In this series we offer the causes and solutions for why so many suffer from back pain:
Back pain is one of the leading causes of visits to the doctor, and disability in the United States. Despite it being so high on the list of causes for lost work, and stopping a hobby the general consensus of what causes back pain, and the solutions for back pain, run the gamut of information.
When we look at back pain solutions one of the current limitations is that practitioners and patients hone in only on the lumbar ine, as the cause and the solution of their pain. This is a huge problem in all of healthcare today that needs to be addressed. This myopic view leaves out the fact that the entire muscle, nerve and skeletal system is connected. Where you have pain is almost never the sole cause and solution to get you moving again.
We take a new approach to back pain, but looking at the whole body.
In modern healthcare, a patient comes in with back pain to their practitioner. The back may be palpated or it may not, and the care goes in only one of several directions.
-Medication to relieve the pain
-imaging on the lumbar spine
-instruction to rest
There is so much more to the lumbar spine, and back pain as you will see in this multi part series. We will delve into some the most common causes of back pain and the fact that many of the causes originate from other areas of the body!
Chiropractic care has always approached treating the whole person since its inception. Mind, body, nutrition and spirit are all taken into account, and its this approach that will stand the test of time for getting back pain solved in our society.
First and foremost it is important to understand how your body interconnects. When you are a baby, you have certain prime movements that your body knows how to initiate. Your nervous system is “pre-programmed” to initiate coordinated signals from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles. These Prime Movements that are innate in your body are very important for why we have back pain, when we see a patient with back pain, we almost always see dysfunction in prime movements.
Your back pain is from loss of communication in the original “language” of movement your brain and body communicated at birth. These innate patterns can always be re-activated.
An example of how infant muscle movement relates to back pain. Back pain is caused by a loss of prime movement patterns.
“Your back pain is from loss of communication in the original “language” of movement your brain and body communicated at birth. These innate patterns can always be re-activated.”
Here are some of the movements that nerves fire to the body innately as neuromuscular skeletal and joint systems are developing.
-Transitioning from tummy time
-Holding the head up
-Lying on your back while moving the arms and legs
These are coordinated signals between your brain and your spinal cord signaling to the muscles of your body. The muscles are like pulleys and they pull along a connective tissue called fascia and at tendons that connect to bone. The bone moves around ligaments which make up joints. The joints glide, slide and roll. That is how we move, and its truly a miracle!
A sample of a movement sequence in your body:
An example of the elegant series of events that happen every time your body moves!
A diagram to show how nerve, muscle and joint function link to back pain.
An example of the elegant series of events that happen every time your body moves!
This is a feedback loop as well. Ligaments can give signals to muscles and to the brain. Your nervous system can get feedback from any part of this movement sequence. This allows for quick changes and dynamic motion.
So when you have pain, there is a dysfunction somewhere in the structure, or function of any or all of the above.
Most importantly I want you to understand it’s often a Signaling or Software issue. If I learn forward all day, the nerves process that pattern and “boot it” into your nervous system. Long term, this creates new muscle, tendon and all other structures to move differently.
Between the glide, slide, and roll of a joint, damage to the ligament, inflammation of the ligament, damage or inflammation to the tendon, muscle, fascia, or a disconnection with your brain or spinal cord “signaling”.
A skilled practitioner will look at every component of this pathway, and understand the innate human movements that you need to perform in order to be healthy. At our Center we check:
-Normal Range of Motion of Joints
-Prime Movement Coordination
-Ergonomics at work and Home
-Imaging if available or if necessary we order.
-Diet and Nutrition History
-Injury and Movement History
As soon as any innate movement stops, any or all of the above could be the source of your pain.
This flies in the face of current approaches to Low Back Pain. One practitioner will always blame the disc for the pain and confirm with an MRI to prove they are right. But we have to look at the current research that so many non symptomatic individuals have disc herniations in random studies that have no back pain.
Many different disciplines argue “Exercise Helps More!” “Joint Balance and Adjustments Help More!” “Yoga works!”
Sadly everyone is right and just needs to play nicer together!
