Lower back pain is the most common type of musculoskeletal pain, which is why here at painPRO our Vancouver RMT’s don’t just treat back pain…they truly understand it. We have prepared this section to help highlight the complexity of back pain. We’d like to think that because we understand the many nuances of musculo-skeletal pain we are better able to treat it.
Myofascial pain is a major cause of back pain that can affect bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, vertebral discs, connective tissue, and nerves. It can be acute (having a rapid onset with severe symptoms) or chronic (lasting more than 6 months). Myofascial pain can be localized in one area, radiate in specific patterns, or be felt throughout the body.
Pain is a Signal
Pain is your body’s way of telling you … “There is something wrong. Please DO something!” If you break your leg, the pain is letting you know that something is seriously wrong. If you cut yourself, you get a “fix-it” message depending on how serious the cut is. If you have a tooth ache, your body is signalling a visit to the dentist.
Back pain is no different; your body is telling you that something is out of balance and needs to be fixed. Many of us just feel that back pain is something that will eventually go away and in many cases it will. Inevitably the back pain returns again and again…just the bodies way of saying fix me!
Low Back Pain Factors
- Physical Trauma
- Bone Misalignments
- Postural Imbalances
- Emotional Unrest
- Nutritional Deficiencies
- Myofascial Problems
- Poor Fitness
- Infections (viral/ bacterial)
- Prescription Drugs
- Numerous Diseases
You may be facing a particular job stress situation. Perhaps you are under extra pressure because of deadlines you have to meet, or your company is facing job cuts and you think you may be in the line of fire, or you have been promoted and have to work extra hard.
In order to adapt to your changing work environment you work longer hours, sit longer, eat irregularly, exercise infrequently, have less of a social life, and find no time for yourself.
Prolonged stress can create physical imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, emotional unrest, and spiritual disconnection. The end result is an increased risk for physical pain.
Four Elements of Back Pain
The most obvious for the majority of people is some physical problem in the back. This could have occurred due to trauma, muscle imbalances, muscle degenerative disease, or poor posture over a prolonged period of time.
- Bone Misalignments/ Changes – bones can be pulled or forced out of their optimum position placing strain on surrounding nerves, tendons, ligaments, or muscle. In addition changes in bone structure due to arthritic conditions or bone spurs can have the same result. A secondary result of bone misalignments can be inflammation.
- Nerve Impingement – this occurs when bones or soft tissue press against a nerve. The result will be various sensations that could include pain, tingling, muscle weakness, and a feeling of heaviness. Depending on the structures pressing on the nerve these sensations can radiate into different areas of the body.
- Connective Tissue – this includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. They can become stretched, compressed, or trigger points can form due to postural imbalances or bone misalignments. When connective tissue is either compressed or stretched it can set up an inflammatory response
Many people don’t realize that tissue health is an incredibly important component in the syndrome of pain.
Many people make poor dietary choices which can result in pain.
Foods – We can eat foods that are toxic to our biological processes and this has a cascade effect on inflammation, hormone production, and chemical metabolites. The result is pain in areas of the body already out of balance. Another key fact regarding food involves eating too much of it; the excess weight that results puts added pressure and strain on joints and muscles which can result in back pain.
Hydration – Given that the average person is 60% water, it stands to reason that it’s critical to maintaining health and vitality. Without the required level of water in your body:
- The inner core of the discs between your vertebrae become compressed, which can lead to back pain.
- The body has a reduced ability to carry away toxins, which tend to set up inflammatory responses in the body.
- Muscles and joints lack the ability to function properly.
- Mental function and emotional state become inconsistent when you’re dehydrated, and you could be less capable of coping with stresses that might lead to back pain.
Digestion – With compromised digestive function the body’s ability to turn your food into nourishment is impaired. The body is not able to repair damage effectively and this results in poor cellular function and inflammation, which will lead to connective tissue degradation which in turn can lead to back pain.
You may be interested to know it may all be in the mind.
To maintain socially accepted norms we stuff many frustrations into our subconscious mind. Helps our image.
We do not want you to think that your back pain is all in your head but there may be some truth to it. Current research is uncovering links between your thoughts and the way you think – and back pain.
Pain to most people represents a physical sensation caused by a direct injury/ trauma to soft tissue or muscle tension caused by stress. But what about prolonged lingering chronic pain? Why is it that some people struggle with constant neck or back pain and others don’t? We all suffer from some form of stress don’t we?
You may be interested to know it may all be in the mind. The sensation of chronic pain in many cases is caused by reduced oxygenation in the soft tissues of the body. Let’s explain this a little more.
