3 Important Steps To Relieve Most Back Pain
The Daily Practice of Being Pain Free
Disclaimer: Is back pain really that complicated? the short answer is "No", at least for most cases. But for many people suffering from back pain, there is a complex layered history of injury, environmental stressors, or hereditary factors which make the pain much messier. So, when reading articles like this one, if you don’t get relief from these tips, seek the assistance of a qualified professional. Hopefully one who will empower you by coaching you through ways to help yourself along with their treatment.
Back pain is now the leading cause of disability in the U.S. In 2015 this "pain burden” on our healthcare system was estimated to be over $213,000,000,000 (just wanted you to see how obnoxious “billions” really is), and the complications of not being able to move due to this musculoskeletal pain, nearly quadruples our cost to over $874 Billion. These complications include diabetes, obesity, and heart disease which are largely due to, or exacerbated by, inactivity.
The reasons behind why back pain is managed so poorly in western culture could be a book in and of itself. Essentially we have a medical system (largely driven by ridiculous insurance policies) which has found it very lucrative to take advantage of an increasingly complacent and lazy public. As technology improves, there is less physical demand placed on us for basic needs such as getting food or traveling. Because of this we become stagnant, develop more pain, and want someone else to fix that pain.
Almost all conservative and traditional approaches to managing back pain is this "passive care model", which gives the lay public a false sense of helplessness. It's easy for patients to become dependent on outside help, when this is the only option given to them.
LISTEN - There is another way! For those who are self motivated enough to work daily at being pain free, resolution of most back pain can be achieved by relearning these simple concepts and movements.
1) Breathing and Bracing Properly
This subject is often neglected in rehab settings, but it is the foundation of a “strong core”. When we have poor breathing patterns, we develop tension in the neck and shoulders, as well as instability of the lumbar spine and pelvis. It’s impossible to gain core strength if we “draw the belly button to the spine” when we brace for movement or exercise. Fine tuning your "bracing meter" to use just enough rigidity to prevent aberrant spinal motion for the given task, is a skill which needs lots of practice! For example, bracing to bend over and tie your shoes will not require the same degree of rigidity as picking up a 50 lbs bag of dog food. For in-depth cues on proper techniques for breathing and bracing, check out the video below!
2) Move from the Hips, NOT THE BACK
This is an issue of coordination for many people. The trick is not to "stretch this" or "strengthen that", but to practice what it feels like to load the hips instead of the low back and knees. Most people are afraid to allow their torso to lean forward, which is necessary for proper movement when performing simple tasks like sitting into a chair or picking something up from the floor. To load the hips, the torso should counter balance the posterior shift of the hips by tilting forward (notice I didn’t say flexing or bending forward). By practicing poor movement at the hips, we continue to irritate the source of our pain throughout the day, which will render any passive treatment modality useless at best. For a good practice of learning to load the hips, check out the video below.
3) Short Bouts of Interval Walking
Dr. Stu McGill, world renowned back pain researcher and expert, says that the best thing for many forms of back pain is low intensity interval walking. Walk at a comfortable pace for 10-20 minutes three times a day. Especially in the western world that is so “car-centric” we have lost the need to walk. However, our spines were made for walking and they need a good daily dose to stay healthy. Another great option for the low-level motion is easy swimming. If you have access to a pool, light swimming for the same amount of time can really be a game changer for people who may not be able to walk due to foot, ankle, or knee issues.
Part of having success with these drills is having realistic expectations. Tissue irritation is around for a long time before your brain allows you to perceive the pain, and it takes time to desensitize these tissues. The poor daily mechanics which lead to your pain must be improved to de-stress your tissues which, depending on how long you've had pain, can take a while. However, putting these tips in place on a regular basis will desensitize those tissues and allow them to respond much better to any outside therapy.
Understand your pain. Take responsibility of your pain. And don't just mend. Transcend.
For more information on treatment or online programming for sustainable exercise and pain relief, visit www.ChiroStrength.com or call the office 931-321-1414 to schedule your FREE consultation with Dr. Dunaway