Category Archives: Back Pain

A Good Night’s Sleep While on the Road

Sleep is a funny thing. When we are children we hate the idea of sleeping. We are certain that we are going to miss something hugely important or wonderful; after all, the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy all come at night. The older we get the more we see sleep as a blessing instead of a conspiracy, and ironically, the more sleep seems to allude us.

I love sleep as much as anyone, when Tom and I got married our first big joint purchase was a brand new bed. Neither of us had ever slept on a brand new mattress before, so we decided to really go all out. We bought a pillow top mattress with an adjustable base. At first the adjustable base seemed like a luxury, but I soon realized that it had its practical purposes. Sleeping with our heads slightly inclined has helped with my husband’s snoring, my stuffy nose and the back pain that both of us usually felt in the morning.

This bed is great, but we are a bit spoiled by it. Now when we travel and have to sleep on a flat surface, we are acutely aware of our suffering. Well, my husband isn’t aware until the morning, I’m the one up all night poking my husband in the ribs trying to convince him to roll over and stop snoring in my ear. I began to dread leaving my bed for even one night with my husband in tow. Then a friend came to visit for a weekend and I was inspired.

My friend also has to sleep inclined, but for her, sleeping flat can have some pretty scary consequences. Therefore she always comes prepared with her very own sleep wedge. How did I not know these things existed? My friend’s sleep wedge is comically huge, it is almost as big as she is. This made it kind of a pain to travel with, especially when public transportation is your only option. I looked around online and managed to find an inflatable version.

This wedge especially works great for hotels that like to skimp on the pillows. You just inflate it to a comfortable level and shove it under your pillow. I wouldn’t recommend sleeping directly on top of the wedge though, it is made of plastic and smells similar to all those pool inflatables. I didn’t have any problems with this wedge going flat by morning, but I only use it for one night at a time.

Obviously nothing is as good as a full night’s rest in your own bed. But if you have issues with sinuses, snoring, or back and neck pain when traveling, this inflatable travel wedge pillow (or the standard version if you have the room and are staying awhile) will make your night a little more comfortable.

What accommodations to you have to make while traveling?

“TLCing” the Body for the Future

6583616433_50981b88c3When they said aging with a disability was a serious business, they weren’t joking. I’m only 34 and I’m already feeling some massive aging issues. If this is what I have to look forward to for the next 30 or so years, I’ve decided to take some serious action.

It all started a couple of years ago when I drove for 6 hours straight. After the drive, my wrist felt like it had fallen asleep. No big deal, right? But it was much more serious than that. Little did I know I had strained my wrist muscles to the point of overuse, and getting them back to normal would be an almost impossible task.

When you get a strained joint or muscle as someone with a mobility disability and you have limited movement in other areas, preserving what you have is critical. In fact, this is key throughout our entire lives. We need to be obsessed with joint and muscle preservation and begin thinking of our bodies as precious works of art.

I’ve decided to employ a few different strategies to make sure I do whatever I can to treat my body with TLC and get as much use out of it as I can. The first thing is monitoring my movement for the day and making sure I don’t over-exert myself. This means not typing 8 hours straight and then cooking a huge meal. Partitioning of your chores will protect your body.

I also make sure I get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise and drink plenty of water; all the important things we should all be doing anyways, disabled or not. It’s easy however to neglect your body when you have a disability and are alone often, which is the case for me, as no one is here to stop me from doing something stupid.

I’ve also had another age-related injury in the last year – burstitis of the shoulder. Joy of joys. This strange sounding condition is one athletes usually get, fluid on the shoulder limiting mobility, but since people disabilities strain their joints in some cases almost as much as athletes, we too are susceptible to this condition. Stretching and cortisone shots can help.

Isometric weight training however is another thing I’m doing and is one of the biggest things people disabilities should learn how to do. This specialized weight training makes sure to never over-exert your muscles, and instead has you apply pressure to small areas of the muscle, slowly building up strength without tuckering your poor muscles out.

And the last thing I’ve decided to do for the time being – see a massage therapist on a regular basis. Giant knots in the muscles we use are inevitable, but if we don’t get them rubbed out, they will just get worse until the muscles shorten, making it hard to move.

It is pretty scary thinking about what may happen in the future when it comes to our bodies. Aging is the one thing we all fear. However by planning and preserving, we can give ourselves of a bit peace of mind, and that can help tremendously.

How do you give your body TLC for the long run?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

Managing Back Pain

At some point throughout life, most people will encounter back pain, and it can be pretty debilitating. For people with disabilities, however, back pain can bring our lives to a screeching halt. Even simple tasks, like rolling over in bed or transferring, become insurmountable feats of will that often result in tears, heavy breathing and the occasional scream.

Back pain can make living an UNlimited life seem nearly impossible,Because of my Cerebral Palsy I am prone to back spasms. These spasms are a huge hindrance in my life, but now that I have encountered this particular pain a few times, I have found some simple ways to deal with it.

Heat Wraps These things are a life saver, especially if you are far away from your heating pad. They have these stone like disks in them that are self heating, and they easily wrap around your waist so it stays in place no matter what position you find most comfortable. They can be worn under your clothes for up to 8 hours. They do get pretty warm, so if you have limited sensation you may want to have someone check every couple of hours; I have never had a problem though.

Stretching and Massage- If your back pain comes from muscle spasms like mine, then stretching and massage is the best solution. If the pain is really bad, you might consider going to a physical therapist. If the pain is only mild to moderate, you might be able to treat it at home. It is pretty easy to find stretches for the back on the internet if you are in a pinch, but a physical therapist can also provide you with modified, at-home stretches if you need them.

If there is no one at home to help massage the area, you can purchase a massage chair or cushion. My husband bought me one which has a heat option and the ability to focus on just one part of the back. It works pretty well for me even though I am short. My only suggestion is to put a towel between you and the cushion because it can get a little intense. I also would not use it for more than 10 or 15 minutes.

Hot Showers- I am a firm believer that a hot shower can help fix almost anything; a broken heart, a crappy attitude and yes, back pain. I turn the water on as hot as I can handle and just let it wash over me. It never fully gets rid of the pain, but nine times out of ten, it does help. The best part is this one is completely free, if you don’t count the water and gas bills that you have to pay anyway.

Positioning-If you are suffering from chronic back pain and you are a wheelchair user, then your seating system could be to blame; mine was. Make sure that you are fully supported by your seating system. This small change could dramatically decrease the frequency of your back pain.

Back pain sucks, but if you learn how to manage it in ways that work for you, you can greatly reduce the impact that back pain has on your life.

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