Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mentally Managing Your Chronic Lower Back Pain

British Airways 747-136 G-AWNF
Flying can be tough on the back.  (Photo credit: caribb)
This post courtesy of mispinecenter.com

One of the most common health plaguing Americans today is living with chronic lower back pain, and for frequent travelers cramped into uncomfortable spaces, it can be as taxing on your mind as your body. In many cases there is no single treatment for this problem and most people don’t want to be constantly taking pain killers, muscle relaxers and visiting chiropractors to live with the pain that never seems to cease. Today we will be looking at an alternative to the traditional route of treating back pain, using your mind itself to overcome the pain.

First off, a little background information for those who may not know much about lower back pain. Lower Back Pain is not usually attributed to one single issue but the combination of multiple factors such as: lack of exercise / muscle strength, improper posture, being overweight, smoking, and many more. All of these things can increase the likelihood that you will suffer from lower back pain.

One thing anyone dealing  with lower back pain needs to be aware of is that just as nerves in our body shoot signals up to our brain to tell it “Ow this hurts!”, there are also signals being sent down from your brain itself that actually regulate how sensitive areas of your body are, like your lower back, and determine how we feel much pain we receive in those areas even when the actual amount may not be high, in fact, most chronic pain is more attributable to sensitization of the nervous system than actual problems with the area in pain.

So what can someone do who has tried everything they could think of? Below are some helpful tips to conquer your back pain one day at a time in an alternative fashion.

•    The most important thing to learn for mentally managing back pain is to how to truly relax, take classes, watch YouTube videos or read articles like this one on the subject. The standard process usually follows a few simple steps. (1) Put yourself in a reclined position and dim the lighting. (2) Start taking slow deep breathes using your chest to pull breath into your stomach. (3) Concentrate on a spot just above your naval, how it rises and falls with each breath.

•    After feeling yourself slip into a deeper relaxation, try a few imagery control techniques. These include; Altered Focus, Dissociation, Sensory Splitting, progression/regression and Mental Anesthesia

Other helpful tips to try:
•    Mood, anxiety and stress all profoundly affect how we feel pain, you may have noticed this correlation already, when you are enjoying yourself, worry free, away from a stressful environment you are less likely to even notice the pain that seems so excruciating at other times, when you find yourself getting stressed or upset, walk away from the situation and focus on relaxing, your back will thank you.

•    Focusing on the pain and worrying it will never end, also known as catastrophizing instead of thinking about a time when you had a good back day with little to no pain, or a time when you won’t feel the pain anymore, this is along the lines of regression/progression thinking we mentioned earlier.

•    Counting, much like the other practices on here, the root idea is to take your mind off of the pain and concentrate on something else often times this alone can help tremendously.

•    Join a support group! You would be surprised how many other people out there deal with the same problems as you and sometimes all you need is the understanding, empathy and input of others dealing with your problems to help make you feel better

•    Boost your endorphins- While not only improving your mood, endorphins also block pain signals, a great way to do this is by exercising more, especially cardio exercises and stretching.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Summer Cruising on Lake Winnipesaukee

Among other things, one reason why I love going to New Hampshire during summer is Lake Winnipesaukee. And it appears that I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I met people from as far as California and Texas who came all the way to New Hampshire to visit its largest and most beautiful lake. How did I meet them? Well, let’s just say it was on board the M/S Mount Washington, a cruise ship that took us for a Sunset Dinner Dance Cruise on the lake. 

The majestic view of Lake Winnipesaukee is indescribable. The mountain ranges surrounding the lake are thick with trees and wildlife. As we glided across the water, habitable islands counting up to 240 would greet us as if we were on a vast sea instead of a 44,000-acre crystal clear lake. 

Here’s a picture of the breathtaking sunset we encountered during the dinner dance cruise. I think what made it even more glorious was the fact that we were in the middle of this nature’s gift and all we could hear was the breeze and some birds.

The buffet dinner filled me up I had to stand throughout the cruise to bring down the calories! Dinner was also accompanied by a rock n’ roll band singing the blues. I wasn’t much of a dancer but I had a great time watching couples make simple moves on the dance floor. 

Anyway, I heard that fall is also a great time to take a cruise and see the red and orange fall foliage that makes the biting cold worth it. Maybe I would if I’m not doing anything on Halloween. I think I’d look great wearing some catsuit at the Halloween Masquerade Ball. 

After a special evening of relaxing and chatting with other solo travelers like me, I headed to my bed and breakfast at the Inn on GoldenPond in Holderness. I was tempted to sink myself in the inviting hot tub but I had to resist. My early morning flight was ringing loudly in my ear; I had to make sure I got a good night’s sleep. Tired but happy that I made my own travel plans and my summer is just starting! Where is my next destination going to be?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Unknown East Coast Summer Destinations

The Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York

Summer time equals travel time. People across the globe save up money and vacation days to travel to places, new or old, and experience an escape from the normal routine. The East Coast of the United States has famous destinations like New York City, Boston, and Washington D.C. that take most of the attention of travelers. The big cities may take the spotlight but there are beautiful unknown destinations on the East Coast that you may not know about.


Widely known as the “hippie” state of the East, Vermont has much more to offer than Ben & Jerry’s and maple syrup. Beautiful mountain forests, rolling green hills, and secluded lakes makes Vermont a nature seekers paradise. Vermont’s slow pace and easy living makes it a relaxing summer destination for travelers with an appetite for organic vegetables and unique craft beer

Type of Traveler: Nature seeking, pancake loving, beer snob hipsters.  

Upstate New York: 

Unknown to most Americans, New York is not just New York City. Upstate New York is home to the Adirondack Mountains, a unique mountain formation just off the highway. Filled with hiking trails, rivers, and lakes, the Adirondack Mountains and upstate New York is a summer get away for any adventure seekers. Take in a beautiful mountain view after a canoe trip at a small cabin nestled in the woods.

Type of Traveler: For those who like to fish, canoe, kayak, hike, and explore without flying out to Colorado.

Western Massachusetts:

 Boston gets all the hype in Massachusetts but it shouldn’t. The western part of the state is a unique destination full of history and beauty. The area is full of landmark small towns and museums galore. Stop by a historic inn like The Gateways Inn in Lenox that converted a mansion into a destination for travelers seeking to step back in time. There is also a prominent music scene in Western Massachusetts including area festivals throughout the summer.

Type of Traveler: History nerd, lover of jazz, and fan of small towns made of brick.