I wish I had a dollar for every miracle program that promises to solve back pain through exercise. If being chained to a daily exercise or stretch program is your idea of independence that’s fine. It wasn’t for me and by understanding what your back is actually saying with pain symptoms, you might look at this approach differently too.
Why Does My Back Hurt?
Surely there are as many answers to this question as there are people in the world. There are emotional triggers, there are internal causes, there are injuries, there are chronic movement patterns and so on.
My favourite is movement patterns because that was primary the solution to my own 5 year struggle with chronic back pain. It’s also one of the least spoken about!
Paddling for hundreds of kilometres each week on a surf ski (sea kayak) by compressing my spine down is not an ideal situation. If I had known what I was doing… or if a coach could have observed my faulty coordination, I might have continued to improve rather than gradually disintegrate.
I paddled against the pain, through it and then suffered after. Somehow we think that when the pain goes away during exercise, it’s all ok.
But what about when it comes back that afternoon, or the next morning getting out of bed… or sitting in a supposedly comfortable chair at the movies?
We blindly keep exercising hoping that more strength or flexibility is going to fix it all.
What Does the Pain Mean?
In actual fact, the pain (that keeps coming back even though we are apparently quite fit) is telling us to stop.
There are so many different parts of our physiology that cry out for us to stop doing things a particular way. Instead of stopping and looking at why it may be happening, we treat that particular symptom as the cause of pain and keep going. There’s no time to stop and figure it out because we want to get fit, prepare for an event or look good for a social gathering. The end we have in mind over rides any observation of our means of achieving it. At whatever cost is a great human motto.
So, in short, recurring pain means stop and observe. Find out why you’re causing this pain in movement, improve that particular sequence of movements and get back to it.
Not listening to the pain, as I didn’t, means that eventually your body will find a way to stop you completely. By that stage… things can be pretty complicated.
Exercise is Better Than Treatment Right?
We love getting treated with massage, acupuncture, shiatsu (et. al.) because it allows us to delegate all responsibility to a practitioner who is the expert. Plus it feels good. No problem. Feeling good is a good thing. But it’s only a remedy isn’t it? There’s a little voice inside of you saying, “yes, but…I’ll be back in a month”.
So, the smarter option is to take up pilates, get onto a swiss ball in the office or join a yoga class to get flexible. More movement is better than less… or so you think.
Back pain remedies number in the thousands. I categorise all treatments in this list of course…but you can also throw in your weekly pilates or yoga.
When you look closely over the past few decades, we’ve been guinea pigs in a never ending story of “better and better” exercises and treatments. If any of them actually did solve chronic back pain, wouldn’t we see a steadily reducing rate of chronic back pain in the western world?
Oh, that’s right…very few clients actually “comply” to the home exercise programs that are given to them by professionals. We need to create social clubs to get everyone doing their fitness regimes together for motivation.
No. Exercise is a different approach to treatment… but it is not better because the outcome is similar.
As long as you must keep doing the exercise or going back to the treatment you are applying a remedy. If your back problems return when you stop getting treated (regular massages, adjustments etc) or stop doing the core workout, then the cause has not been addressed.
Good Exercise or Bad Exercise
I lead a pretty active life, several kids, a dog, a cat…a garden, surfing, walking and carrying shopping. Sure, it’s possibly more active than most, but in a normal day, I probably bend over a couple hundred times, reach for something a few thousand, stand up and sit down another few hundred, breathe, chew and drink another few thousand…that’s a fair amount of movement right?
So, what if instead of doing all of that on complete auto-pilot…and THEN finding the time to do extra exercises on top of that…somewhere in my day…what if I woke up to how I was doing all of these things, eliminated all the movements that were aggravating my back, or neck or elbow or knee or hip…and see what happened next?
If I stopped banging my head against a brick wall…would the pain stop?
I don’t know, but it would be worth a try.
Stop giving exercise programs for the back…and start giving exercise programs for the mind and our observation of what we are already doing. Take away the aggravating factors and see if our body can actually take care of itself without our intervention.
The only way to educate your mind to observe these things is to find a teacher of Alexander technique.