Spine and lower back pain

‘my back”…

one of the more amazing observations of my massage therapy career has been the commonality of back complaints and the duration with which people have suffered.

In 2015, chronic back pain affected 17% of the Australian population, that’s 3.7 million people who complained of long term debilitating pain originating from their spine. Amongst the sector of 65-74-year-olds that figure jumped to 27%. What’s more, these statistics relate to chronic sufferers, not people who suffer from pain for a matter of a few months.

The effects are the same… it not only restricts movements, cuts into the quality of your normal life, but it also depresses the spirit… everything seems darker.

Massage therapy cannot address many of the effects of chronic back pain, but you, yourself, can do far more about it than you might be aware.

Your spine consists of 26 vertebrae, set about the spinal cord, all of which is supported by a myriad of muscles, tendons and facial tissue. This is a system like no other, all components are interdependent. It evolved that way over a matter of ten million years.

Proportionately, your spine has been part of a dynamic system where the musculature and soft tissue were in constant movement for 80% of every day. It grew to respond to a world of constant demand and constant varying motion…

For the vast majority of our time as Homo, we have walked, and walked, and walked… as a species we are said to be the best endurance walkers on the planet.

Now let’s compare that to your last 24 hours… once you awoke, you stood, then sat for breakfast, then sat to drive, then sat at work, 60 minutes at the gym, then commuted home, then sat for dinner, then sat for entertainment before going to bed.

Not going to work? Australian retirees might not be commuting but they generally do more sitting than when they were working.

Quite apart from the burgeoning obesity epidemic (yep that’s a BMI over 30), the reasons for a population-wide complaint…” my Back”  is two-fold…

We sit too much and move too little!

Why does sitting create backache?

When you are sitting, you are balancing the upper part of your body on your “sits ” bones (the ischial tuberosity).

Imagine that you had a tail.

That tail would be a source of balance for the spine, you would maintain the curves of the spine by virtue of the triangle of support set between the two protuberances at the base of the pelvis and your tail. This arrangement would have a remarkable effect- you would breathe 25% deeper, as your lungs would open; your head would sit back upon the vertebrae, easing neck pain; your nervous system would be able to interact over the whole body, without impingement- you would be very bright, very alive.

Okay, enough with the rose coloured glasses- you don’t have a tail!

This means that in order to achieve the same level of balance, you are required to spend energy balancing on just two of the three points… what happens? you slouch!

When you slouch back in the chair (or the seat of the car) your spine extends, losing the springiness of the secondary curves… your head lolls forward, cramping the lungs, forcing the small muscles of the neck to do the support work; nerve bodies are stretched taut;  the supporting tendons of the back are stretched, the supporting muscles of the chest are locked into a shortened position- you ache!

Want to take charge of your back pain?

Want to breathe deeper, see more, take a brighter aspect to life?

You have a choice… you could grow a tail… in more ways than one, this would change your life.

Alternatively, don’t sit, squat.

When you squat, the function of balance is the job of your remarkable feet. Each foot, by virtue of its four arches, is a very stable pyramid.

People who squat boast less abdominal issues, virtually no bowel cancer, no backache, deeper breathing, better sleep… yep, it’s as good as growing a tail.

If you find squatting a bit challenging (do try it), you prefer to enjoy a cuppa sitting in front of the TV, try sitting up… squaring the shoulders, balancing on the base of your pelvis, pulling your head back so that it sits squarely over the spine.

You might need to get another chair. The effect will be amazing, once you get through the awkwardness of the change.

Yes, you could book in for a massage… every week if you like… but what I do in one hour will not change what you do to your muscles in the other 155 hours of the week. It is you who has the power to address your backache.

So, take action on your back pain… squat…sit up straight… or grow a tail!

Rob H.