HOW TO RELIEVE CHRONIC LOW BACK AND UPPER BACK PAIN BY ADDRESSING POSTURAL DEFORMITIES
The March 2022 blog explained how postural deformities can be underlying causes of back and shoulder chronic pain. The figure illustrates the two most common postural deformities that can affect us as we get older; one affects the lower back and the other affects the upper back.
When we see someone with such deformities, our first reaction typically is, “Oh, this is someone who has spine problems”. There are indeed problems with the spine. However, what caused them was not the spine per se, but the muscles acting on the spine.
In the case of the lower back deformity at the base of the spine, the lumbar curvature has been flattened out and the whole upper body has been pulled forward. The culprits are the abdominal muscles (arrow 1) which have become severely shortened and the victims are the back extensor muscles (arrow 2) which have been put under excessive tension and weakened so that they can no longer fully perform their antigravity function. Existing in this state, the back extensors at arrow 2 are probably full of contraction spots and may have been hurting for some time.
It is easy to see how the act of simply bending forward at the waist to pick something up off the floor would place the back extensors under additional tension and could lead to a sharp pain in the lower back. The way out of this postural dilemma is to lengthen the abdominal muscles at arrow 1 while simultaneously relieving the excessive tension in the back extensors at arrow 2. Eliminating any contraction spots inside the back extensors by using the trapped ball method is explained in detail in The Book. If this, along with lengthening the abdominal muscles, can be achieved, the lumbar curvature can be restored and the potential danger to the joints and disks between the vertebrae of the lumbar spine will be greatly diminished.
There are three ways to lengthen the abdominal muscles. The first way involves lying on your back and placing a rolled up towel under the back of your waist at the level of the belly button. The second way involves lying on your stomach and placing pillows under your chest. The third way involves lying on your stomach, but this time placing the pillows under the tops of your thighs. In each of these stretches, the abdominal muscles are being lengthened while the back extensor muscles are simultaneously unloaded and relieved of excessive tension. The details of these highly effective stretches are shown in The Book.
The second postural deformity shown in the figure involves the neck, upper back and shoulders. The shoulders droop excessively, curl forward and, along with the head, are held too far forward over the chest. In this position, the pectoral muscles (arrow 3) which flex the arms and shoulders forward have become shortened and the neck and upper back extensors (arrow 4) are under excessive tension and full of contraction spots.
Putting any additional demands on these extensors as we do, for example, when we reach forward or try to lift something heavy over our head makes us susceptible to neck, shoulder or upper back injury and pain. The keys to reducing these risks and improving this postural deformity is to lengthen the pectoral muscles, reduce the excessive tension in the neck and upper back extensors and use the trapped ball method to eliminate contraction spots inside these muscles.
A very effective way to stretch the powerful pectoral muscles is to sit on a chair that has been placed inside an open doorway and place both arms on the door frame. The amount of stretch is determined by how far inside the doorway the chair has been placed. While sitting in this position, the pectoral muscles are being stretched while at the same time the neck and upper back extensors have been unloaded and their excessive tension has been relieved. The Book illustrates three variations of this pectoral stretch along with detailed instructions on how to perform them.
By working on the muscles at the levels of arrows 1-4 that are causing these two destructive postural deformities, you can dramatically reduce the risk of a painful injury and relieve any existing neck, shoulder, upper and lower back chronic pain.