it’s not always what you think it is

A.

I’ve suffered from it for years, ever since I was a teenager. Happened one day when I bent over to pick up an empty box that held items the store I worked for were selling. That was it. Bending over picking up an empty box.

A terrible sharp pain in my lower back.

I could hardly straighten up due to the excruciating pain and fortunately, I was able to leave work early. The pain subsided a bit but I was not myself for about 7 days. A year later the same thing again. Then the following year again. I think then I went and saw a chiropractor. The treatment I received alleviated the pain for  a short time but it never did seem to cure it. Almost every year a flareup.

Side note: I don’t despair chiropractors but do your homework and listen to your gut. A chiropractor that was at a health fair put on by my employer was concerned about my back condition(?) and wanted a formal evaluation. I had x-rays taken and he examined my back. I was told that my back is in such bad shape that he would not be surprised that I wouldn’t be around this earth after 5 years. Seriously. This is what I was told. It didn’t feel right, his philosophy on chiropractic so I bounced. That was about 19 years ago. Guess I showed him.

What

dealing with pain
Dealing with back pain

Back pain, specifically lower back pain. I think almost everyone has had some lower back pain at one time. And it can be so debilitating. You feel immobilized, useless, every movement seems to cause pain. And then it goes away after so many days. Then, maybe 6 months, maybe a year it’s back again and you have some ideas why but you really aren’t sure. It gets in the way of the things you do, the plans you have, it makes life suck.

What causes this pain though? Unlike a typical blunt trauma injury like a sprained wrist, a broken leg, a pulled muscle it seems to be a mystery. Rest would be the fix then they changed their mind and movement was the best way to be back on your feet. Your chiropractor ‘adjusts’ your back and it feels good but it’s not a cure.

Why

The reading I have done on this subject over time shows more studies are pointing to muscular imbalances, overly tight muscles and also muscle fascia.

Tight glute and piriformis muscles can cause lower back pain and also that pain that shoots down your leg due to sciatica. Hamstring muscles that run from your hip down the back of your knee if tight can also cause lower back pain. The psoas muscles that run from both sides of your spine down to your femurs if tight and short will end up pulling on your vertebrae causing back pain.

It’s a lot of information, isn’t it. Confusing and complicated. I want to add one more to this list, something you may not have heard of and it’s been getting more attention over the last few years. Thoracolumbar fascia.

treatment
Treating the pain

Let’s break this down. Fascia is made up of connective tissue collagen and other stuff. It holds muscle where it’s supposed to be, like compartmentalization of things otherwise you would have muscles and organs floating around in your body, sloshing together. It’s a support system for your insides. Think of the white stuff that is between the orange peel and the flesh of the orange. That white webbie stuff. That’s your fascia.

The thoracic part is because it covers the thoracic spine. It’s more than that diamond shape from the mid spine down to your tailbone, it actually runs from one shoulder to the opposite hip. The transitional area between the upper and lower body allows forces to be transferred for various daily activities. Enabling movement, it is also important for stability.

So what is it we could be doing that can aggravate the thoracolumbar fascia? Let me highlight some of these:

        • Dehydration: This fascia tissue is in constant contact with muscles, tendons, etc. constantly rubbing as our body moves. Water is what our body uses as lubricant for our joints and also for fascia tissue. This can cause inflammation and may then stimulate the free nerve endings that live in the fascia. I’ve talked in the past how being dehydrated even 5% can cause a drastic negative hit to our performance and I just gave you another reason to drink water.
        • Lifting: “Lift with your legs, not your back otherwise you could injure your thoracolumbar fascia!” When we feel pain after incorrect heavy lifting we think we hurt our back which in a sense we did but if we don’t know exactly what we injured then how could we treat it? Lift properly, always no matter what the load is.
        • Sitting: I may shock you here with what I’m going to write. When you read ‘Sitting’ did you immediately think lower back position in the chair? Probably, I know I think that. But let’s look at the fascia and how it connects. As I wrote earlier it’s connected all the way from our pelvis to our shoulder girdle.  If I grab your right shoulder from behind and pull hard, does only your shoulder girdle move? No, your body twists all the way to your hips. Are you sitting in such a way that you have tension in your chest, tension in your shoulders? As the fascia tissue adjusts to the tension, the changes can be manifested to your lower back causing you to think you’ve incurred a back injury. But you are right too. Improper sitting, favoring one side over the other most definitely will lead to injury. Think of what laying in a bed in the same spot, sitting on a couch in the same spot over the years does. They get compromised from the constant weight, that one spot. Our body will take abuse but only so much. Sitting in positions that aren’t neutral to our support systems; fascia tissue, bones, muscles, etc. over time will cause us grief.

More to come

This will be a 2 parter. It’s early in the morning, I’m off to work in about an hour and boy is it going to be a long day.

This may help you to understand what may be causing your back pain. I hope so. And if you think so then you may want to read the second part coming out soon.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

Author: darryl bennett

A certified Canfitpro personal trainer specialist, and a Yondan (4th Degree) black belt in Shorin Ryu Shorin Kan karate, training at Ferraro Karate under Sensei Stephen Ferraro. Also holding a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from ECornell University. Fitness and health have been a big part of my life, and always will be.

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