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Worried about back pain ruining Christmas. Act Now!’s 7 things you can do every day.

With winter rolling in and temperatures dropping many of us know that the annual cold affected back and joint pain is only around the corner.

The country is on track for covid restrictions to be eased enough to allow family visits to the home, meaning that we will get to spend time with our loved ones. The last thing anyone needs is to have chronic and back pain ruining the day.

Many of us love the winter months; the crisp clear air off the dry days; the excitement as to whether or not a white Christmas is on the way. But too often, a niggling pain that has been kept at bay during the warmer summer and autumn months begins to creep back in to play. It could be a simple movement like bending down to tie a shoe lace or pulling decorations out of the attic that aggravates an almost forgotten pain.

But there is no reason to look out at the frosty mornings with dread. Winter is the season of Water Kidney element. It is a season of storing, resting and preparing for the new growth and abundance next spring. The Water Kidney element is associated with bone and marrow (the nerves and brain), which is why it is often involved in the treatment of back and joint pain.

Acupuncture at this time of year can help keep aches and pains at bay by strengthening the Qi of the Water Kidney Element, resulting in stronger more flexible joints and less susceptibility to cold invasion. Weekly acupuncture treatments help build the kidneys Qi and makes the body less susceptible to injury.

Of course, there are things we can all do to help prevent back pain and boost the Water Kidney element Qi.

Lift Properly – As a rule, if you can’t move it on the floor with your foot then it’s too heavy to lift by yourself. Whenever you do lift something make sure you grip the item close to your body. Bend your knees and look forwards – not at the ground. Lift with your leg muscles not with your back and arms.

Diet – Being overweight can be a major factor in aggravating back pain. Try and adjust your diet to maintain a healthy body weight. Foods that are considered helpful for the water Kidney element are Blackberries, Leeks, red bell peppers, cabbage, Beans (including Kidney Beans!), Lentils, Oats, Nuts (especially almonds), Seaweed, Fish, Bone Broth, seasonal veg Soup,. Avoid eating too much cold, raw food, refined sugars, coffee, over processed foods, excessive alcohol and eating late at night. A more specific list of foods can be provided once an exact kidney pattern is diagnosed.

Exercise and stretch – Having a strong core is key to keeping back pain at bay. Getting regular exercise and stretching daily will help prevent back pain from getting in the way of life. Don’t overwork yourself every day though – the body needs time to rest and regenerate too. Also make sure you are stretching after a workout or physical activity – not stretching can lead to the muscles staying too tight and pulling excessively on the joints.

Protect from cold – Wind, cold and rain will work their way through the skin and our defensive qi if given a chance. Make sure to dress in layers and do not stay in wet clothes. Hats and scarves are a great idea for heading outdoors too.

Pay attention to posture – sitting or standing with a slouch, craning over a keyboard and a monitor below eye level are sure ways to bring on back pain. Try to maintain a posture where your hips are higher than your knees (consider a wedge-shaped cushion for the home office) and your ears, shoulders and hips are in a vertical line.

Practice Qigong – exercises that are specifically designed to raise qi and support the kidney function can help ward off back pain. One such exercise is called knocking on the gates of life – standing with feet at shoulder width part; knees bent; arms loose and elbows bent begin gently turning the torso by turning your hips and waist – its ok for your knees to move, what is to be avoided is having the twisting originating in the waist. Allow the motion to move your arms so that the forearm or hand naturally touches the abdomen below the navel and the other touches the lumbar with each turn. The acupuncture point stimulated on the front of the body is called Qihai (the sea of Qi) and the point on the back is Mingmen (gate of life) – both of which will benefit the Kidneys and help prevent back pain.

Sleep well – It’s a good idea to sleep a little longer in the winter months in keeping with the longer nights and shorter days. Sleeping on a mattress that is not supportive can mean the back curves improperly during the night. Those of us that sleep on our sides should avoid having too many pillows and causing the neck to be bent excessively as we sleep. Those that sleep on their backs can try a pillow or bolster under their knees to further reduce strain on the back.

Remember, every bit of self-care can help and could help finishing the year on a good note.

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