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  • The Common Cause of Back Pain That Will Surprise You

    low back painIt happens all the time. A client comes in telling me about how bad their low back hurts and how badly it needs massage. I ask “did you do anything unusual or strenuous in the 24 hours prior to your pain?” They respond, “No. I didn’t do anything.” Now, they usually mean this as both a statement and a question; meaning that they are utterly perplexed about why their back hurts. I, however, am not perplexed in the least. Their back hurts for the precise reason they just stated… They didn’t do anything.

    Let me explain.

    Pain doesn’t just happen in the body for no reason. We may not always be able to determine the reason, but there is a reason. Sometimes that reason is cumulative dysfunction. Cumulative dysfunction is where you perhaps stand with more weight on one foot than the other, or with one knee locked on a regular basis, or maybe you always cross your legs at the knee when you sit. It feels comfortable. It feels normal. But it’s not. It creates dysfunctional tension patterns in the muscles of the feet, legs, hips and back. Left to their own devices, they don’t get better on their own. They actually accumulate if you keep doing whatever caused the issue in the first place.

    I often use a weight analogy to explain this. You gain a pound, but you can’t see just one extra pound on an adult human frame. Then you gain another pound, which you can’t see. Perhaps you slowly gain several more pounds until suddenly, one day, your pants don’t fit. They must have shrunk in the dryer, right?

    The same thing happens with the body. You stand or sit in a way that puts strain on the body and a muscle or two tighten up to keep things stable, but you don’t feel any more tense than you had. Repeat for years and you may start to notice that you look slightly bent over even though it feels like you’re standing up straight and tall, or maybe someone comments that your chair makes them feel like they’re leaning to one side when they sit in it. Perhaps you begin to notice that you look a little twisted at the hips. You figure, “as long as it doesn’t hurt, I’m OK.” You might even consider seeing a chiropractor if you look twisted but you keep putting it off because of time or money issues. Then one day, all of a sudden… your back spasms so bad that it drops  you to your knees (or prevents you from getting out of bed or out of a chair). The dysfunction finally accumulated to a point that one small, normal movement caused a major “back attack.”

    I encourage you to pay attention to your body. Lack of pain does not mean that nothing is wrong, it simply means that the body is able to cope… For Now.

    Here are a few things to check for (you may need the objective eye of a friend or loved one to help with some of thees):

    • twisting or spiraling of any part of the body – head, neck, hips, legs, feet, etc.
    • head looking up, down, or to one side when it feels like it’s straight ahead (or unable to look straight ahead for long without feeling fatigued)
    • body looking bent over when you feel like you’re standing up straight (or being unable to completely straighten up)
    • your chair is worn unevenly left vs right or front vs back
    • you stand with one foot more forward than the other
    • you lock one or both knees when standing
    • feeling or looking as if your back is arched all the time
    • inability to lie on your side without some part of your body falling forward or backward

    If you have any of these tell-tale signs of dysfunction, save yourself an emergency room visit later and make an appointment now with a massage therapist, chiropractor, DO, or all of the above before the pain starts. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. After all, taking an hour off work (if you even have to – many MTs work either early evening or early morning hours) to prevent pain is preferable in my book to being off work & in pain for several days.

    Let me know what you think? Leave me a comment if you feel I left out something important  (but remember that I can’t possibly cover every single possibility without making this unmanageably long), or if you have a question, suggestion, or just want to start a discussion. And of course… like, share, forward, retweet, pin, etc. using the handy buttons just below this post ↓↓↓