by Alicia Cuglietta, Integrative Yoga Therapist
It is estimated that over 80% of the population will experience back pain in their lives at one time or another, often becoming chronic. Misuse and underuse of our bodies are often the cause: We sit too much, often with poor posture, we stand with poor posture, we don’t exercise or stretch, and sometimes we are overweight. One of the biggest contributing factors is stress. But let’s look at posture first:
Our bodies are built on a plumb line, meaning we are meant to be as upright and vertical as possible. When we have perfect posture, the muscular involvement in holding us upright is minimal. The muscles don’t have to work hard at all to support us. When we slouch, have forward head or stand in a position that juts one hip out, for example, our muscles counteract by trying to bring us back to that plumb line. This causes chronic muscular contraction and pain is often the result.
Exercise & Stretching: The human body was designed for movement. Movement works and stretches muscles, lubricates the joints, and moves lymphatic fluid, just to name a few important aspects. When we are sedentary, our posture suffers, our muscles become weak and tight, our joints stiff and toxins build up in the system
Overweight: When we are overweight, we are putting undue stress on the skeletal and muscular systems. The muscles work harder to carry us around, and if we carry excess weight around our midsection, it pulls our center of gravity forward, causing an exaggerated lumbar curve and other muscle recruitment for support. Chronic back pain is often a result.
Stress: Stress is a big one and can often cause back pain in itself. When we are stressed, our minds are sending worry messages through our nervous system to all the cells in the body. The muscles perceive this worry as a threat and brace for a fight, which causes chronic contraction. The muscles of the back are particularly susceptible to this because, as the protectors of the spinal column, they are hyper-vigilant and experience 20% more pain than do our other muscles. Stress also causes us to breathe in the upper region of the chest, known as thoracic breathing. This is good in the case of having to run from a threat, but on an ongoing basis, uses the accessory breathing muscles instead of the diaphragm and causes chronic muscular contraction and often pain.
The Banish Back Pain program teaches education about back pain, gentle movements, proper posturing and stress reduction techniques to improve or banish nagging back pain. A take home program is included for participants to continue on their own. No yoga experience required. The program begins October 1st. Call Alicia at 702-768-2906 or visit www.downdogdiagnostics.com to register.
A few interesting facts about back pain1:
- Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010.
- One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.2
- Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
- Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
- Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.4
- American Chiropractic Association
- Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain. N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116.
- Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.
- This total represents only the more readily identifiable costs for medical care, workers compensation payments and time lost from work. It does not include costs associated with lost personal income due to acquired physical limitation resulting from a back problem and lost employer productivity due to employee medical absence. In Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville,