IN A NUTSHELL:
- Lower back pain is caused by sensory motor amnesia and the way you use your body
- You can heal your own chronic back pain with YOUR BRAIN
- The only way to change your lower back pain is by sensing your short muscles and then lengthening them through pandiculation.
- Clinical Somatics is the most effective way to reverse musculoskeletal pain.
I think one of the most common complaints my clients come to me with is lower back pain.
In fact, it is estimated that 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives.1 Back pain is the third most common reason to visit the doctor, behind skin disorders and osteoarthritis / joint disorders.2 Our fast-paced, technology-driven life lends itself to developing pains of all kinds on our bodies, but somehow our backs seem to take the brunt of it. The popular belief is that as we get older, our backs will just “inevitably” hurt, and there is nothing we can do about it but take medications or go to our weekly chiropractic visits.
THIS IS NOT TRUE. It is my strong belief that to get older means to get better. I will show you how. It is quite simple, really.
WHAT CAUSES YOUR BACK PAIN?
The majority of back pain, and any musculoskeletal pain for that matter, is caused by sensory motor amnesia. Sensory motor amnesia occurs when our brains have lost voluntary, conscious control of our muscles.
The way we use our bodies, our movement habits, and how we respond to life are why we have pain.
Your brain cares about normal.
If you repeat a movement, and keep repeating it, your brain will make that movement automatic. Automatic movements are not in your conscious awareness.
Your brain no longer pays attention to how you complete automatic movements, and your prefrontal cortex (the conscious decision-making part of your brain) goes “offline.” This prioritization of tasks by your brain is extremely helpful. It allows you to learn and master new skills, saving your attention for more important tasks. Can you imagine if you had to consciously decide how to coordinate your movements to make your coffee, brush your teeth, and get dressed every morning?
This automatic functioning is so helpful, and allows for us to be efficient in our lives, especially when we have healthy motor function. However, when you develop compensatory motor patterns, recovering from an injury, for example, or even if you carry your child on the same hip every day, you put your musculoskeletal system at risk.
So what do you do when your “muscle memory,” or habitual way of doing things, starts causing you pain? Well, you can try lots of things. Most people try to stretch it out (this doesn’t work), go to a massage therapist, the chiropractor, or even physical therapy.
But here is the truth: I guarantee you, no doctor, or chiropractor, or pain pill is going to change the way your brain communicates with your muscles. ONLY YOU CAN DO THAT! Honestly, only you have the time, the talent, or even the interest to make those changes for yourself.
So, how do you get rid of lower back pain, ON YOUR OWN?
The best way to release lower back pain is through a movement technique called pandiculation. Pandiculation is what animals do when they get up from rest to prepare their bodies for movement. It is a full body yawn. It is lazy, and languorous.
Pandiculation is not stretching. It is the exact opposite of stretching.
It is quite simple, actually.
A pandiculation resets the resting level of tension in your muscles by sending your brain feedback about the level of contraction present in the muscles.
Pandiculation is the most effective way to stay loose and limber, with full range of motion and freedom of movement.
When your back is in pain you constantly feels like you need to stretch it, your brain is not sending signals to your muscles to release the contraction. You can no longer feel the contraction, all you feel is the pain. This is exactly how sensory motor amnesia manifests.
In order for your brain to sense just how tight those painful muscles are being held involuntarily, you have to voluntarily contract those muscles, to the point where you can feel the contraction, and then through a slow, steady release of the level of contraction, your brain actually resets the resting muscle length.
Stretching vs. Pandiculation
Stretching does not lengthen your muscles at the level of your nervous system. In fact, stretching, or manually pulling on your muscles, actually causes your nervous system to contract your muscles even tighter. So while you experience temporary length when you stretch, the only way to actually lengthen your muscles at the level of your nervous system, is through pandiculation.
Pandiculation is an active learning process requiring your full conscious attention.
It is very meditative in this way. In fact, you can use your Somatic Movement Practice to meditate your mind.
I want you to get on the floor and try this movement right now.
This movement is called the Arch to Release. The Arch to Release will teach your brain to regain conscious, voluntary control of your back muscles. This movement will help you if you have the following conditions: lordosis, sciatica, anterior pelvic tilt, and back pain, to name a few.
Do this movement slowly, in a quiet place free from distractions. Also, do not move into stretch or into pain. If you feel yourself moving into stretch or pain, make the movement smaller.
Arch to Release:
- Lie on your back, feet planted behind hips a comfortable distance apart
- Close your eyes
- Allow your arms to be a comfortable distance from your body; see if palms up feels okay
- Inhale, tilt your pelvis forward, arching the lower back, putting weight towards the tailbone
- Allow the arch to go up your spine, letting shoulders press back and down; your shoulder blades move towards your spine in this gentle arch
- The chin moves gently to the chest, as the back of your head rolls down
- Relax your back to a resting place, where no muscle group is turned on. Then pause at the end to sense and notice.
- Repeat 6 times
I’ve had back pain before too. I just don’t have it anymore.
My back pain doesn’t exist any more because of my daily somatic movement practice.
If you want to learn more, check out some of my upcoming workshops in the Reno area or book a private session with me! I also do Skype sessions.
- Rubin Dl. Epidemiology and Risk Factors for Spine Pain. Neurol Clin. 2007; May;25(2):353-71.
2. Sauver, JL et al. Why patients visit their doctors: Assessing the most prevalent conditions in a defined American population. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 88, Issue 1, 56–67.
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