The Current Lifestyle is to blame:
Compare for a second the way a child moves, versus the way the modern adult moves, and what a childs daily movements are(squatting, running, rolling), versus what an adult does(highly repetitive and sedentary) on a daily basis.
We can start to guess that a huge part of back pain’s cause is our lifestyle. Whether its a repetitive motion at a manual labor job, or the insane amount of time we sit, or a repetitive motion at a desk: The nerves that connect those vibrant signals between your muscles and your brain, can become “turned off” or “downgraded”.
The actual cause of back pain is often a signaling issue, which leads to a tissue issue(muscle, tendon, fascia). The tissue can be directly injured but even with trauma, what we often see is the injury gets “remembered” in the muscles as a spasm or a tightness or guarding.
We are as much computer programming as we are “tight or loose” muscle.
So in our intro, what have we learned? We have learned that back pain:
Is as much nerve signaling associated with native movement patterns you had as a child. those patterns never go away, and are needed for a healthy musculoskeletal system.
We have learned that pain can come from a multitude of structures if they are dysfunctional. The joint, the support structures between the joints, the capsule around the joint, the tendon, the fascia, the muscle, or a nerve coordination. Usually there is no separation, they are usually all interlinked.
Your back pain is most likely also from hip pain, or hip dysfunction, core function, poor joint integrity, tight fascia, and poor muscle signaling, all in conjunction.
Don’t look for a quick solution for your pain, there are too many variables often to not get help:
-I have seen back pain cases linked to one weak ankle.
-I have seen back pain cases linked to one weak hip.
-I have seen back pain cases linked to repetitive twisting on the job, creating a pattern in the muscles to always twist to the right.
-I have seen back pain cases because someone slouches at their desk, it puts pressure on the anterior, or front part of their spine, pushing all their discs and tendons and muscles in a posterior direction.
-I have seen back pain from a weak scapular muscles
-From forward head posture
-From a Big Toe that wasn’t Mobile enough
-From a lateral hip muscle (gluteus medius) that was causing pelvic unleveling
There are so many more causes. The key is to get checked by someone who will give you a detailed workup!
That being said there is some great daily maintenance movements you can find HERE
So if you don’t understand anything else in summary. You are not a bag of “Structures” that get broken. There are nerve firing patterns, coordinated from brain to muscle, slings of movement and many more complex things that are at the cutting edge of movement therapy.
When you have back pain don’t do these things.
Feel the pain in an area and focus in. “Wherever I feel the pain, something must be bad right at that spot.”
Don’t focus in on a structure. For instance, our current model very heavily focuses in on discs or arthritis. If you look at the research on MRI’s it is now stating that not all pain is from disc herniation. Even with this new research it is the most common structure blamed. What we are overlooking is that some structure(muscle, tendon, joint imbalance) pulled on the fulcrum of the disc to create excess pressure on the disc for it to herniate, the disc does not operate by itself. (Look to posture, muscle, the hips etc.)
Don’t downplay back pain: Back pain is not looked at in the same respect as other diseases and disorders. And so therefore, people are taught they must just live with it. Back pain can stop life in its tracks. Even if we stay moving, we often don’t try the things we love for fear “something may go out” You really don’t have to live this way!
In the rest of the series we will break down each component of this article one by one.
See our Muscle Weakness Linked to back Pain Article:
See our Joint Dysfunction Linked to Back Pain Article:
See our Muscle Imbalance Linked to Back Pain Article:
See the Top 5 Stretches for Back Pain Article:
See the Top 5 Exercises for Back Pain Article:
See how Nutrition and Diet link to Back Pain:
Would you like a detailed look at your back pain? Here is our New Patient page.
Dr. Michael Day is an expert in back pain in Greenville, SC. He has advanced training in soft tissue therapy, exercise rehabilitation, breathing retraining, and has created a cutting edge Chiropractic technique that is gentle and meets the needs of each patient.
He has worked on the professional surf tour, has worked with elite runners and triathletes, golfers, paddlers and many more.
But one of his greatest passions is helping society move better, and helping those lost in the disability of chronic pain get their life back!