5 Tips for Pain Relief: What to Do When Your Back Hurts

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.16.24 PMWhen I hurt my back in December, I asked the Internet what to do and the answer was nothing. Well, almost nothing as everyone seemed to say to alternative ice and hot, while taking it easy for a few days or weeks as it heals itself. Backs always heal themselves, the Internet said, but I found that wasn’t quite true. If you hurt your back, here’s my absolutely non-professional advice on what to do.

1. Put ice on it asap. I missed this step until it was too late. I hurt my back preparing for a holiday party, which meant there wasn’t time to sit down with an ice pack. That was a mistake, which was clear the next morning when I couldn’t move without crying.

2. Take ibuprofen. This I did, but I only took two, which my doctor later told me was too low a dose to really help. She had me up to four Advil twice a day.

3. Heat it up! My heating pad quickly became my best friend. The heat loosened my back up and helped with the pain.

4. Get to your doctor! The Internet insisted this was pointless because most back injuries heal themselves, but on day five, when things were getting worse and even the tiniest moves had me screaming in pain, I called the doctor, and my only regret is that I didn’t call sooner. Luckily I didn’t need x-rays or an MRI because my spine wasn’t bothered by manipulation, and my doctor could feel the tear in my back. Even I could feel the damage in my back with my hand. My doctor prescribed a muscle relaxant, Advil, a heat pack, and physical therapy.

The key, my doctor said, was to make sure my back healed properly or else this could easily turn into a chronic problem.

5. Get physical therapy. This part could be skipped if you have an exercise plan, but physical therapy had two key components that helped tremendously: a massage and electrical stimulation. My appointments began with a massage to loosen the muscles on both sides of my spine, and spinal pressure to keep my backbone from stiffening. After that, I did my exercises, then I ended with heating pads and electrical stimulation to help strengthen my back muscles.

I was in physical therapy for three weeks, ending one month after my injury. I was still in tons of pain, but I had improved a lot, and was told I could try to get back on the treadmill, but only for a short amount of time and I had to walk slowly. Each morning I sat with the heating pad for 20 minutes before I was loose enough to shower and gently try a few of my exercises. Walking on the treadmill hurt, thus I put that off for another week or two.

The magical six-week mark came and went and I wasn’t better. The Internet said most back injuries go away in 6-8 weeks, but that wasn’t the case for me. I was still taking Advil, still doing my exercises, still being incredibly careful, and still reliant on my heating pad. Discouragement was setting in until I read the best advice the Internet had to offer. It was a government document, but after it read nothing like an American government document, I realized it was from Scotland. The bottom line was to get off your butt and move. The document said that if you wait to return to work or activities until your back is 100% better, then your back will never be 100% better. Your back heals though movement, not through rest. Of course, taking it easy is important right after the injury, but after that, backs need to move. This was my a-ha moment. This was my permission to push past the pain from stiffness and once I did, I found my back improved fast.

Now I am three months out from my injury, and while not 100%, I’m definitely about 97% and climbing. I still use the heating pad a few times a week to stay loose and do my exercises about the same, while finally getting back to full speed on the treadmill. I make sure not to stay in any position, especially seated, for too long, and I take breaks to get up, walk, and stretch. Tearing a muscle is intensely painful and it made me feel like a 90-year-old in need of a walker. Truly, 90 years could probably walk faster than I could at the time. This morning, I bent down under the counter on the backside of our kitchen island to pull out a heavy juicer. It was a simple act, but there was no way that I could have done it a month ago.

P.S. I am not a doctor, even though I lied once on a magazine subscription and used Dr. as an honorific. I wrote this because back in December, I never saw anything that encouraged me to go to the doctor or was honest that it’s a long haul back to healthy.

Make Your Own Valentine’s Day Decor with Felt Hearts

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Having a mantle has been a lot of fun. Prior to the remodel, we didn’t have a mantle on our cumbersome rock wall fireplace, but I mostly only thought about it at Christmas when I had to improvise a place to hang our stockings. Now the mantle is a focal point, mostly because of the TV, but it allows an opportunity to add some color and fun.

A new mantle means a need for new decorations. For Valentine’s, I knew what I wanted and was disappointed when I found Target didn’t sell it. With that, I remembered some simple felt hearts on sticks that I’d seen on Pinterest about two years ago, and I made my own.

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For the mantle, I wanted a garland of felt hearts, then I wanted a few hearts on sticks to use in vases around the house. We had the supplies (felt, fluff, ribbon, embroidery floss, and craft sticks) on hand, except a plastic ribbon needle that cost about a dollar at the craft store. I found the colors I wanted and cut out a paper heart template in two sizes, then cut from various felt colors. I used the bigger hearts for the garland, and the rest for the sticks. While watching football, I did a blanket stitch around each heart, then stuffed them with fluff before finishing the final stitches. For the stick hearts, I put the sticks in place prior to the final stitches, and sewed around the stitch to give it some structure.

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photo (3)Stringing the garland was when I needed the plastic needle. Once the hearts were complete, I threaded the ribbon through the needle and gently mushed the heart to push the needle through, in between stitches.

