Pain is no beautifier. We furrow our brows, the light goes out of our eyes, we stoop of slouch. (And, left untended our joints may suffer irreparable damage.) At Beauty Bible, as you’ll probably know, we take a holistic approach to beauty – and so that means doing what we can to keep aches and pains, with their knock-on effect on our looks and energy levels, at bay.
Two out of three people suffer neck and shoulder pain in their lives. Back ache is endemic, affecting eight in ten of us, the majority aged between 35 and 55 years old. When there are the usual headaches, not to mention sore feet. We’re not talking here about the sort of pain that comes with acute illness or injury. This is the general wear and tear that we’re all prey to and which can make us look and feel older. So, it’s worth having strategies to deal with aches and pains. And like so much, it all begins with prevention…
Stand up straight: Improving your posture reaps heaps of benefits – preventing aches and pains, making you look slimmer, and even keeping you happier. Ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should be in a straight line; pull your tummy button towards your spine. Breathe slowly.
Make sure you can see clearly: Having the right specs will help prevent that tortoise-poke-forward as you peer at a book, the screen or the road ahead (as well as stopping you frowning, which should save a few pounds on face creams). Have your eyes tested at least every two years, annually after the age of forty if you have glaucoma in the family (it can result in blindness, so this is vital). Check your lighting: if you’re working at a screen, the main source should come from behind it to avoid reflections on the screen. If you’re reading, the light source should preferably come from over your left shoulder; in the darker winter months, you will need stronger light than on a bright summer’s day. (We like Serious Readers dedicated lamps.)
Keep moving: Our bodies were not designed to sit still for long periods. Neck, shoulder and back aches often come from sitting in a fixed position at screens (laptops are worst of all, as we’ll come onto) and also driving, lifting, etc. The golden rule is: get up and walk around every 30-40 minutes – more if possible. Sip a glass of water as you amble, and you’ll be doing double beauty duty.
Position your head correctly: It’s very heavy (about 12 pounds) and needs to sit directly on top of your spine rather than poking forward, straining muscles and causing injury. Aim to have your ears, shoulders and hips in a straight vertical line. Lifting your chest and letting your shoulders roll back and down helps; gently push your shoulder blades together (see exercises below).
Have your knees slightly lower than your pelvis when sitting. This helps put the spine into neutral position. If you don’t have a chair with an adjustable seat, try putting a couple of folded towels under your bottom, and sit into the back of the chair.
Your screen should be at eye level: Have your forearms at right angles to your body and in a straight line to your fingertips. An arm rest may help. Your mouse should be easily accessible by swinging your hand round, to say 45 degrees maximum. You shouldn’t have to lift your elbow or make a claw. RSI sufferers should choose a big ‘elephant’s foot’ mouse or trackball. Keep the documents you are working on at eye height to avoid squinting at the bottom of the screen.
Do simple, gentle exercises to keep your circulation moving: A counter-stretch will reverse the hunched position, particularly after using a laptop; imagine you’re ‘opening like a flower’, says Tim Hutchful of the British Chiropractic Association. Reach your arms out to the side, palms up, then open your fingers and turn your palms down to the floor; look gently up to the ceiling, push your shoulder blades together and hold for ten seconds. Follow with a ‘chin tuck’: pull your chin into your throat as if you are trying to make a double chin and hold for ten seconds. Also shrug your shoulders up to your ears and circle them back and forwards. (For a quick exercise programme for all ages, visit Straighten Up UK! – fantastic if you’re feeling tired and/or looking peaky.)
But what if you do have aches and pains…? Here’s what we’ve found works:
Spray on BetterYou Magnesium Oil: It will relax the muscles in that area and should provide quick relief. You can use it several time a day, and before bed. Genius!
Try Bromelain. This is an enzyme with remarkable painkilling properties, that’s been extensively studied for use in digestive disorders (e.g.heartburn, acid reflux and food allergies), also inflammatory conditions (arthritis, sports injuries and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis). Jo has had amazing results with Bromelain after knee problems (we take Viridian Bromelain).
Explore complementary therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic (try McTimoney chiropractic if you don’t like too much clunk-click stuff), Bowen technique, osteopathy and/or cranial osteopathy.