The standard models of pain are being challenged by the findings of Dr John Sarno who for the past 30 years has uncovered the origins of lingering unexplained pain. The answer … repressed emotions in the subconscious mind. This may be a radical concept but Sarno’s clinical results are irrefutable. The term used to describe this condition is Tension Myositis Syndrome. (TMS)
According to Dr. Sarno the primary emotion we repress is anger. This primitive emotion was critical for our evolutionary survival as a species but could you imagine what life would be like today if everyone freely expressed their displeasure. In our current society the free expression of anger is not socially acceptable and usually results in a backlash of negativity from those around you.
In order to maintain our socially accepted norms, our mind bundles up all our little frustrations and stuffs them into our subconscious mind. Over time this builds up like a pressure cooker. Our rational conscious mind understands that the free expression of this pent up frustration may do more harm than good in our social network. The mind solves this problem with … Distraction!
The area in the brain where anger resides is the limbic system. This is also the area where our autonomic nervous system intersects. One of the things our autonomic nervous system does is control our fight or flight response. Over the eons this has served us well. When danger is present it helps shunt blood to and from specific muscles to assist us in physically dealing with a threat. Today we encounter very few physical threats … but we have a lot of repressed emotions that if let out would be extremely disruptive to our daily activities. In order to keep from blowing the lid off the pressure cooker (repressed emotions), the mind creates physical distractions in the body by reducing blood flow in specific areas. The result … PAIN!
Many of us are so immersed in our busy, stressful lives that we don’t take time to renew the inner part of us that some people call our “soul.” We don’t want to get all woo woo on you but pain can result from spiritual disconnection.
This topic can create a host of reactions and it is important for us to define our view of the spiritual aspect of life. We understand that each of us has our own belief system that surrounds the topic of spirituality. At its core we view spirituality as our personal connection to something that is more powerful than us yet unites us in a union that involves an inner exploration to seek love, emotional connection, and understanding through non-judgement of our internal and external world.
Some find this journey through religion or religious practices like prayer, others find it though a connection to nature, and many find it through meditation. In the end it is a deeply personal journey that only you know is right for you. What we are referring to here is the topping-up of joy, happiness, tranquility, peace, emotional “connection” and emotional balance in your life. Spiritual renewal is very personal and can take place in an inspired instant, or as part of a regular practice. Many of us are so immersed in our busy, stressful lives that we don’t take time to renew the inner part of us that some people call our “soul.”
When we become disconnected from the source or our spiritual essence we set up a disharmony in our energy production at a cellular level. When our energy levels become depleted we set ourselves up for physical and emotional imbalances that can result in pain.
You could get spiritual renewal from prayer or meditation, or you could get it from fly fishing or a picnic lunch beside a fountain or a stream. Spiritual renewal is different from letting go of the stress and relaxing. It is another layer on top of that … adding to, rather than letting go.
Here is an example of an activity that can have one or more layers:
In yoga, there is a series of flowing yoga movements called the Salutation to the Sun. It is a morning routine that potentially has three layers of meaning.
- The Salutation to the Sun can be seen as a strictly physical exercise series that stretches and awakens the muscles of the entire body. It enhances your flexibility, gets the circulation going and oxygenates the entire body. A great way to start your day!
- The Salutation to the Sun can also be used as a stress buster. At the same time as it is waking the body up, it is also relaxing the body and mind. You are letting go of stress physically and emotionally.
- The third layer is the spiritual aspect of the Salutation to the Sun, in which the physical poses and mantras are intended to induce a balanced state of mind, intellect and emotions. In other words a connectedness.
Back Pain Fun Facts
Musculoskeletal pain is a fast growing phenomenon and reflects a significant cost to society. Let’s take a look at the leading type of musculoskeletal pain…low back pain. Here are some industry statistics that may surprise you about low back pain:
- The National Pain Foundation states that less than 15% of back pain can be attributed to a specific cause. That leaves more than 85% of back pain sufferers with no specific identifiable reasons for their pain.
- Represents 25% of all work related compensation claims and 33% of compensation costs.
- Work related sick days due to back pain, is second only to the common cold. It is estimated that 40% of sick days are related to back pain. Over 100 million work days lost due to low back pain.
- Leading cause of disability in people under 45 years old.
- Second leading surgical procedure with over 500,000 annually in the U.S.
- Surgery is generally only required in 3-5% of back pain cases.
- Four out of five people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.
- Happens with equal frequency between men and women