Insurance Update
October 2014
Issue No. 51          
In this issue
The importance of exercise to relieve back and neck pain.
October is Spinal Health Month.
Four back stretches for the office.
Long-Term Care Insurance

The importance of exercise to relieve back and neck pain. 

Some simple exercises can go a long way to relieve your pain. 



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Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.

Church of the Brethren Insurance Services provides dental, vision, basic life and accidental death & dismemberment, supplemental life and ad&d, dependent life and ad&d, retiree life, long-term disability, short-term disability, and Medicare supplement coverage for eligible ministers and other employees of congregations, districts, and camps. Dental, vision, retiree life, and Medicare supplement coverage is also available for eligible retirees of congregations, districts, and camps.


Medical and ancillary plans are available to Brethren-affiliated employer groups.


Long-Term Care Insurance is available for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities.  
Contact Us 
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Greetings from the Brethren Insurance Services staff, 


We like to celebrate health and wellness in our monthly issues, but since October is Spinal Health Month, we need to turn our attention to the topic of pain. A person who has sustained a back injury or suffers from chronic back pain usually describes it as the worst pain imaginable because there is virtually no relief from it. Every position is uncomfortable -- standing, sitting, or lying down. There's no escape! For those of us lucky enough to have healthy spines, it's a good idea to focus on that and remember that it's not always luck -- there are many factors involved in spinal health. This month's Insurance Update gives you some background on keeping your back pain-free, with many factors you can control to keep this important part of your body going strong for many years. There are also helpful tips for things to do right at your desk during the day to keep yourself aligned and ward off bad posture -- especially if you sit at a computer for long hours.


As we look ahead to a beautiful fall season, we should all try to get out and move around more. It's the time of year to enjoy a walk in the country, through the orchards, or even in the hustle and bustle of the big city. Let's remember to get up from our desks and away from our computer screens and take in the beauty God created for us on the other side of the window. Let's get off our tailbones and move a little. 
Scott, Tammy, and Connie
 SpinalOctober is Spinal Health Month

A key factor to living with a spine or back pain condition is staying healthy. Overall wellness is a combination of appropriate exercise and physical activity, a balanced diet, restful sleep, and positive lifestyle choices. Below is a list of topics that all contribute to overall spinal health.



Improper posture increases the stress and load on the spine. Keeping good posture and using products such as ergonomic office chairs can reduce back or neck pain. Think about how many hours we spend sitting in chairs -- the number is surely staggering. What's worse, millions of people are sitting in badly designed chairs or slouching, which leads to chronic back pain and undue suffering. Ergonomics is about designing for human physiology and specific needs. Whether buying an ergonomic chair for proper back support or taking steps to improve posture, proper sitting techniques and chair design will help boost spinal health.



There are multiple reasons why exercise is important for people with back or neck pain. It can help avoid a loss in range of motion, or stretch muscles and ligaments that may be putting pressure on a nerve. Exercise is one of the most significant ways to increase longevity, improve health, and decrease pain and suffering. Proper exercise can improve flexibility, increase strength, and even reduce back pain.


Nutrition, diet, and weight loss

Extra weight puts stress on the back and can cause back pain or make recovery slower. Diet is important, because the spine needs certain nutrients for strength. Is there anything more fundamental to our existence than diet and nutrition? The habit of eating three or more times a day has a cumulative effect on people in the sense that what they put in their bodies will help fuel them or harm them and weigh them down. Bad nutrition, diet, and obesity can lead to conditions such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and chronic pain. Knowing about vitamins, proper nutritional balance, and effective methods to shed unwanted weight can help give a person a new start.


Sleep and insomnia

Think about this: humans spend approximately 33 percent of their lives sleeping. With that much of the lifespan spent under the sheets and on top of the bed, it makes sense that proper sleep and a good mattress can go a long way toward mitigating back pain and improving health. For those who are in bed, but having trouble sleeping, it's helpful to know that insomnia is common in people with back or neck pain. Treating sleep problems with medication or optimal pillow and mattress selection can also help. Knowledge about better sleep techniques, proper mattress selection, or pain-related insomnia issues can help make nights (and days) far more enjoyable.


