Everyone at one time has experienced back pain. I am surprised how often people tell me though that they have had a sore back for years or they go for treatment of this sore back regularly.
The cause for a sore back can be classified into three general reasons.
- Trauma has caused bone or tissue damage, resulting in pain. There have been cases where the diagnosis of a herniated disc has been proven not to be the cause of the pain.
- Postural asymmetries cause inappropriate stress on soft tissue and this causes pain.
- Visceral or organ referral into the region of the back will cause the brain to sense the pain in the back, not initially in the organ.
With the exception of #1, and even then not always, the above reasons do not mean a life-time of back pain, nor constant treatment.
Let’s look at #2 & #3:
Remember your parents always telling you to sit up straight? Well, there is a good reason for that. When we sit or stand/walk, unconsciously our brains are constantly keeping us balanced. Hold a 10 lb weight out in front of you at arms length and your lower back your will register 70 lbs of addition muscular stress. That’s right, a 1:7 ratio. Now imagine you walk or sit leaning forward with your head and upper body, i.e. slouching. Now you have an enormous load on the back’s muscular and ligament systems. That is going to be painful and until the load is distributed properly, nothing will release that pain for long. As an Osteopath, working with people’s postures and how they move is part of the treatment approach.
Few of us ever feel our organs and if you do it is not usually a good thing. We do not have a strong sense of our internal organs. We do however have a strong sense of our external body and this is how we ‘hear’ our internal organs calling for help. All organs refer to the outside of our bodies. As an example, the stomach refers to between the shoulder blades, the gall bladder refers to the right shoulder and side of head, the large intestine refers to the lower back, along the belt line. Once our brains sense this referred pain, it sends a signal to the area feeling that pain and tells it to tighten up the muscles and ligaments – hence the ‘tight’ back. Remember, and this is important, bones are inert material, meaning they cannot move on their own. Unless some external force, say falling off a ladder has occurred, that misaligned bone has been moved by something else. You can adjust that joint ‘until the cows come home’ and it will keep going out. Again, Osteopathic treatments look at possible organ dysfunctions as a contributor to the back pain. Working on the organ to increase its function in a balanced and healthy state stops the referred pain signal and the back’s muscles respond by relaxing and allowing the joints to move freely.