observer.
Recognize that your thoughts and emotions – about your pain or anything else – are fleeting and do not define you. Really recognising this and distancing ourselves from negative thoughts allows us to literally turn the volume down on our pain.
Hopefully you are currently pain free but if you would like some help do get in touch.