Stop smoking

Most people know about smoking's effect on the lungs, but may not know that it has an effect on spinal health and back pain as well. Researchers have discovered that smoking history, hypertension, and coronary artery disease were significantly associated with the development of low back pain. Smoking is also especially harmful to anyone undergoing a spinal fusion procedure. Those who are interested in smoking's effects on chronic pain or quitting smoking all together should be sure to talk to a doctor, join a support group, and read up on the most current information available to help kick the habit.


Massage therapy

A massage in the back or neck helps with relaxation and speeds the healing process by increasing blood circulation. Most people enjoy a massage, but few think about its benefits. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, research shows that massage provides several important health benefits, including relaxing muscles for an improved range of motion, and increasing endorphin levels (which helps improve mood and decrease the effect of chronic pain). Knowing options when it comes to massage therapy will help people make better choices in dealing with back pain.


Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi

Certain exercises are based on principles very beneficial to people with back pain -- focusing either on body alignment or slow, low-impact movements. Although Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi are different types of exercises, they all have something in common -- they can help alleviate pain and improve quality of life. Yoga improves the ability to heal injured back muscles and prevent re-injury, Pilates benefits are in improved strength, flexibility, and suppleness of hip muscles. Tai Chi has a positive effect on balance and stress.


StretchesFour back stretches for the office

Back stretches can be useful for office workers, since sitting at a desk all day can make your back ache. Many helpful back stretches can be performed right at your desk. If you have a chance to leave your desk, you can perform some office stretches in the break room or stairwell. Here are some helpful examples to relieve back pain.


Seated twists

Twists relieve tension along the entire length of the spine. You should do them carefully, however, as twisting improperly can cause disk injury. Keep your spine straight while twisting, and never force your spine into a twist. Your spine should do the twisting all by itself.

  • Sit upright in your chair with your head erect.
  • Twist to one side. Don't force the twist; only twist as far as you comfortably can without pushing it.
  • You can place opposite hand on opposite knee if you like, but don't exert any pressure on the hand.
  • Turn your head into the twist. Look into the corners of your eyes to help treat and prevent eyestrain.
  • Breathe deeply and fully into the twist. Take about 10 to 15 deep breaths.

Shoulder shrugs

Shoulder shrugs can help relieve tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back.

  • Sit upright in your chair. Square your shoulders.
  • Roll your shoulders forward slightly and up towards your ears.
  • Drop your shoulders by rolling them back slightly and allowing them to relax down again.
  • Repeat the shoulder shrug 10 to 15 times. Reverse direction and repeat again.

Eagle arms

You can release tension from your upper back by performing this stretch borrowed from yoga.

  • Sit upright. Extend your arms in front of you, and cross your left bicep over your right bicep.
  • Bend your elbows so that your left elbow rests inside your right elbow.
  • Wrap your right forearm around your left forearm and grasp your left palm with your right palm.
  • Lift both arms upward to intensify the stretch, remembering to breathe slowly and deeply into the shoulder blades.

Standing hamstring stretch

Tight hamstrings can contribute to lower back pain and postural problems. You can perform standing hamstring stretches in just a few minutes during your breaks.

  • Stand in front of your desk; you may want to remove your shoes.
  • Raise your right leg and place your right heel on the edge of the desk. Keep the leg straight.
  • Some people may find that this alone produces an intense stretch in the hamstrings. If it doesn't, you can perform one of the additional steps below.
  • Keep the extended leg straight. Bend your standing leg, lowering your torso for a more intense stretch in the hamstring.
  • Keep your spine straight and pull your abdomen in toward your spine. Lean forward, sliding your hands down the extended leg as far as you can without curving your spine. If possible, grasp the foot with both hands.
  • Hold this stretch for 10 to 15 breaths, breathing into the hamstrings. Repeat the stretch on the other leg.


 LTCILong-Term Care Insurance

Even if you take good care of yourself and your spine through exercise and a healthy diet, you still might develop an illness or condition that requires expensive medical care and treatment. Just as developing a regular exercise regimen while you are young benefits you down the road, planning your long-term care needs is easier to do before you get to the point where it becomes a necessity.


We offer Long-Term Care Insurance to all Church of the Brethren employees and members, as well as their families and friends.
Planning ahead for your medical future could save you in the long run.If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal or click here to request more information.