A Grateful Journey to Pain Relief: Conquering Low Back Pain

Gratitude

Not everyone’s journey is the same, but gratitude is important to practice even in times of pain. Dr. Torrance’s colleague has acute back pain.  Click on the link below to read this blog. It is his story on how gratitude helped him heal and get back to doing the things he loves. 

https://medium.com/@erwinbvalencia/embracing-gratitude-a-surprising-remedy-for-back-pain-bbb81d0ec396

One of the first steps in overcoming pain is to understand it. On its most basic level, pain is a fire alarm. And when that alarm is going off, it’s meant to make you stop and assess the situation. Hot things are hot, and sharp things are sharp, these alarms are pretty obvious, but what happens when the alarm is not as easily deciphered? Like the sharp pain that shows up in your low back when you lift things, stand up after sitting for too long, or roll over in bed too quickly. It’s not as simple as saying “I just won’t do those things”. Ultimately our bodies are probably not telling us to stop altogether, they’re saying “Stop doing it the way you are doing it”.  That brings us back to step one of understanding the alarm.

Our joints are typically meant to bias in one of two ways: more mobile or more stable, and furthermore they tend to lie in an alternating sequence. For instance, your knee is an inherently stable joint, under the best of circumstances it will operate like a door hinge, only opening and closing and having too much rotation being an issue. And that knee is bookended on either end by two highly mobile joints: your ankle and hip. These joints are all interdependent, and having an issue in one will make all three pay the price. If you sprain your ankle, it will lose some of that mobility forcing the knee, hip, and other areas of the body to compensate.

 If we continue to follow that pattern up the chain, it will lead us to the low back. The low back should be a particularly stable area of the body. In fact, we often think of it as the foundation of movement with large, dense bones and powerful, complex muscles being found in this area. And for optimal movement, we need not just stability in the low back, but mobility in the joints above and below: the ball and socket of your hip and your mid back. This is why your golf pro tells you to squeeze your core and swing through your hips, or your mom told you not to slouch and have good posture; It’s helping to ensure the mobile/stable/mobile sequence is showing up. Unfortunately, our modern lives do not tend to optimize this sequence. We often find ourselves sitting, with the hip locked in one position and our abs disengaged, slouching over our phones or computers with the mid back experiencing little movement.

So how does this bring us back to pain? If pain is the alarm, then it makes sense for our bodies to warn us of instability. If I roll over in bed too quickly with an unstable back, my body may use pain to limit my movements to protect me from further damage. In a sense, it’s forcing stability upon me whether I like it or not.

Now we know what our bodies are trying to communicate, how do we go about preventing or relieving the pain; How do we shut off the fire alarm? We follow the roadmap of mobility and stability. Below are three exercises that serve as an example of each one of these roles. Something to mobilize the hip and mid back, and something to stabilize the low back. This is by no means an exhaustive list. And as much as I have sought to simplify an issue, pain, and musculoskeletal issues can be complex. If these exercises increase your pain, or you are not seeing progress please seek the advice of a medical expert.

Dead bugs:

Lie on your back with knees and hips bent to 90° and both arms vertical. 

Brace the abdominals lightly to prevent any spinal movement and maintain a steady abdominal breathing.

Lower one leg and the opposite arm toward the floor and return to the starting position under control. 

Repeat with the other leg and opposite arm.

Cat/Cow:

Start on all fours with hands underneath the shoulders.

Lift the head and chest simultaneously while letting the stomach sink and the lower back arch to perform the cat.

Round the back and let the head and neck drop while trying to get the head and pelvis as close as possible.

Do not force the end range of motion as this is not a stretch.

Repeat.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch:

Kneel on one knee creating a 90° angle with the opposite hip and use a chair for support. 

Tilt your pelvis backwards to flatten your lower back and transfer your weight forward until you feel a gentle stretch on the anterior aspect of your hip of the lower leg.

Maintain the position and relax.

Maintain your upper body upright and your lower back flat (not arched).

If you are still experiencing pain, contact your physical therapist or consider scheduling an appointment with one of the fantastic physicians at Regenexx at New Regeneration Orthopedics of Florida. 

About The Author
Ron Torrance II, DO FAOASM Medically Reviewed By Duron Lee, DO

Ron Torrance II, DO FAOASM Medically Reviewed By Duron Lee, DO

Ron Torrance II, DO FAOASM Medically Reviewed By Duron Lee, DO

Ron Torrance II, DO FAOASM Medically Reviewed By Duron Lee, DO

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