I never had great posture to begin with, and when you add in nursing and carrying around toddlers on one hip for eight years, it exacerbates the whole problem. Finally, after weaning and losing the baby weight and doing everything I could to recover from producing and sustaining life, I decided to do something about it.
Part of the reason I decided to do something about it stemmed from constant neck pain. I would get pinched nerves and tension knots that impeded my ability to turn or flex my neck and it made life miserable. I began doing back and shoulder exercises when I wasn't in pain, like dips, planks and push-ups, combined with other core work, not to get that perfect bikini body, but just to be pain-free. It has helped, but I still get the occasional pinched nerve when I'm really stressed. That's when a massage therapist friend introduced me to hot stone therapy.
Hot stones are just smooth rocks that you use in tight areas to apply heat and pressure in one motion. The best part is, you can do this at home, yourself, for very little cost and without needing much experience!
To use hot stones, you place the stones in your crock pot on the warm or low setting and then put in enough water to cover them. Wait until the temp is close to but below 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and then find a comfy spot on the floor to lay. I used a yoga mat on hard floor. Position the rocks on the floor where your tight spots are--this may not be a mirror arrangement depending on where you have pain in your back or neck. You should leave a vertical space in the middle for your spine.
Place a tea towel or dishrag over the rocks to help control the temperature, so it's not too hot on your skin. I used a bar towel and wore a shirt. Then lay back on top of the rocks. If they aren't right in your tight spots, wiggle around a bit and then settle back in. Lay there for about 10 minutes. If the rocks cool down, remove the towel or your shirt so you can feel the heat. Lay there for about 10 more minutes and repeat twice a day.
Some positioning ideas: You can move your arms over your head or out to the sides to change the pressure in your back and neck. If you have pain in your upper neck, you may want to try a pillow under your butt to shift the center of gravity back. You can also try laying your rocks down near a wall and doing legs-up-the-wall to increase the pressure up near the top of your shoulders. If you have pain in your lower back, laying with your knees bent or hugging knees to chest will increase pressure there.
You can get hot stones at just about any massage therapy supply store. They run about $30 for a set, or you an buy them individually for $2-6. Basalt stones make the best hot stones because they naturally hold heat well.
I am still working on my core strength and trying to manage stress so I don't have pain as often, but when it comes to taking 10 minutes for myself twice a day or ending up in urgent care because of my neck, I'll take the crunchy route every time!
Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls who lives and writes in Oklahoma City.