© Pam Walatka

Back Health is Freedom of Movement

The human spine is designed to have many degrees of freedom. The spine is a stack of bones. Each bone (vertebra) is balanced on top of the bone below, held in place by muscles and ligaments. If your muscles and ligaments are healthy, the bones of your spine are free to move in many directions. The spine is designed to provide freedom of movement.

Back health is freedom of movement, the freedom to move all parts of your back without restraint from tight muscles, or mis-alignment from weak muscles. If you learn to relax and strengthen your back muscles, they will give you pleasure instead of pain. There are some backaches that are not related to stiff, weak back muscles; you should check with your doctor to see what your problem is.

If your back muscles are strong and flexible, your vertebrae are held in place correctly and your spinal nerves are less likely to be pinched, and blood will flow freely, bringing health and vitality.

In the long run, there are three things you need to do to have a pain-free back:

  1. Let your back move. Learn to walk and move with freedom. Don't sit all day; find ways to work standing up (put your laptop or computer monitor on a box or standing desk) and look for excuses to walk.

  2. Listen to your back. If you noticed the first signs of pain from your back, and stopped what you were doing, you could prevent most major backaches. The first signs of pain are warning signals. If you ignore the warning signals, you will pave the way for greater pain later. For more information about sensing signals from your body, see Basic Zen and Body Democracy.

  3. Strengthen your back and abdominal muscles You need to do exercises to make your back and abdominal muscles strong. Leon Root, M. D, author of No More Aching Back says,
    "The only one who can ultimately make your back better is you. ... A combination ... of good body mechanics and strong muscles of the spine is essential for a healthy back.... to treat the origin of the symptoms, an exercise program is essential."
    Muscles hold each of your vertebrae in place. Strong muscles do a good job of keeping the spine properly aligned; weak muscles let your vertebrae slip around and pinch nerves.

    You can find get a back exercise program from your doctor, from the trainer at your gym, or in most yoga classes.

Things To Do During A Backache Crisis

Here is a brief review of ideas about serious back pain, gathered from reading, experience, and hearsay.

  • Stop
  • Take some time off to get over it. You may need to step out of the rat race for a few days.

  • Acknowledge the Stress
  • A surprising number of people think that stress is mental and therefore not related to physical problems. A friend once told me, when I asked if his back problem wasn't related to the stress he was undergoing at work, "But the pain is so physical."

    Where do people get the idea that the brain is not part of the physical body? Stress can hurt.

    Once you have acknowledged the stress, you can try any of the standard ways of reducing it, such as exercise, long walks, mindfulness meditation, screaming (alone in the car, perhaps), yoga, dancing, or getting away from the source of the stress.

  • See a Professional
  • Yoga teachers, physicians, body workers, massage therapists, physical therapists, and counselors are trained to help you through a crisis.

  • Stretch
  • Consult your doctor before trying any exercises. On the floor, or a bed if you cannot make it to the floor, lie on your back and:

    • Take hold of one knee; slowly stretch it toward your opposite shoulder. Then the other knee.

    • Grab both knees and gently rock from side to side; the floor will give your hips a massage.

    • With your knees together and bent, let your knees fall toward the floor on one side of your body, while stretching the opposite shoulder toward the floor. Then the other way.

    • Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor or bed, as you exhale, flatten your stomach and try to pull your tail bone toward your chest, stretching out your lower back. As you inhale, relax and let your hips rock away from your chest. This takes a little getting-used-to, but gives a good stretch to your back.

  • Activate Your Love Life
  • Leon Root, M. D., in No More Aching Back says
    "All of us need human contract. ... a bad episode of back pain does not preclude "a little loving" ... as long as it does not hurt, it is okay ...forward movement of the pelvis is comfortable and actually eases stress and pain in the lumbar region....the sexual partner with the bad back should assume the bottom position...lying on your back with your knees bent, your lumbar spine is at rest and is protected. Moving the pelvis forward from this position is not dangerous, and the rhythm of bringing the pelvis forward and allowing it to drop back...mimics exactly the pelvic-roll exercise that I describe in the section on exercises. With this movement, you are ..exercising your back. Since it is so beneficial, maybe you should do it more often!"

  • Wait
  • This too shall pass. Most backaches go away.

The information above is not intended as medical advice.
I am not a health-care professional. Be careful.

See also: Body Democracy.

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