For something that causes such a ridiculous number of days off work in the UK, you would have thought it was a complicated thing to resolve. But any back care professional will tell you that the longer they work with back pain, the easier it is to understand, the simpler it becomes to resolve, and the more clear it is how very responsive back pain is to the correct intervention.
This is difficult to believe when you would give your last rolo to stop the burning under your shoulder blades, ease the grinding all-day ache in your lower back, and eliminate those sickening occipital headaches that creep up the back of your head and into your eyes and temples, making you want to take hold of your head and pull it off. If it was easy to resolve, someone would have told you about it by now right?
Well truth is they have... many times... you just didn’t realise that it could be that simple.
Why should you believe me?
Case study 1: An elite athlete had suffered with chronic low back spasms for his entire career. 3-4 times a season he had to take 2 weeks off from matches. Within one season his spasms completely stopped and never returned.
Case study 2: An elite athlete suffered chronic long term low back pain for 4-5 years. Pain, fear of pain affected his entire performance including his ability to score goals. Within 3 weeks his pain had completely resolved. His muscles literally melted. He scored his first goal of the season within 7 days of his pain resolving.
Case study 3: A mother of one, suffered a lumbar disc herniation while giving birth, and suffered with 8/10 low back pain, was diagnosed with life-long ‘phantom leg pain’, was unable to carry her child, go shopping, drive, or sit in a restaurant. She is now symptom free.
What's the Secret?
To stretch or not to stretch? That is the question. But it’s not really. The truth is there is no debate… if it hurts… stretch it.
Here’s a simple fact that will revolutionise your world: Tight muscles hurt. Stretching makes the muscles less tight = less pain.
Why is it that when your back becomes painful, the one thing that will do it the most good is the last thing on earth you want to do?
30 second technique for instant pain relief:
For when it hurts or burns between your shoulder blades...
Technique: The ‘Cheryl Cole’ (as named by Matt, physio at LFC)
• Feet hip width apart, hands on your thighs just above your knees
• Drop your shoulder and elbow towards the floor mid-knees.
• Turn your head towards the ceiling
• Repeat to the opposite side
• Repeat as many times as you like, until you feel your mid-scapular pain reduce.
The number 1 cause of back pain is stress. Stress creates a slow and constant increase in tension levels of the muscles throughout your body. Left unchecked this results in the inevitable:
Back pain, Neck Pain, Headaches.
WHAT TO DO? Sit or lie down and follow a 10 minute guided relaxation on your i-pod once a day. Why does it work? Guided relaxation switches your brain waves from alpha to beta, triggering a massive relaxation response through your body, relaxing all your muscles. If you can train your body to relax at will, you will be able to control and minimise the build up of muscle tension in your body, thus reducing back pain.
DEVELOP CORE STABILITY
Until the core muscles kick in, it is virtually impossible to resolve back pain, because the painful muscles simply can’t relax while they are having to hold you upright, doing the work of the inactive core muscles.
Remember: core stability training is NOT strength training, it is Brain Re-programming. Try this great little core move:
• Position yourself on all fours
• Breath in: push your abdomen towards the floor (spine doesn’t move)
• Breath out: draw your abdominal muscles towards your spine, keeping your spine straight
• Hold abdominals contracted at 10% effort for 30 seconds.
• Repeat once a day
STRENGTHEN YOUR BACK MUSCLES
Many people believe that they have strong back muscles, when they are actually chronically weak and ‘spasmed’, like concrete... giving the appearance of being strong. A strong muscle is one that has the ability to relax after a strong contraction. If a muscle is weak it will get tighter and tighter until it ‘spasms’. It cannot relax or ‘let go’, resulting in back pain. True muscle ‘strength’ is a work of art… and the result of a very carefully planned training program.
DEVELOP THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
The fear of back pain itself increases back pain. Like it or loathe it, that’s just the way it is. The connection between mental stress and muscle tension levels is proven. The quicker you believe this the quicker your pain will disappear. Fear will stop you moving & stretching, fear will make you hold your body in a tight, awkward posture, fear will tighten your muscles, fear has a lot to answer for.
SORT OUT YOUR MATTRESS AND PILLOW
Working in a city centre osteopathic centre in Manchester taught me how much your mattress and pillow contribute to back and neck pain. My clinic was fantastically supported by business men and women passing through Manchester, staying in hotels, waking up with their muscles in spasm.
Why? Because if you lie on a mattress that does not support you for 8 hours correctly, your muscles are switched on all night to hold your spine in a central position, when they should be at rest.
Result? Morning neck and back pain.