for Urban Professionals & Other Skeptics in a Rush
March 19, 2013 in Physical Health
Unpleasant as it may be, back pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something isn’t working. Figuring out what that something is, though, is a lot easier said than done. No one likes to hear this about physical sensation or illness, but the idea that you can tune into your body and live with greater harmony and ease is incredibly empowering.
I struggled with back pain for a decade, and it started to creep into other muscles in my body. It was scary. It was also kind of embarrassing, because here I was an early embracer of “new age” wellness practices, teaching and practicing a vigorous style of vinyasa yoga, and committed to the idea of the emotional body – meaning that unexpressed feelings create blockage or sensation in the body, needing expression to restore a fluid flow of energy in the body. So those days when I woke up, in my late twenties, and felt too stiff to elegantly get out of bed, hurt both my ego and my sense of wellbeing. I also felt helpless, as I know those struggling with chronic pain often do.
I tried everything. More yoga. Less yoga. Regular massage. Epsom salts baths. Acupuncture. Working through emotional issues I thought might be manifesting in low back spasm. Free movement to let my body decide how to move itself to heal. High heels. Flats. Orthotics. Dietary changes. Sleeping positions with multiple pillows as supports (very sexy). Ointments and oils. Heat and cold packs. Back-pain guru books. Taking short regular walks at work, limiting my sitting time to 30-minute increments. An orthopedic chair cover. Painkillers.
Sometimes I’d have relief, but I was always flirting with the resurgence of such incredible discomfort that it might put me in a bad mood or make it difficult for me to concentrate, or even send shooting pain up my spine one day when I just wanted to get up from my desk. There were some days when it wasn’t just my back – my whole body felt stiff and brittle. I didn’t want to go though one day this way, never mind the rest of my life!
I now have no back pain or muscle stiffness. Not monthly, not after or during exercise, not when I wake up. Every body is different, and the only way to know if something will work for yours is to try it.
I’m so excited to share this series of practices to alleviate back pain with you. In this mini-series I’ll be focusing on five practices that had the biggest impact on my back pain and muscle stiffness. Tune in daily to learn about the next practice, or sign up for Curated Enlightenment to get it delivered to your inbox.
#1: Heading the list is taking magnesium glycinate, twice a day, every day.
(A side note about vitamins: They don’t work if you buy them and don’t take them. They also don’t work if you only take them some of the time. You need to take them daily to see and feel the results.)
We associate magnesium with old age and bowel regularity, but this key supplement, brought to my attention by the absolutely brilliant biochemist, immunologist and cell biologist Aileen Burford-Mason, contributes to much more than your morning bathroom routine. Among its many essential roles in your body, magnesium relaxes your muscles, countering calcium, which causes muscles to contract. Magnesium is also a key player in the production of collagen, in metabolism, and contributes to improved sleep quality. In her excellent book, Eat Well Age Better, Burford-Mason calls this mineral an “energetic multi-tasker…the most important mineral in the body.”
Magnesium is also quite difficult to get enough of in your diet, and is generally not in the ideal proportion for your body in calcium-magnesium supplements or in multivitamins, making pure magnesium supplements essential. About 65% of Canadians are magnesium deficient, with symptoms ranging from muscle soreness or cramping, to constipation, to high blood pressure.
To find your base dose, Burford-Mason suggests “titrating to bowel tolerance”. This involves starting with 100mg of magnesium glycinate (not citrate) in the morning, and then increasing your dose by 50mg every three days, alternating adding the extra 50mg morning and night every three days. For example, days 1-3 take 100mg in the morning; days 4-6 take 100mg in the morning and 50mg at night; days 7-9 take 150mg in the morning at 50 mg at night…and so on.
Continue until you have two to three healthy bowel movements per day (you read that right!). That is your base dose. It’s not the same for everyone, and it’s not the same for you all the time. Your body leaches more magnesium when you’re stressed (measurable in your urine), so you might need to increase your dose if you have a big project or meeting, or other heightened stress in your life. However, seeing the impact that magnesium has on many body functions, from metabolism, to stress, sleep and muscle spasm at your base dose will give you a great base line from which to read your body to know if you need more or less in special circumstances.
Consult your doctor for concerns about any interaction with other medications or specific questions about magneiusm and your body.
If you think this might help someone you know, pass it on!
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