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Oh, My Aching Back!

Like most Americans, at some point in your life you are likely to suffer from back pain. This episode can vary from mere discomfort and to debilitating pain, from brief duration to long term. There are many causes for back pain. Chronic pain should be addressed by your physician. It may be structural such as disk issues and medical science has many ways to deal with this sort of thing. Treatment might include traction, surgery, and/or drugs.
However, the garden-variety low back pain that most of us experience, felt as achy, sore muscles, is more likely caused by stress. By now we all realize that stress makes most health situations worse. So, what can we do about this? Prevention is the first and best course of action. Initially we need to figure out what is causing the pain, and then decide what steps we can take to improve the situation.

In your workplace, do you stand on a hard floor all day? If so, perhaps a mat to stand on or a better pair of shoes with good padding in the soles might take some stress off your low back. If you enjoy high-impact aerobics, jogging or trampoline, perhaps you need to modify how you do your exercises or find a different sport. Brief moments of rest or sitting when you’ve been standing all day, or standing and walking around if you’ve been sitting, can be a benefit for overall relaxation and your low back as well. If you carry extra weight around your middle or you sit with your pelvis tilted forward in a chair, weight loss or straightening your back when you sit can be helpful.
The important thing is to take a look at how you live your life and identify the situations that cause stress to your whole body, and especially to your lower back. Prevention is our personal responsibility, and that’s where good healthcare begins.

Once you’ve taken steps to improve your situation, if back pain still persists, your body is telling you that stress has begun to take its toll. At this point, reflexology can be used to help reverse the effects if you haven’t already made it part of your prevention program.

Although foot reflexology is the most well-known, working the ears and hands can also be of great benefit. In fact, working the ears can be faster and more beneficial for the low back than even working the feet. And often times it’s much more convenient to work your ears than your feet.

To identify the back reflex areas in your ears, place gentle thumb pressure on the narrow branch of the ear. This is a ridge about 1 inch down from the top of the ear or 1 inch up from the ear canal. It protrudes out very sharply and is easily seen in a mirror and felt with your finger. Place your thumb underneath that narrow ridge and gently push up towards the top of your head. Then push inward, flattening the narrow ridge against your head. Hold this area for 2 to 5 minutes. It may feel slightly sore or sensitive or it may not. People often report feeling warmth, tingling or relaxation in the lower back during or after this treatment. You can work both sides simultaneously and it can be more comfortable to rest your elbows on the table while you’re doing this.

The second most effective and popular area for working the lower back reflex is the foot. The reflex we are targeting is located on the inner part of the foot where the side and the bottom come together, back near the heel. Often this area is sensitive or may feel a little “full” when gently pressed with the thumb. To work this area, sit with your foot on your opposite knee and use your hand nearest the foot, grasping underneath the heel and working with that thumb gently walk your thumb across the area that is painful. Do this thumb walk by starting at the joint of your thumb and gently rolling toward the tip then moving the thumb forward about half its length or less and rolling forward again. This motion reminds some people of the movements of an inch worm. You can walk first in the direction of sole of the foot towards leg, and then walk up the foot from heel toward toes. The amount of pressure you use should not be painful but Increasing in depth as you work. If a particular area is sensitive, we see that as a suggestion that you should spend a little more time there working out the cause of the discomfort. As the sensitivity decreases, many people report relief in their lower back.

The third area worked for lower back pain is in your hands. This reflex for the low back is found on the long bone below your thumb about an inch or so above your wrist on the inner edge of your hand. To get good traction while working this area, place the fingers of your opposite hand behind your palm and use your thumb to gently work up the palm side of your hand, applying pressure and rolling your thumb from joint to tip as you move across this area. Again if you find an area of tenderness or tension there, spend a little more time working on it.

When doing reflexology on yourself, take a clue from the professional reflexologist and work a broader area than just the reflex area associated with your current issue. This is particularly true when working back reflexes, as other nearby areas may also impact your problem area. Also be aware that reflexology should not be used to diagnose. While it’s true that sensitive reflex areas may indicate an imbalance in other areas elsewhere in the body, there may be other reasons than that for reflex areas being sore or sensitive. I encourage you to use reflexology broadly over your ears, hands and feet because it helps the body rebalance and heal itself.

Grateful acknowledgement to Bill Flocco, American Academy of Reflexology, for material excerpted from various of his publications.