Photo: woods wheatcroft photography

What They Don’t Tell You about Back Pain

The Aloof

When half of working Americans admit to having back pain every year, you know there is a problem that’s not being solved.[1] The standard belief is that back pain comes from tight back muscles or a nerve being pitched. Therefore, solving the problem simply requires relaxing those back muscles or surgery on the nerve impingement.

One day you’re fine, the next day you roll out of bed unable to stand up. In dire pain, incapable of walking, you crawl to the phone to get someone to drive you to your doc for drugs to relax the muscles and relieve the pain. And they work. For a while the pain subsides… if you’re lucky. The first time it happens, you convince yourself that the back pain was a fluke. You have a vague memory of a twinge when you sneezed, and the next day you awake in excruciating pain, but lightning can’t strike twice, right?

Realistically, your first bout of back pain was an omen for more. If you’re smart, you get proactive. Maybe you see doctors or other medical professionals. Some tell you have a disc that is not right. Others tell you that your back muscles are tight. Someone might tell you that you’re just too stressed. You might try all their solutions: surgery, stretching, and stress reduction… but your pain returns.

Many repeated acute back pain incidences are really a reflection of chronic tension, structural misalignment, and maladaptive movement patterns. In over 30 years of seeing clients with back pain, even the acute cases could be traced back to a chronic situation. My clients learn that where it hurts is not the root of their pain. At best, treating the pain area relieves the pain temporarily. If these clients haven’t figured it out yet, they quickly realize that other areas—such as their tight stomach and pelvis—cause their back muscles to tighten in reaction to these stronger areas tightening.

Many years ago, a surgeon was referred to me by his associate. He came to me for his chronic back pain. After quoting studies his colleagues did on the effectiveness of back surgery, he admitted, “I am looking at things I would have never considered before.” I showed him how it was only natural that his back muscles were in constant spasm because his abdominal muscles, pelvis muscles, and even the fascia (connective tissue) of his legs were shortening his back. Showing how his ribcage was inside his pelvis (when optimally it should be three-fingers width above it) he got it. When all these chronically tense areas released and straightened out, his back was better than it had been for decades.

[Next week we will discuss how to reverse the chronic shortness and pain.]

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advanced Rolfer, www.align.org – call if you have questions: 265.8440. 

[1] Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.

photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/61943091@N00/3198373014

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