How To Improve Lower Back Pain Using The Power Of Your Brain
I remember a moment back in high-school when I felt the most extreme lower back pain of my life. An ache had been building gradually for a few weeks and it was starting to wear me down. I was feeling quite upset about it. But I didn't know what to do other than put on a brave face and hope for the best.
And then it happened...My friend did what all energetic teenage boys do to their best mate's. He tried to tackle me. When I offered no resistance and collapsed to the ground in a moaning heap, he looked surprised and confused. I was in too much pain to explain...
The reason I share this story with you is to pay forward my learnings. Perhaps you're struggling with some stubborn lower back pain and unsure what to do about it. Or perhaps your pain is new and you'd like to get rid of it without delay. In either case, I believe (based on lots of training and experience) that the most effective way of dealing with pain lies in understanding pain in a different way. (hint: It's got something to do with your brain and your habits)
I'd like to offer a perspective on lower back pain that you may not have considered before
This perspective may save you a lot of time, energy and money. And...well...pain...
But first, let me share how my story ended...
I told my dad about my back and he took me to an acupuncturist. This somewhat strange man helped me discover that the pain was stemming from my wallet of all things. Specifically my habit of keeping it in my back pocket. This thin object was tilting my pelvis to one side and straining my back muscles. Once I stopped doing that the pain disappeared...
What a relief!
I suspect that if I had gone to a doctor the advice wouldn't have been so on target.
Why do I say that? Well, I just read a report from the Ministry of Health NZ. Here's an extract from it...
70% of people who go to the doctor's for lower back pain get diagnosed as nonspecific. My interpretation...
"errr...we don't know why it hurts"
It seems to me that the medical profession is at a bit of a loss for how to approach this issue in an effective way. It doesn't come as much of a surprise that treatment advice is along the lines of "just keep moving and take these pain killers".
While it's possible this approach works for some people, overall it doesn't appear that treatment is working so well. Lower back pain (LBP in the image below) is widespread and causing a lot of harm to people's health.
So call me crazy if you like, but I'm actually grateful to have experienced that horrific pain. Why? Because it taught me the value of holistic thinking...
The Way We Think About The Human Body IS The Problem
We in the West, collectively have this model where the human is seen as a machine. The machine has lots of individual parts which function separately. To fix a problem, the part just needs some maintenance or to be replaced, or... (shock horror) even removed!!!
That's why we have knee specialists, foot specialists, shoulder specialists, eye specialists, and so on. Each of these doctors focusses on their little bit.
But that's not how humans work! We are so much more complex than that. We have so many interrelating parts. If you change one part of the human it affects the whole human. Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual. All of it.
Here's A More Useful Way To Think About Us Humans
The human body could be thought of like a rugby team.
In a rugby team there are 15 players on the field who each have a unique role to make sure the job gets done.
However, if some of those players decide that they're not going to contribute to the team effort then all the others have to work much harder. Imagine 4 players just lay down on the field and go to sleep. The remaining 11 players would have some hard slog ahead.
It's the exact same thing with you. There are many different parts, each with unique roles. If some of the parts decide to sleep on the job then the rest of the parts have to pick up the slack.
For example, your hip joints are designed to be really mobile.
...like REALLY mobile...
The second most mobile joints in your body actually. They're a ball and socket joint which means they can do all sorts of crazy tricks in all kinds of crazy directions.
But if for some reason (think loooooonnnngggg hours of sitting in chairs) your hip joints aren't free to extend much, then something else will have to compensate. In the case of walking, you may be overextending your lower back with every single step you take because your hips have forgotten how to do their thang...
This can cause lower back pain.
Or in another example, let's say you've been doing a lot of computer work and your shoulder blades have gotten used to staying fixed over your ribcage. In this case, it's likely that the vertebrae between your shoulder blades aren't moving either. And if some of your vertebrae are stuck, then the others (like the ones in your lower back) have to move more than they really want to... which becomes kinda painful over time.
Do you see how these seemingly separate parts of the body are actually not separate at all? The health of one part is intimitely linked with the health of the other.
Now here's the interesting part. You probably can't even feel the restrictions...
Movement restrictions like I just described are usually habitual. That is, they're subconscious. You probably don't even know which parts of you are restricted because it feels so familiar. It's simply how you move... Day in. Day out.
Which means it's going to take some clever tricks to move ahead. It's going to take the power of your brain to...
- Make you aware of how you are creating that pain for yourself.
- Help you find new ways to move that include all of yourself (and become pain free)
Why do I say that with such confidence? Because I've seen it over and over and over.
Changing your movement habits by using your brain is entirely possible
In fact, it's kinda fun once you learn how. It's how our nervous system is designed to work. Coming back into a learning mode (like that of a child) is the fastest way forward through something like lower back pain.
What I'm describing here is known as The Feldenkrais Method ®. It's a modality I just had to train in because it Blew. My. Mind.
It helped me get out of chronic pain and re-learn how to walk again.
The best way I could describe it is to say that it helps wake up some of those lazy rugby players (if you catch my drift).
Now, if this way of thinking resonates with you and you'd like to try it, there are a couple of different ways to do so.
One of those ways is by coming to a group class. These classes help you learn for yourself how to expose and change your habits of movement.
The other way is that we could work together 1-on-1. This method can have faster improvements because it's more catered to your unique situation and habits.
And if you're still a little unsure or need some clarification about my way of viewing pain and the human being, please just ask me. I'll do my best to clear it up for you.
I have a soft spot for people with pain because I've experienced the horrors of it in my own life. It's so frustrating feeling like it may NEVER end! It completely drains the fun out of life.
If you're feeling that way, please be assured that it won't last forever! I promise.
At the very least, I hope you get value from what I've shared. My lower back pain was helped by removing my wallet. Your's could be a simple solution too provided you're thinking in terms of your whole self.