Understanding Your Chronic Back Pain – With Tips!
By: Kyle Fahey, RMT.
I treat many clients with back pain. After two years of practicing massage, I have found that most back pain cases can be improved through simple stretching and easy to make postural changes.
The key to solving and getting rid of back pain comes from understanding its root cause. To find this cause, you can start by asking yourself some questions:
- How long have I been feeling this pain? When did it start?
- Where am I feeling the pain? Is it localized or does it travel around my body?
- What does the sensation feel like; sore, achy, stiff, sharp, burning, shooting?
These can reveal a lot about what is going on in your back. Asking how long/when can give insight into the method that caused the pain (such as poor lifting form), or if caused by poor posture over a period of time. Where the pain is felt (muscle referral patterns) and what it feels like (muscle vs. Joint vs. nerve) can tell you which area of your body may be contributing to your pain. With this information, an idea of the cause can begin to form.
The most common areas of chronic back pain I see from poor posture are:
- The top of the shoulders and into the neck (Upper Traps)
- In-between the shoulder blades (Rhomboids)
- Low back across the hips and/or coming up the spine (lumbar spine).
In school, Registered Massage Therapists are taught that the cause of pain is likely located somewhere else in the body. My best example of this is Rhomboid pain in-between the shoulder blades. This pain is typically due to over-tight Pec major muscles in the chest. These chest muscles are pulling the shoulders forward thus straining the Rhomboids as they fight to pull the shoulders back into straight posture. Over time, the constant strain will cause the Rhomboid muscles to fatigue and cause that achy soreness.
Tip: One of the most effective and easiest ways to help this is with Pec stretching, allowing the over-tight muscle to loosen back to its natural length and reduce the strain in the back.
For lower back pain, knowing its cause is really helpful as there are many possible causes, and each is treated differently. The two most common I see are caused from poor sitting posture and/or over-tight hip flexors. Pain from tight hip flexors typically radiates up the spine causing you to feel it in your lower back. The hip flexors (specifically the Psoas muscle) are very big muscles that attach to the mid thigh bone and the front of the spine in the lower back (behind your belly button).
Tip: Hip flexor stretching can help to ease this pain, however a full hip flexor release from a therapist may give better results.
If you’re a culprit to sitting similarly to how I am in the picture here, your pain is likely postural-related. When seated, we should be sitting on our “sit bones” (Ischial Tuberosities) located where the thighs meet the buttock. When not mindful about our positioning, it’s easy to slouch and end up sitting on our tail bone (part of our sacrum). This arched posture curves our lumbar spine and our thoracic spine. Sitting on our sit bones maintains the lumbar spine’s natural position and allows for a more neutral curve in the thoracic spine. A much happier, pain-free position for your back.
If you need more help with your back pain issues, come in to Robin’s Nest and I would love to help you.