If you've been following me on social media or know me in real life, you're likely aware that I've been dealing with a rollercoaster ride of back pain for about 9 months now. And if you're one of the 85% that has experienced low back pain in your life, you can relate. I hope this post can offer you hope and help some of you explore new ways to heal yourself.
First of all, it's important to note that every body is amazingly unique which unfortunately means that every injury is unique and what worked (is working) for me might not offer you any relief or might even be detrimental to your healing. Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor and it's always advisable to visit your physician or health care practitioner before taking any extreme measures. Also, remember that you have to be your own advocate for getting better. Your health is your responsibility!
Being a super active person, I had always been susceptible to experience low back pain if I took it too hard that week. My pain had always been manageable, though with a little yoga and R&R. Until one time I wayyy overdid it and it wasn't manageable.
This blog post would be extremely long if I told my whole story so I'll just leave it at that. Just know that it was an overuse injury that I didn't let heal and eventually spiralled into a BFD (big fucking deal).
Before we dive into the million things we can do to help heal ourselves, let's take a look at a couple things that might be happening to cause this pain.
- Pelvic or core instability
- Incompetent muscular activity
- Excessive muscular tension
- SI (sacroilliac) joint dysfunction
- Bulged or herniated disc
- Spinal cord disease
- Fractured or compressed vertebrae
To name a few...
So you see it can be very complicated and without a proper diagnosis (MRI) you're often left guessing which can result in improper care and be potentially dangerous. Let's talk about healing now. Below is a list of things I recommend based on my own personal experience. I'm not saying that this is the be all end all of healing, though. There are many new and innovative healing modalities that I just simply don't have access to.
Body Awareness: One of the most important things you can do to heal yourself is start developing an awareness of your body. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, FEEL what's going on. Remember: YOU. ARE. YOUR. OWN. ADVOCATE. I can't stress that enough. Okay, so your back hurts. What's going on with your hips? Is one always tight and the other isn't? Is one leg significantly stronger than the other? Are your butt cheeks always sore? Hip flexors? How's your core strength? Is your Transverse Abdominis firing?
Some of these you might need help answering. Discover everything, every little ache and pain. Nothing is irrelevant as it's all connected. Write it down so you can remember and take that list to your health care provider.
Osteopathy: If you've had an Osteopathy appointment before I'm sure you know what all the fuss is about. I hadn't tried it until this injury and it was truly the biggest game changer for me. The idea of Osteopathy is that if you get the posture right, the body will heal itself. They take a look at where there's tension and help you explore some reasons for it. More than just moving bones into their proper places, though, this practice also does some deeper work and takes a look at your internal organs which is a common source of pain. If you're in Golden, BC, we're blessed to have 3 or so Osteopaths in town, I go to Mark McKenzie at Rocky Mountain Osteopathy and he's awesome. Cannot recommend it enough.
Yoga: Yoga can be a very integral part in your healing process for many reasons, but it's also something you need to be extremely careful with. Yoga helps to develop that body awareness we were talking about. Yoga also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for your healing. If your injury is one of tensegrity (tensional integrity) or muscular inactivity/overactivity, yoga can be helpful, but you HAVE to listen to your body. I recently did a course in Yoga for SI Joint Dysfunction and am happily assisting people in the area. If you wish to book a private, contact me here. I like to think that a happy body has found the balance between strength and softness. Flexibility to allow for range of motion, improved circulation and healing. Stability to literally hold us upright, provide posture and to protect our joints. Yoga, when done mindfully and with a reputable teacher, can play a very fundamental role in achieving that balance.
METH treatment: METH is the acronym for the new protocol on soft tissue injuries. It stands for Movement (pain free movement), Elevation (when applicable, try legs up the wall), Traction (creating space without flexion or extension of the joint), Heat (improves blood flow). The idea of METH is to keep the blood moving so the body can heal faster, think: groceries in, garbage out.
Massage: Massage is a great way to relax the muscles, release tension in those tight spots, and can offer a great amount of relief, but unless you're really lucky, don't expect that massage therapy will be all you need to do. Let's say your psoas muscle is extremely tight and you have your massage therapist release it. Great. But, the question is always WHY. Why was your psoas tight? It might be something as simple as a one-time overuse or improper core exercises. But it might be something much more complicated like that one of your other hip flexors isn't working or isn't strong enough. Or that your back muscles or glutes aren't doing their job and that your body is compensating (the human body is a master of compensation). There are many reasons why your psoas (or any muscle, this is just an example) could be tight. Coming back to that idea of tensegrity, think about the muscles in your body like puppet strings. If one gets tight, it will pull other muscles or bones into a place where they're not necessarily supposed to be. Often times where you feel the pain is the end result of the compensation and not the cause.
Physiotherapy: Physio can be very helpful, especially at first. They take a look at what's going on and can offer you some helpful exercises. Look at what muscles are and aren't firing and assist you in balancing the body, plus they've got a whole kit of tools and tactics like dry needling, traction, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), acupuncture, and so much more.
Myofascial cupping: Myofascial cupping is used to release adhesions found in the fascial tissue. Fascia is a connective tissue found all over the body, surrounding most everything and is uniquely interconnected. Fascia can become adhered and dehydrated from over use, strain or trauma to the body. When the fibres of the fascia become adhered they mimic fibreglass; an interwoven and impenetrable rigid layer. Thats where Myofascial cupping comes in - cups are applied to the surface of the skin with the use of suction creating a negative pressure vacuum. Moving these suctioned cups around the skin targets that fascial layer and can pull the adhered fibres apart. This process allows fresh nutrient rich blood flow to penetrate and rehydrate the connective tissue layer. Some of the main benefits of Myofascial cupping are: increased range of motion, release trigger points, break down scar tissue, decrease hypertonicity within both fascia and muscles, draw out stagnancies in the tissue, and more.The addition of Myofascial Cupping is remarkably beneficial for almost any longstanding issue: low back pain, injuries, postural issues, scar tissue and scar prevention, plantar fasciitis, ITB tightness, knee tracking issues, shin splints, tennis/golfers elbow and more. For an amazing massage therapist and myofascial cupping practitioner in Golden, BC, contact Dani Houston at Purcell Wellness Mobile Massage - she's awesome.
Emotional Healing: Another practice that the effects may never be fully measured. Positive thinking and mindset can play an extremely profound role in your healing. There have been numerous experiments done in Quantum Physics where they'll say loving words to one plant and bully the other with hateful words, while otherwise treating both plants identically. The differences between how these plants grow and develop is wild. I like to think about this in how we talk and think about ourselves. If you're always saying mean things to yourself, your body will respond in that manner. And more importantly than that, how are you talking/ thinking about your injuries? Are you always complaining about it? Are you always saying things like "well I've got a bad back"? Your body hears every word and I promise you, it's responding accordingly. That said, the stresses you endure on a daily basis can manifest in your body in other ways. Read the book 'You Can Heal Your Life' by Louise Hay for more information on this.
Reiki: Another practice that treats the body holistically and is very non-invasive for those in a lot of pain. Can offer tremendous pain relief, relax the muscles, the nervous system and promote healing. I offer this treatment also, read more here.
Through these health practices, always remember that every little clue you get, (and you'll get lots if you ask, so ask everyone!) can either be the cause or result of the problem. But the more you know, the more you can start putting the pieces together and start rebuilding your wellness. Try to see your situation as only temporary, don't lose faith, you'll need all the positivity you can muster.