As a reminder, I'm not a doctor and I'm just sharing my experience here — see the disclaimer at the bottom of the page that you accept by browsing my site ;)
After a good ten years of working at a desk, my back started to complain because I did not take care of it enough during all this time...
For me it's mostly the right side of what my osteo calls the "sacroiliac". You know that thing in the lower back that hurts when you get up from the couch or bed after being there for a while.
That's when I realized that my twenties were behind me... :D
Me, who was the first to make fun of my older cousins who told me "You'll see in five or ten years, we'll talk again about it ;)"
So, what do you do when your back hurts?
The first time, it relieves you like crazy, and you promise your practitioner that "Yes yes, you will do more sports". And this last two or three days. Then you miss it "just once"... and in fact after a week, you have stopped everything...
At least, that's how it went for me!
Until the day my frugal side woke up.
Indeed, it costs a lot of money to go to the osteopath every month. And most of all, I want to be as healthy as possible so I can travel the world when I'm 40. I don't want to feel old already, and even less so once I've reached financial freedom!
My 3 tools to get rid of back pain
I thank my osteopath for giving me these tips and tricks instead of just saying "See you in a month ;)" thinking about the cash he was going to make with a recurring client!
1. Two specific sequences of exercises, each day
The cool thing about these muscle strengthening exercises is that they start out very gentle. So I'm not as put off by it. I would even say that it motivates me because I know that it's easy at first. And then once it gets harder (it's all relative for the more athletic among you!), I'm already into it so it's all good.
Before I reveal what my exercises are, there is something key to success.
This is the time of day when you are going to do these two sequences of exercises.
If you want to succeed, it has to happen in the morning. And there's no excuse (kids, job, blahblah). You get up 12-15 minutes earlier, and that's it.
Why in the morning?
It's quite simple.
In the morning, just like your smartphone battery, your willpower and motivation are 100% recharged. So it's guaranteed that you'll have enough strength to motivate you to do your sport.
Whereas if you plan it later in the day, you have no idea how much motivation you'll have left depending on what happened in your day.
The habit is ingrained in me. My first goal of each day is to exercise. Because any wealth is useless without health.
But let's get back to the exercises in question.
Three years ago, I told you that I had started doing the 7-minute sports program.
Except that after several months of practice, I had chronic shoulder pain.
So I talked to my osteopath who recommended the following "anti-back pain" sports program:
Exercise 1: Shoulder warm-up
I start with:
- 10x the exercise at minute 2:06 where you raise your right arm perpendicular to your body with the elastic under your left foot
- 10x same as above on the left side
- 10x the shoulder rotation exercise on the right side (1:29 in the video)
- 10x as above, but on the left side
- 10x split exercise, shown at minute 2:38
A tip from Mrs. MP who was watching me one morning: concentrate your efforts on when your arm goes down/closes by doing the movement slowly (rather than during the stretch), because that way, you retain the elastic and that's where your muscles work the most — and indeed it gets hotter!
Exercise 2: Strengthening of "deep" abdominal and back muscles
After warming up my shoulders, I do the following 8 exercises for 30 seconds each, with 10-15 seconds of rest between:
- 1/ "Normal" plank
- Elbows not too far apart, making a right angle
- The head aligned with the rest of the body (not raised nor retracted)
- And the most important thing to make your body work at the deep abs level is to contract your buttocks all along, as if you wanted to crack a nut with it ;)
- 2/ Squats
- Remember to put your feet in a "fan" at about 45 degrees (vs. leaving them straight, and damaging your knees like I used to do...)
- Do not go back up until you stretch your legs because it is useless according to my osteopath, and not good for your knees
- 3/ Plank with lateral leg movements
- See minute 5:57 of the video below:
- 4/ Squats
- 5/ "Normal" plank
- 6/ Squats
- 7/ Plank on one leg
- I first do 20 seconds with my right leg supporting me, and my left leg raised and stretched
- Then I do the same with the left leg supporting me, and the right leg raised and stretched
- 8/ Squats
Since I've been doing this every morning, miraculously, I no longer have lower back pain!!! The key being in the daily repetition.
It will surely seem obvious (and very light as a "training") to the athletic readers, but anyway, it changed my life. And that's the most important thing!
But that's not the only thing that has improved my back well-being.
2. No more ergonomic office chair!
One of the first things you tell yourself when your back starts to hurt is that you absolutely need a new, more ergonomic office chair!
Because it's logical, if you have a comfortable chair, your back won't hurt as much after 8 hours without moving.
I was ready to spend CHF 1'000 on a high end chair because I wanted to be in less pain.
But fortunately, my famous osteo came to my rescue.
He explained to me that the human body is made to move, not to be immobile for hours in front of a screen (it seems so obvious to write it, but it wasn't obvious to me at the time).
And he pulled a big ball out from behind his desk and said: "This is what you need. This will fix your back problems."
This kind of ergonomic ball is perfect for maintaining a toned posture, as you are forced to position yourself well in order to work comfortably. And the best part is that it has an "automatic alarm" system to get you moving that is unstoppable... I'm talking about your "deep" abs. When they start to hurt, it means you've been sitting still too long, and it's time to take a break and go for a walk and stretch.
Combined with my muscle strengthening exercises, this is the solution that solved all my lower back problems!
I highly recommend the brand VLUV (model STOV for our part) which sells stylish ergonomic balls (vs. the transparent plastic ones you see in yoga rooms). If you can wait a bit, QoQa proposes them regularly.
Also, be sure to take the time to read the size guide to choose one of the two sizes offered — it's very well explained on all VLUV retailer sites.
3. An app to move regularly
There is one more tool I use to get rid of lower back pain.
As my osteopath mentioned above, our human body is made to move. According to him, we should be in motion every 10 minutes at least. Being geeky and discplined (one can't change himself!), I thought that I must not be the only one to have these back pain problems... so I looked for an application for my laptop that could alert me to take breaks.
That's how I discovered Strechly.
It's a simple app that reminds you to move every 10 minutes for 30 seconds, and every 30 minutes for 5 minutes.
So yeah, it's a little sad that you have to have an app for that, but at least it helps me.
The good news is that your health will improve, but so will your wallet!
In terms of investment, it gives us:
- Muscular strengthening exercises
- Ergonomic ball
- 1x VLUV ball = between CHF 100 and CHF 150 depending on the size and the site where you buy it (even less than CHF 100 on QoQa)
- Strechly = free (you can support the developer by making a donation)
- Total = CHF 160
And in terms of yield, if we count that you avoid going to the osteo once a month, at a rate of CHF 120/session, that makes us CHF 1'440/year of savings.
And since you don't let this money sit in a bank account, but rather invest it so that it grows while you go about your business, that makes you CHF 22'539 more each decade thanks to compound interest!
And you, what do you do to keep your back (and the rest of your body) in great shape?