I have been travelling a lot recently.  Four hour plane rides every other week for five months, spending two week out of every three on the road for a 45 year old man is stressful.  This has caused several problems, not just the emotional strain of separation form my wife and children.  First there is the weight gain from eating at restaurants.  In my case, I gained almost 10% (more than 20 lbs).  Second there is the discomfort of actual plane travel in smaller planes (MD-80 aircraft are a bit short for my six foot stature).   Third there are the long hours in front of a computer at the remote site, I have nothing else to do but go to the hotel and watch TV (I’m not much of a club hopper).  The combined result is exceptional back pain.

I have taken the opportunity provided by my employer to receive physical therapy.  I cannot compliment the physical therapists enough.  This is not a therapeutic massage, nor is it chiropractic therapy.  The physical therapist determines the cause of the pain, this includes pressure and some massage.  The main effort of the physical therapist is train the patient in stretches and exercise, including just learning how to stand up from a reclined or seated position.  It is two stages; avoid the pain in the first place, then train not to create the painful situation again.

In my case, I apparently have overstressed one side of one vertebra.  The result is the need to stretch in a specific direction.  I also have a ‘closed chest’, meaning that I slouch with my shoulders forward and down due to my poor posture in front of the computer.  The result of this is a need to ‘open’ with both stretched and poster improvement.  The final straw, and what has caused the most pain, is a straightened upper back from the extra weight that I am carrying.  The result of this is the obvious need to loose the weight. 

I am lucky, in that most of my long term travel is over.  So, I have a chance of recovering if I follow the rules that the therapists have established.  Regardless of my travel plans, I intend to follow these rules, if nothing else, to avoid the pain.  I found that I had immediate relief at the therapist, but needed additional sessions to improve my technique for relief at home.  I have also found that most of the exercises are things I can do at work, on the road or at home.

I know that many of you have experienced back pain, from injury, bad habits, or just overwork.  You know how bad it is to not be able to get out of a chair or get out of bed.  I know many swear by chiropractors, but I have a sister in law who is a doctor and who would have a fit if I were to visit one.  Others trust in message therapy.  I am uncomfortable being massaged by any woman other than my wife.  This may be petty, but it is fact.  I you have need, or your other options are not working, I would recommend seeing a physical therapist.  Seeing them is important, but what is more important is following their instructions.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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