Low-back pain: Our new blog
April 8, 2011 1 Comment
The purpose of this blog is to share some awareness of how bodywork addresses low back pain. Each therapist at Chicago will be interviewed on the topic.
Q: If I have low-back pain, how would I select between different types of practitioners: MD, Chiro, Naprapath, Osteopath, Acupuncture, and then within massage we have another menu: Swedish, deep-tissue, Shiatzu, etc.?
A: Only a doctor can provide a medical diagnosis, and usually that requires x-rays or scans. Chiropractors specialize in the back, they are qualified to diagnose, and they can treat with manual medicine, and refer to MDs when needed. Acupuncturists can also offer detailed assessment, and probably offer fast relief, with or without needles. The alternatives to needles include cupping, moxabustion, acupressure and micro-current.
Massage therapy will help you clear stress patterns out of the muscles that are associated with the pain syndrome. There are at least 20 pairs of muscles between the mid-torso and the knees which could factor into the injury that is causing pain. Remember that the stress has probably built up for a long time prior to erupting into a symptom. Muscles that attach to the lower lumbar vertebra have a close relationship with the large intestine. Organs store energy and emotions. Awareness of these connections lays the foundation my entire approach to healing arts. Compression and stretches around the thighs and hips, especially the illio-tibial band will help your body transform stress in various lower-torso organs. I look for the most sensitive reflexes on the legs, and for major blockages, utilizing light energy techniques speeds up the clearing process.
My view is that the pain is natures way of asking for us to redirect our attention inwardly, to get more complete with the past, and maybe consider appropriate lifestyle adjustments.
On a purely physical level, there is the consideration of the effect of gravity compressing the lower spinal area, and the stress on all the joints of the pelvis and lower torso. The goal of massage is to speed up the recovery time for whatever the injury is, and also prevent additional injury.
If the low-back pain is not too severe, then starting with massage will be a chance to get some assessment; you find out if massage is helping a lot or a little or not at all. If it’s not sufficiently helpful, then you need to see a physician who can diagnose the situation.
Regarding the types of massage and bodywork, most of us are going to blend the various modalities we are trained in based on your objective. Every tradition has effective remedies. I like them all, and my tendency is to blend everything I know.
Q: What’s a typical emotional theme with the lower back?
A: In the most general terms, peace with the past. The stress could be a forgotten conflict, a pattern of being conflicted, or old grief. It’s the inability to let go of judgments, especially self-judgement. You could also summarize it as old grief.
Q: Conflict implies relationship. What if my stress is intertwined with the people in my life?
A: I correlate the theme of bonding (and bonding stress) with muscles that attach to the sacrum. This would include piriformis and gluteus medius. Peace with the past includes the people of your past. The pelvis also includes the theme of identity, which is largely influenced by relationships, especially parents.
Q: How did you come up with this stuff?
A: Very gradually, through my studies and observations. I do meet a lot people with physical problems and I often learn something about their background. As a therapist, I’m just looking for the best methods. My early training in the 80’s had a consistent theme: including an awareness of the emotional factor will allow the correction to go in deeper and last longer. They showed us how to get assessments and I gradually created my own system, which I call ontological bodywork.
Q: When people are coming to see you for low-back pain, how often can you help them get an immediate drop in the pain by at least 50%?
A: More than 50% of the time. And 90% relief would only be around 10% of the time. Immediate relief could occur from a variety of reasons. We don’t adjust the spine, yet we help your body get into a state where it can adjust itself. The techniques we utilize near the spine help to engage the para-sympathetic nervous system. That is the restorative aspect of your nervous system that helps your body recover from stress. Sometimes just getting the nervous system to switch gears from sympathetic to parasympathetic is enough to get a substantial pain reduction.
Q: How can I utilize massage for the purpose of preventing back pain?
A: At least a few times per year, allow your therapist to take however much time is needed to be comprehensive in clearing the trigger points of the legs, especially the thighs. These are dense, thick muscles which function as shock absorbers for the torso. If most of your massage time is on the back, neck and shoulders, then that small amount of time on the legs won’t be sufficiently thorough. The need for this is much less if you’re doing a regular stretching routine.
I would again like to mention the correlation between low-back and the large intestine. Colon cleansing fiber supplements are inexpensive and effective. I think it’s probable that lack of colon maintenance could result in some type of low back symptom.
Q: With pregnant women, you hear about the both the low back, and the lower GI. Do you have a different approach for them?
A: My pregnant clients get maximum emphasis on the reflex points of the legs which clear the energy of the large intestine. Anyone who has new stuff coming into their life, we will do a session that helps with letting go of old patterns. A new home, a new career, a new relationship, even a new car, we need to create space for these things. A new baby is the prime example, and without any massage, mom is getting compression therapy from the expanding uterus and growing fetus. The new father is also going through an activation process. Latent aspects of his being are coming to the forefront. There is a push from nature. It shows up in different ways. There are a lot of positive emotions. Sometimes that’s enough, and sometimes the power of the positive emotions can trigger a healing crisis, which means symptoms, and massage is highly indicated at that point.