So many people suffer from chronic, low back pain. It's something that's just constantly with them, a persistent annoyance in their low back. OR Sometimes it's something that just reoccur if they move a certain way. For some people they know if they do this one motion (or activity) they're going to pay for it later. Then for others, they don't know why the pain comes and goes, it just cycles through every so many months.
No matter which version of chronic low back pain you have, it’s not a very comfortable place to live. Constantly being worried about what's going to set your back off next. Constantly thinking “What can't I do today?”
People start really thinking about where they're going to go on vacation.
Considering things like how many hours in the car, how much walking starts to determine the types of vacation they’ll take. They don't do certain exercises. They say things like “Well, I used to golf, but you know, my bad back, I can't do that anymore.” or “ I used to run, but every time I run, I have back problems.” And depending on how young you are, when that first happens, your world shrinks very quickly. And that is just very stressful on you and ways that you may not even pick up at the time.
At some point you start to think, I really wish that I could give back to (golfing, biking, running) but I've tried all of these things. I've tried icing my back. I've tried heating my back. I've tried exercises, I've strengthened my stomach. I’ve strengthened my hips. I fixed how I did all these other things that were causing issues. Some things are better, but I still have this recurring pain.
If that sounds like you. You’re not alone. The most recent client I’ve had with that exact same complaint is back to playing Tennis and running.
During the evaluation she told me all about her prior physical therapy episodes and how she returned to her regular workout only to have pain despite doing amazing in physical therapy. As I was watching her demonstrate her prior exercises, she was able to properly stabilize her lower back with her abdominal muscle. That is until I asked her to move her arms. When she attempted to simply raise her arms towards the ceiling while laying on her stomach she couldn’t keep her abdominal muscles contracted.
We were able to figure out that her thoracic spine, her upper back and into her neck, was so stiff from her posture she didn't have the strength or the flexibility to actually extend her arm without moving her lower back.
And what do I mean by that? Cause that sounded kind of clunky. Your spine is made up of bones and each one of those bones has an ideal position. So if gravity is hitting me on the top of my head, my spine is happiest when these bones are stacked one on top of each other in the slight curl. The three curves in your spine help your body balance the force of gravity hitting your head. BUT because we spend so much time with our head down, what happens is that we end up with this rounded shoulder (everything's kind of pulled forward) posture. Our chest muscles become super tight and our upper back muscles into our neck tend to get weak or stretched out. This stretched position makes it hard for your upper back muscles to pull when they are needed; it's too much for that muscle to try to contract from a fully lengthened point.
Over time these muscles just forget how to do their job; they could actually still have strength. They just don't have the coordination to activate that strength. And of course you don't see your back muscles, so it's hard to tell if they are working properly. So that's what we worked on. Because we were able to determine all her flare ups were related to her moving her arms overhead since she was having to arch her lower back. Her thoracic spine was very stiff and her upper back muscles were not able to activate correctly. We were able to loosen her spine up which gave her overall more flexibility and strength in her trunk.
She hasn't had back pain and a couple of months and back to playing tennis, back to running and back to all these things that she'd resign that she would never be able to do again. I just wanted to talk a little bit about why posture is so important. Not only does posture affect your shoulders and your neck, it really can affect any place lower in your spine because they're all connected. I hope this information helps and brings some light to something that might be going on with you. If you have any questions about your specific situation, feel free to reach out to me.
If you would like to learn some of my best tips to stop back pain starting at home check out my Free Ebook “7 Tips To Keep Your Back From Going Out More Than You!"
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WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald