Monthly Archive: December 2016

Are You Causing Your Pain?

A client and I were having a conversation as I worked on him. He stated that years ago, a doctor told him to get a large towel and roll it up. Then place it under the small of your back when you go to bed, to support it and encourage the natural curve.

Sage Advice?

Sounds like pretty sound advice doesn’t it? You’d tend to think that a doctor would know, right? But, if you thought that was sound general advice; a sort of one size fits all of common sense, doctoral advice to fit the masses; you’d be wrong. Why?

First of all, are you exactly like anyone else? Unless you are a twin, you are completely uniquely you. Even identical twins have their own unique identities. So do you think a one size fits all, generic answer is right? What about the action that is most typical of people who are suffering from low back pain? What is the first thing most people do when their low back starts to hurt? They bend down to touch their toes. After all, if your back is hurting, you just need to give it a good stretch, right? Wrong again.

The Right Track?

For that reason, I will now return to the purpose of this article. The purpose here, is to shed some light on some standard trains of thought or (medical) advice that should have been derailed a long time ago.

If you suffer from low back pain, should you roll up a large towel to rest your low back on while you sleep? Is this going to help the natural curve of your back? Is it going to alleviate your pain because it’s helping the natural curve to come back?

And, what’s wrong with bending down and touching your toes to stretch your back? Why is that doing more harm than good, even though it sometimes makes you feel a bit better from the stretch? What if you can’t reach your toes or even your shoes for that matter? How does that affect your back pain in trying to bend down and touch your toes to stretch out your back?

The problem with these types of approaches is that first of all, these ideas came from a source that has no understanding of what causes pain in the body in the first place. It was probably one of the following “professionals” that came up with these alternatives as an at home remedy to low back pain.

The “Professionals.”

Chiropractors are trained in the study of bones and structure, predominantly the vertebrae. They believe that everything stems from the vertebrae, and the body is affected as a result of subluxations in the vertebrae. It’s a convenient concept that suits their business. This theory of thought is true, in the sense that vertebral misalignment can negatively impact the body. However, it is usually not the core reason for pain, but more like the end result of the other reasons that pain happens. The vertebrae is one of the body maps utilized to return the body to balance, but it is not the only one.

The Fitness industry and their “experts” appear to know a lot about muscle, but theirs is an industry that is based on ego, not health. And, how much could they really know about muscle if their prime directive encourages a muscular condition that is the exact opposite of the definition of healthy muscle tissue?

What about the doctors? From what I can tell from all the poor advice, remarks, comments, and essentially abuse from doctors and their staff that I’ve heard about from clients and patients; I don’t see where doctors are the end all in knowledge about the body. I don’t revere them to the god-like status that most people do in entrusting their health and lives completely to them without using the one resource God gave to everyone…a brain.

Orthopedic doctors are also supposed to be bone specialists, but they are predominantly surgeons because that’s where the big money in medicine is. Additionally, they may be able to diagnose the problem, but they usually can’t provide a sound, logical reason for why your condition is as it is, unless it was an accident that caused injury.

What is truly frustrating, is that the majority of these alleged “health” professionals completely dismiss massage therapists with regard to knowledge of the body. Granted, as in all professions, there are therapists that aren’t really people oriented. They do the basic standard required only because it’s just a job to them.

However, there are some that have a real purpose to help people. In the dismissal of massage as just a spa treatment, the vast history of the therapeutic benefits of certain modalities within the massage profession, and of massage itself, have been all but forgotten due to the onslaught of luxury franchises.

The shame is that none of these “professionals” truly work together with mutual respect for both holistic and medical. It’s more of a dictatorial pecking order that only benefits the medical industry’s bottom line, and does not really benefit patients.

What Is The Right Track?

So what are the answers? Let’s look at the questions again?

If you suffer from low back pain, should you roll up a large towel to rest your low back on while you sleep? Is this going to help the natural curve of your back? Is it going to alleviate your pain because it’s helping the natural curve to come back?

The answer is…it depends. There is a certain body type that this would help; but there’s a body type that this would hurt too. When I say hurt, I don’t mean the towel itself will hurt you. What I mean is the placement will, because your body type already has sufficient curvature of the low back, or excessive curvature.

