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By Victor Viner, Founder and CEO of Moji – A Health and Wellness Company
Heat should be your first line treatment for back pain, according to guidelines published by the American College of Physicians in 2017. The ACP is a leading global association of physicians that frequently sets standards for medical treatment often widely adopted by other organizations. After ACP researchers reviewed randomized controlled trials and observational studies of treatments for back pain, the ACP found that the evidence demonstrated heat relieved pain quickly. When heat was combined with exercise even greater pain relief was achieved.
Heat for easing back and neck pain is not new. This therapy has worked for more than 2,500 years. Just ask Hippocrates. Best of all, heat is safe, effective, inexpensive, and easy to use.
More than one in four Americans suffer from chronic back or neck pain, often because of repetitive motion such as computer and cell phone use, or overuse such as heavy lifting. Sometimes back or neck pain is caused by a severe injury. In cases of serious injury when the area is bruised or swollen, the skin is broken, or the area is hot to the touch, cold compresses or an ice pack should be used immediately. But 48 hours later and thereafter, heat becomes the most effective and recommended treatment, according to an article in Harvard’s Men’s Health Watch. But the vast majority of back or neck pain is not the result of acute injuries. For pain from these non-acute injuries, the ACP says heat is the best initial treatment.
Why Use Heat Therapy?
While there are many types of heat that people can use, they are not all equal. Moist heat penetrates your body faster and deeper than other forms of heat, such as heat from a heating pad or heat patch. You feel greater pain relief with moist heat because moist heat quickly gets into your muscles – the root of most back and neck pain. Plus moist heat won’t dehydrate your skin the way dry heat does.
Heat improves blood circulation causing more oxygen and nutrients to flow into your muscles. This speeds the healing process after an injury and increases your mobility. Moist heat helps stretch soft tissues, easing muscle tension and knots and, increasing flexibility in the tendons and ligaments. Heat also blocks pain signals to your brain. If that weren’t enough, heat feels so good. It’s comforting. Who doesn’t like hot tubs, steam rooms, or hot showers?
Just 15 to 20 minutes of safe, natural, and effective moist heat therapy benefits you for hours. That’s where Moji helps. Our three heated back and neck wrap solutions are specially designed to provide consistent moist heat therapy at the optimal temperature for more than 20 minutes.
Our moist heat wraps can also be used before and during exercise to reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Moving while wearing heat helps pain sufferers maintain a higher level of flexibility and blood flow. Moji’s heated wraps are wearable and move with you, so you can walk, work, and be active. That way, your muscles stay limber and blood flows better. The result? You feel great, so you want to stay active. Better yet, you become more active.
Pain relievers and surgeries should be last resorts for treating back and neck pain, studies say. Even over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories have side effects and may lose their effectiveness over time. Based on studies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs increased potential health risks such as gastrointestinal bleeding, heart attack, or stroke. The ACP guidelines recommend that patients skip these over-the-counter drugs and that doctors refrain from prescribing opioids for patients suffering from back pain.
“What we need to do is to stop medicalizing symptoms,” Dr. James Weinstein, a back pain specialist and chief executive of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System, told the New York Times in 2017. “Pills are not going to make people better,” he said. Others agree. The growing opioid problem is leading physicians nationwide to reassess prescriptions.
To cope with back and neck pain, doctors also recommend exercise rather than extended couch or bed rest. Although it sounds counterintuitive that you should move more when you have back or neck pain, ACP researchers found that exercise improved pain relief and mobility when compared with no exercise. So when you have back and neck pain, you might try some of the exercises outlined by healthcare professionals or sources such as WebMD for back pain. But before you exercise, consider heating up your muscles first.
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Endurance athletes who take part in marathons, triathlons or century bike rides typically have fitness goals of strength and stamina. Your body needs to be strong enough to carry you long distances, and it needs to have the proper training in order to function for extended periods of time.
Before a race it’s crucial to plan a training program to prepare, and most of this will include running or cycling through intervals of faster and slower speeds, up and down hills and longer and shorter distances. It should also include cross training with strength exercises and core workouts such as Pilates for total body training.
Another factor that should be included in a pre-race program is athletic recovery and stretching. Whether you’re a new or seasoned endurance athlete, you’ll be putting your body through more intense challenges, which is sure to leave you with sore muscles from time to time, but it can also increase your risk of injury. To prevent getting hurt and having a setback, you need to take the proper precautions, which include stretching and massage.
A century bike ride will take you 100 miles, and it will certainly test your mental and physical prowess. This may seem like a lofty goal, but it’s certainly an achievable one that many endurance cyclists aspire to complete.
Being able to bike 100 miles requires serious commitment, dedication, planning and training. Once you decide to take part in a century ride, you need to starting working at least eight weeks beforehand to prepare your mind and body for the challenge ahead. Your training program should consist of long and short rides as well as intervals of different speeds, resistance levels, terrain and hills. It’s also a good idea to cross training with weight lifting to strengthen your muscles and exercises such as Pilates that provide stretching and improve posture.
Another key component is nutrition. Your body won’t be able to last long if it is not being fueled properly. Even slight dehydration can completely zap your energy levels and cause sore musclesand cramps. If this does happen, giving your muscles a massage can help. Additionally, eating the right amount of carbohydrates and fats is needed to fuel your muscles and provide you with the nutrients to keep you going mile after mile. You’ll certainly want to pack snacks to stop and eat during your ride to replenish fuel sources, curb hunger pangs and boost energy. Remember not to pack any foods that are too heavy or hard to transport. A muffin may sound delicious, but it can be messy to eat. Also, be sure not to try any new foods in case it affects your stomach negatively and you have to stop mid-race.
Here are some tasty, helpful snack options to pack for your century ride:
Whether you’re preparing for a cycling race, training for a triathlon or simply appreciate the exhilarating cardio workout you get from riding, your body (the lower half in particular) is certainly being challenged.
Most of your focus will be on the meat of your training – developing programs for each ride to incorporate different terrain, speeds, hills and other aspects of riding itself. But it’s also important to remember that your training doesn’t stop once your session ends. In fact, time spent after you hop off your bike is just as important as time spent on the saddle. Cooling down and taking part in athletic recovery reduces your risk of sore muscles and injuries, which can sideline you and set you back in your schedule. This is especially problematic if you are on a deadline for a race.
After each bike ride you should be taking the time to stretch out your muscles and allow your mind and body to return to their resting states. It’s also useful to incorporate self massage into your routine each week, especially after an intense ride. Massage will help loosen up muscles even further, which is important so you don’t create any imbalances.
There are several key muscles you should focus your massager on after a bike ride: