Can You Actually Eliminate Back Pain?
“Pain reduces the quality of your life, your happiness and greatly impacts on your mental health. A life without daily physical pain is something we can all achieve” – Adam Phillips, Life Grip
The answer is a huge yes.
The only reason you can stand up straight is because you have muscles there to erect your spine and your whole skeletal structure (your bones). Remove your muscles and you would fall down into a pile of bones. So the same muscles that hold you up and in place are the same muscles that need the right balance of strength (support and power through movement) and lengthening (flexibility and range of motion).
The reason you can move is because your muscles move your bones. Bones do not move by themselves, it is the muscles attached to those bones that allow you to walk, bend over, throw a ball and hug your loved ones. Your spine needs the same to move, for you to bend, twist, arch and stand straight.
There are muscles that run along your spine, muscles that connect to every vertebrae of your spine and muscles that are connected to your hips and lower lumbar spine. The muscles attached to your lumbar spine is what needs to be strong and flexible to ensure you have a strong lower back. Well that’s part of the story anyways, we will move on after clarifying the muscles attached to your lower lumbar vertebrae.
“The same thing that created the pain is the same thing that needs addressing”, Adam Phillips, Life Grip
We Bend, Stand Straight & Twist, But How?
We have flexing, extending and oblique muscles that allow us to do all those cool dance moves, yoga postures and general daily movement from getting in and out of the car, picking up your bag of groceries (a type of deadlift).
There are muscles that run along the spine called ‘Erector Spinae’ because they help to ‘Erect The Spine’. They are really three muscles called, Spinalis, Longissimus, and Iliocostalis.
Weak Erector Spinae muscles is not going to provide the support needed for you to stand up straight for any short or extended period of time.
Ever feel like you want to lean on something after standing for only a minute or so?
Your Lumbar Spine: L1 to L5
Consisting of 5 vertebrae which are called L1 all the way to L5. This is where people believe their lower back pain is and has everything to do with these 5 vertebrae which cause the pain. Yes pain ends up here in usual cases of lower back pain, but is it the root cause of the pain?
You’ll see the muscles attached to each vertebrae of the Lumbar Spine, L1 to L5. I want you to imagine someone pulling on one of the muscles on either the left or right side. This would mean, more pull to one side than the other right? Now what if that was pulling that particular vertebrae out causing a cascade of other issues with the rest of your vertebrae all the way up your spine?
Your body is amazing at counteracting for imbalances. When you have an imbalance of strength, flexibility resulting in poor range of motion, the natural corrections and counterbalance your body makes, affects the way your whole body moves. So one muscle pulling on one side, can cause an issue resulting in back pain.
This is why it is important to strengthen and lengthen the muscles in your lumber area to ensure you have the right balance of strength, flexibility and range of motion on both the left and right sides of your Lumbar area. This is where strength training comes into play, yoga and a focused implementation of a daily Active Lifestyle.
“What You Strengthen You Must Lengthen”, Adam Phillips, Life Grip
What Can You Do About It?
Here are the obvious simple things you can do right now, if they apply to you. Then I’ll move onto more technical info.
Maintain A Natural Body Weight: If you know you’re carrying additional weight on your body, see what you can do to reduce some of the weight to get back to a natural weight you feel good at. Additional weight just puts more pressure on those imbalances and corrections and it just makes things worse.
Many people normally just eat a little too much food, rather than putting the fork down when it needs to be done. Overeating causes a range of issues that inevitably reduce the quality of your life, reduce longevity and increases your risk of metabolic diseases.
Sitting for too long weakens your inner Iliopsoas muscle which is the one connecting your Lumbar Spine (your lower back) to your pelvis.
You just can’t get around the fact the importance of having an Active Lifestyle. You need daily movement, you need to be out in nature.
Not only does it improve mental and cognitive health, it gives you much more energy, you can strengthen your body as a whole.
Eating too much food and not moving your body is a recipe for disaster.
Eating too much unhealthy food, not drinking enough water, drinking too much soft drink and alcohol and not having daily movement, is a sure fire way to decline your health and increase your risk of lower back pain.
I cannot stress enough the importance of implementing an Eat, Think & Live Clean strategy.
Morning Yoga & Mobility: Make this a part of your morning routine. You will lubricate your joints, strengthen your muscles (that support your joints anyways), strengthen your core muscles and increase your range of motion. The reason you should do this in the morning is that you are setting an increases range of motion for the day ahead.
Rather than being a little tight in the hips when walking or tight in the back when picking something up, these daily movements become that little bit easier. Your body is just more flexible and mobile for the day ahead. But now your body and limbs have more space to move into! You created more space and a larger range of motion before you walked out the front door. Do this everyday for the next 20 years and think about your quality of life?
Drink Water When You Wake Up: This kicks your body into gear, it hydrates you from your night of sleep and triggers your body to begin excreting toxins from your body. The quicker you’ll have a bowel movement and urinate. The earlier this happens during your day the earlier you’ll feel lighter, have more mental clarity and much more energy.
Your body is great at holding onto toxins in areas of your body where there is lack of movement. So when doing your stretching and mobility in the morning, you’d be doing this after drinking water. You’re helping your natural bodies systems to work more efficiently, get toxins in those tight areas moving along and allow more blood flow and to feed nutrients and oxygen in. Removing the bad stuff and replacing it with the good stuff.
What Can I Do About My Pain?
Testing your range of motion of your hips, legs, backward bend, forward bend and side bends. This will give you an idea of which sides and areas are tight. For example you’ll notice your left side bend maybe tighter than the right side bend.
Once you identify what is tight you can either work on the mobility yourself through some daily morning yoga, deep stretching, mobility work. Or you can go and get an in depth program created by an exercise physiologist.
Can’t I Just Get Adjusted Each Week At A Chiropractor?
Yes you can get adjusted, cracked into place and X-Rays of what is going on for sure. But what was the root cause of the imbalance? Was it your vertebrae or the muscles attached to it?
I highly recommend that if you are seeing a chiropractor, to go and make sure you’re putting a plan in place with an exercise physiologist to ensure you are strengthening and lengthening what you need to. Otherwise what gets adjusted and cracked, will more than likely pop back out of place again because the root cause of muscular imbalances and injuries were not addressed. Those same muscles will pull the same way they did previously and slowly move everything back to the point of pain again.
Your body will continue to make those adjustments and corrections to counteract the imbalances. These are what needs to be addressed. First you obviously have a priority on removing or reducing the pain, then you need to look at whats going to fix things and improve your quality of life for the long term. A good Chiropractor usually works in well with an exercise physiologist and a physiotherapist.
Remember that the longer your pain lasts, the weaker those muscles become, the tighter those muscles become and is why the problem gets progressively worse over time.
Why Your Abs Are Not The Most Important
Many believe people with a six pack will have a strong core. Everyone has one, just some people have a lower percentage of body fat that allows the skin to wrap tightly over the abdominals and expose the shapes and muscle definition. So a six pack just means a lower percentage of body fat.
The muscles you really want to be strong in are the muscles deep inside, attaching to your pelvis, iliac crest (top of your hips) and the muscles attaching to your lumbar spine. These are the real stability and support muscles, whereas the six pack is really the support and flexion muscles allowing you to bend forward. A main cause of lower back pain is a weak Iliopsoas muscle caused from sitting for too long. Another reason to implement a daily Active Lifestyle. A strong core means a strong spine free from back pain.
What Are Deep Core Muscles?
As you can see here there are muscles inserting on the L1 vertebrae all the way to the L5. There is another one you’ll see at the very top inserting itself onto the No.12 Rib.
The muscles here are the;
Psoas Major: L1 to L5 Vertebrae
Psoas Minor: No.12 Rib
We forget about these very important muscles as we don’t feel them anymore in our grown up life. These are apparently noticeable during our infant years where they are beginning to strengthen and for good reason.
Imagine having imbalances on these muscles and things pulling where they shouldn’t? These are the muscles that need attention. There is more to it and yes we need strong glutes, quads, obliques, abdominals but just doing sit ups and hoping to build a strong core is not a good plan moving forward.
What Are The Other Core Muscles?
We have 4 muscles that are making up the ‘outer sleeve’ as we may call it of the core. These are the ones that you think are the main muscles of the core and are easier to get to. You can sort of feel and see them for the most part.
Transverse Abdominis: This is the deepest of your abdominal sheet of muscles.
Internal Oblique: This is a sheet of muscle sitting over the transverse abdominis.
External Oblique: This is a sheet of muscle running down your sides that originate from your front ribs. You’ll be able to feel and touch these.
Rectus Abdominis: This is the six pack we all want! The abdominal muscles on the front of your body, the ones you can touch and feel. These allow forward flexion or bending over. Think of doing a crunch. Yes these need to be strong as well but it is possible to work these muscles during all types of workouts, by activating the muscles before and during your movements in your workout.
So getting a six pack is not the goal of a strong core. A six pack is a result of a stronger core (maybe, but up for debate) and a lower percentage of body fat.
What Is A Strong Core?
A strong core is the strengthening of all the muscles above, good range of motion and flexibility and no imbalances from either side. Working on your body to increase the quality of your life is a different perception or goal to looking great with a six pack.
It is a different approach. Now in regards to pain and eliminating it, I am sure you can see that there is more to it than taking some medication and getting cracked into position and even getting acupuncture and other therapies. The same thing that created the pain is the same thing that needs addressing.
What Lifestyle Additions Do I Recommend?
I highly recommend Yoga, as it is something that calms you, strengthens you, stretches you and grows you. It identifies your weak points, tight points, strong points and even identifies things holding you back in the outside world ‘off the mat’.
Avoid sitting for too long if this is the case. If your job or lifestyle requires lots of sitting, set a timer to get up and move every 20 to 30 min if possible. One of the main causes of lower back pain is sitting for too long, lack of movement, tightening of and imbalances of the Iliopsoas.
If you do have pain, go get your program done and work on strengthening yourself, removing imbalances and having a natural, healthy range of motion.
These things above will increase the quality of your life, strengthen your body and your mind. You’ll create new space for your body to move into.
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Eat, Think & Live Clean.
Adam Phillips – Founder of Life Grip