In such cases, that advice is not helpful. You would have to know the type of imbalance you have, in order to know if that suggestion would have any merit in your case. Doing this may temporarily alleviate your pain, but it’s not a fix for no curvature of the low back.

And, what’s wrong with bending down and touching your toes to stretch your back? Why is that doing more harm than good, even though it sometimes makes you feel a bit better from the stretch? What if you can’t reach your toes or even your shoes for that matter? How does that affect your back pain in trying to bend down and touch your toes to stretch out your back?

191315_xmpuimzcklc1ughih91gfwu8gWell, let’s look at this logically. Man is always trying to progress…to move forward; and that is just how we move, isn’t it? We reach and ambulate in a forward moving motion, right? We don’t reach backwards, nor do we walk backwards typically. In order to move any part of our structures, at least one or more muscles must contract to enable us to lift and move this skeletal frame of ours that has tissue attached.

The Progression of Contraction

So for every movement we make, there are muscles contracting. Now think about this. How many body parts are you moving during the course of a day? How many muscles have to contract in order to make those movements that we take for granted, happen?

Now, how many times a day are we contracting those muscles to make all those movements? Think about this. Every time you raise an eyebrow, grasp something with your fingers, wiggle a toe, sit down, get up, walk etc; the list goes on, but the point is, there is at least one muscle if not 3 or more contracting for virtually every move we make.

I’m just trying to get you to realize the unbelievable number of times muscles are contracting anywhere in your body, just in the course of one day. If you can fathom that; take all the contractions of your muscles that you imagined happen in one day, and add one week, one month, or one year to that number.

How Does This Affect Us?

What you need to understand is that through all this repetitive contracting, the muscle is shortening. Now triple that effect if you work out with weights, especially if your purpose is to get bigger. What have we established?

First is the fact that 99% of our movements are forward. The second is the fact that any movement causes muscle contraction and subsequent shortening of the muscles over time. So what can we conclude?

If we are always moving and reaching forward, and this movement requires contraction to happen and results in shorter muscles; then it stands to reason that the anterior or front side of our bodies are over-contracted or shorter.

What happens on a seesaw when one side goes down? The other side goes up, right? So if one side of the body is over-contracted and shortened, what do you think is happening on the opposite side, the side where you are feeling pain? If you said over-stretching, then you are getting the big picture.

balance-seesaw-1940x900_35779So now that you understand this, go back to the original questions. How much sense does it now make to reach down to touch your toes to stretch out your back if you are having low back pain? Not a lot, right? So what should you do instead?

Homework

I worked on a neighbor of my mom’s. Actually, these neighbors are like family to us. The husband, Dennis, was suffering from very severe low back pain. As I worked on him, I explained to him the reasons for his back pain. I told him what the imbalance was that was causing it, as well as everything I just explained to you above, to help him understand the cause first, so he could clearly understand the solution.

After releasing his back, I gave him homework – one trick; just one stretch to do whenever he started having this low back pain. It’s not a stretch that is unknown, either. Some people listen to me and do the homework I give, and others don’t. That’s the difference between a few weeks of relief from the muscle release, or ongoing relief from it.

I told him to reach down to grab either his ankle; or, if you’re like me and can’t quite reach it, grab the back of your sock, or shoe. Pull your ankle and leg back and up as far as you can, and bend foward to straighten the spine. Make sure you pull that leg back and up as high as you can, and hold it for one to two minutes. Remember, this homework was given based on his particular imbalance.

Why are we pulling back and up instead of down and forward? I already gave you reasons why we don’t need to pull forward, and we don’t need to add to the downward gravitation pull either.

It’s been over one year since I released Dennis’ low back pain, and still today, if I ask him how his back is doing, his answer is invariably, “My back is fine. Now if you want to know about my neck or shoulders, that’s a different thing…just pain; but my back is good.” Why?

Well, according to Dennis, “Ever since you released my back, and showed me that stretch, I do it everywhere…in line at the grocery store, at the bank…anywhere I go. The minute I start to feel any discomfort in my low back, I just do that stretch you taught me, and my back is fine. No more pain.”

Things are not always as complex as some “professional” make them out to be. Once the eyes of your understanding are opened, I believe you will make smarter choices, because who wants to live in pain?