The entire project was easy and I’m so happy with how it looks. The best part was that Rocket wanted to participate. He wanted me to teach him “stitching” to allow him to make his own hearts. This was my “very, very early” Valentine’s Day gift from him and I love it.

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Use Hot Glue to Hold Together a Gingerbread House

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It’s hard to get a gingerbread house to stay together and not topple over like it’s made of cards. Or worse is when it looks great until a day or two later when the structure starts to crumble. These would be condemned, if real houses.

My mom Alice, of the Thanksgiving turkey pop fame, has the key to making the house hold up to both kid decorating and the elements by using hot glue. It goes without saying that we don’t eat our houses. Sure, the kids may pick off the candies, but no one eats the actual house. Instead of fiddling with frosting, pressure, and a prayer to get the house built, Alice pulled out her glue gun and built some homes.

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Carefully glue one joint end and press it into another. Visible glue can be covered with frosting, which means the glue lines don’t need to be hidden or precise. Once cool and set, get decorating. It’s fast and pretty flawless.

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No Stress Summer Birthday Party at Home

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Rocket’s birthday is June 21, and before he was born, I never fully understood how awful it can be to organize a summer birthday party. Everyone splits town after the last day of school, taking the festivity out of any birthday party. To beat that this year, my plan was to have his party before school ended, amidst all the chaos of the end of the school year.

We ended up sending out personalized PercyVites Johnny Test invitations to each of the boys in his class inviting them over for a breakfast for dinner party that ended up being a huge hit. We served waffles, bacon, hash browns, and orange juice, then we served donuts instead of cupcakes. The boys loved the donut cake. It was such a hit, that’s what I served his class the next Monday, in lieu of cupcakes again.

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Any donuts will work, but I used Krispy Kreme because their size is uniform…and they are yummy. I bought both minis and regular sized donuts, but all the kids stuck with the regular sized ones. The sprinkles were popular enough that when I took donuts to his class, I went with all sprinkles. Lesson learned: kids prefer sprinkles.

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The boys had a water balloon fight and made marshmallow guns, which turned out to be the best party entertainment ever. One way to handle the marshmallow gun construction is to buy a bunch of joints, straight pieces, and end pieces and let the kids design their own guns, but to make this as easy as possible, Kevin made a bag for each kid with all the parts needed to make a specific gun design.

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He bought the individual joint and end pieces, then two really long PVC pipes that he cut into the individual straight pieces. At the party, each kid was handed a Ziplock bag with their personal marshmallow gun kit.

How to Make a Marshmallow Gun

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Everything just plugs together, no glue or much help was needed to get them built. The marshmallow guns are designed for the tiny marshmallows. Once the guns were assembled, we made sure each kid put his initials on their gun, then we put out a giant bag of marshmallows and let them loose. Here was the surprising thing: it entertained them for a long, long time. I bought a bunch of duct tape for them to decorate their guns, but they skipped that step to get shooting at each other. Easiest birthday party entertainment ever, and much cheaper than hiring a clown. (Okay, we’re never hired a clown, but we have hired a balloon guy, a magician, and a mad scientist in the past.)

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On their way out the door, the kids were handed a bag of ammo – more little marshmallows – to take home with their gun as a favor.

Disclosure – The Johnny Test PercyVites were complimentary from the company. Rocket loves Johnny Test, making it a natural choice. 

Minecraft Birthday Party with Live Action Play

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My kids participated in a live action Minecraft play at the Maker Faire that could easily be recreated for a birthday party. This is an off-the-hook kid party idea. Kudos to the Maker Guild of Los Angeles for putting together one of the most creative features of a super creative Maker Faire.

To recreate this party, get a bunch of boxes and paint. Much like with real Minecraft, it’s always about the blocks.

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Kids were divided into two groups, roughly bad guys and good guys. Can you tell I don’t play? My Minecraft fans would roll their eyes if they read this. The good people were Villagers with the one lucky kid who got to wear the Stevie head. On the other side were Creepers and an Enderman, and if they touched you, you were out.

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The play area included a small box tree with boxes below. Those boxes needed to be collected by Stevie and the Villagers and brought to a location to exchange them for tools. Boxes could only be brought for exchange one at a time, and kids needed to deliver more than one box to get a tool. However, to get to the tree, one had to go near the cave area with Creepers. Naturally this is where the battle ensued.

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An adult manned the block/tool exchange, another over-watched the battle to make sure everyone was okay, and an older child eventually released the Ender Dragon. The Ender Dragon was on a home made zipline of sorts, allowing him to fly above. His head was a single box, designed to pop off when hit enough (less hits than a pinata), allowing him to be defeated and the game to end.

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Decor included a box cow, sheep, pig, and chickens. They were all adorable. Old sheets were painted to reflect the landscape.

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Look! The box flaps are wings. It’s the cutest Minecraft chicken ever.

Once the Ender Dragon was defeated, everything was put back into place, character heads were traded, and the game began again. It was great fun.