Breaking the cycle of lower back pain; 5 things to look for in a body mechanic to best help you help yourself.
The story usually has the same beginning; It all started when… If your lower back constantly goes out or locks up, there is a mechanical reason for it. While most of us never think of the lower back that way, the problem is, we can only compare the way we feel to what we have become accustomed to.
It is a fact that the way we are built often determines how we function mechanically, and we are all mechanical beings. The problem is, once we are no longer toddlers, and are walking like we do as adults, which is usually seen around the age of 5 or 6 years old; we get taller, women get wider in the hips and some of us get wider in front. What most of us never realize is that if we are tight all the time, it seems normal to us because if we were always tight, it is the only reality we have ever known. Is it normal to be tight all the time? What does tight all the time mean and is there a normal at all? When we feel pain or discomfort, we believe that something is now wrong and that since the problem did not self resolve, all of a sudden, there is a serious problem because of the way it affects our lives.
We all come from different gene pools; some resulting in more and some less symmetrical body styles as our structures develop and we leave toddler gait (scampering around) and begin to walk like we would as adults. Those who are significantly asymmetrical are often also chiropractic patients since these patients find that chiropractors help them feel and function better than other healthcare providers can because of the unique way manipulation of the spine and extremities enhances joint and body movement. This unique approach, and the ingrained holistic thinking chiropractors are trained with, combined with the right exercises and myofascial work, results in those of us who are asymmetrical achieving better symmetry, therefore having fewer strained joints, a more efficient musculoskeletal system and a better overall quality of life.
It is often surprising to me how most doctors want patients to eat right, exercise and get in shape, yet, their understanding of the musculoskeletal system often shows when their asymmetrical patient who is trying to become more active is now hurting because they were never screened properly prior to exercise. Some of us need more than just prodding and encouragement, we need someone to help us so we can exercise and receive those cardiovascular benefits without being in more pain then when we began our self improvement process.
Do you need a body mechanic?
Getting back to the original story of it all started when…, those who are asymmetrical can usually point to a fall, or an incident, or some event that was the original injury in their personal experience. While it is true that trauma can damage spinal joints, it is also true that as the injury heals, someone who is asymmetrically built and is tighter on one side than the other will see their structure become even tighter, and more asymmetrical. This is because the myofascia, the connective tissue surrounding the muscles will develop adhesions that further affect function, the precursor for chronic joint and spinal pain that worsens as we age.
Over time, the tension from the myofascia on the pelvis will distort it, causing those joints to be under constant strain. The body will also distort the upper back in just the opposite way, causing problems in the upper body as well. When this occurs, the core, which is where we power the body from will distort as well, adding to mechanical inefficiency, further tightness and the likelihood that your lower back can lock up, or leave you with moderate to severe lower back pain from doing things that seem rather ordinary for other people who do not suffer those types of consequences.
How do you know you have a problem such as this?
Simple gardening leaves you sore for days on end.
Picking up your child leaves you in pain.
You constantly get injured playing sports, with a constant need to stretch.
Walking for long periods of time causes a marked amount of pain in the lower back, upper back or neck.
You are always tight after sitting at the computer, blaming it on the posture rather than understanding that there is likely more to this.
Hands or arms go numb for no reason, or when driving the car.
What works best for an unstable back.
The buzz word is that you must have a stable core. The core muscles are not just your abdominals, but include the posterior back muscles, the obliques and Pilates consider the diaphragm and the pelvic muscles to be part of the core as well. If this core is distorted, no amount of exercises or rehabilitation regimens will bring a long term solution. Many people have been to physical rehab where exercises and basic massage relieved the problem, only to have it return.
What works best is to find a body mechanic that
1. Performs myofascial release treatment and does active evaluation. There are many styles such as Active Release Techniques, Graston or other instrument assisted methods or other styles of myofascial treatment. The reason you want someone who does active evaluation is that they will use a protocol of treat – test – treat to assure what they are doing is improving your ability to function. Unlike the older, static types of evaluation which is commonly taught in most medical schools and chiropractic colleges, active evaluation has been around since the 1990’s and is growing in popularity since it helps practitioners resolve your condition more quickly and thoroughly. Many sports chiropractors are now using these methods
2. Performs and instructs you with corrective exercises to stabilize the core such as bridges, leg extensions, hip extensions.
3. Performs spinal manipulation as well as extremity manipulation for joints that have not functioned well due to tight surrounding myofascia. Chiropractors have the most experience using this type of treatment.
4. Teaches and instructs you on foam rolling – this self application of myofascial release is helpful in retraining and maintaining function, especially those who are built asymmetrically.
5. Recommends and prescribes foot orthotics either custom or off the shelf. These help level the pelvis and can help your body work more efficiently than it can do naturally as you walk around. Wearing sandals or shoes that have these supports built in can also be helpful.
What do you think? As always, I value your opinion.