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Bad Back?

Experiencing back pain or discomfort? There are many reasons this could be occurring and even though the symptoms may be the same as someones else's the cause could be completely different, requiring different procedures.

Here's several that you can try, but as always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program, or taking any supplementation. The information provided in this article is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to determine if qigong is right for you. If you experience any pain or difficulty with any of these movements or postures, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

Right off, I usually suggest a combination of three qigong postures that I can my "Spine Enlivening Series". These have you move your spine in the 6 directions that the spine should move These postures are: Water Waves into Knocking on the Door of Life; Spinal Cord Breathing; and Moves Like a River or Dog Wags it's Tail. You can see Lee Holden demonstration most of them in this YouTube Video.

Spinal Cord Breathing is especially helpful for sciatica or other issues of the lower back caused by inadequate spacing between the vertebrae.

Massaging Techniques to release Iliopsoas muscles. It seems odd that massaging muscles at the front of the body will help alleviate lower back pain. According to Spine Health, "The psoas muscle attaches to the vertebrae on your lumbar [lower] spine, and then crosses the outer edge of each pubis (near your pelvis). It next joins with the iliacus muscle at your inguinal ligament (in your groin region), and finally attaches at your femur. Your iliacus and psoas muscles are together known as the iliopsoas." So getting the psoas muscle to relax or stop spasming, will allow the vertebrae in the lower back to move more freely. Spine Health recommends a kneeling stretch, while I personally prefer massaging the area to get the muscle to release/relax. This video presents an excellent way to perform a self massage.

Another muscle that might be useful to stretch is the piriformis muscle. The piriformis is a small muscle that istriangular in shape with the wide end attached to the front of the sacrum (tailbone) with the narrow end attached to the hip. According to Fitwirr "Due to its unique position atop the sciatic nerve, the piriformis is a muscle that must be kept strong and flexible. When it becomes very tight, the piriformis “pinches” or presses on the sciatic nerve. This disrupts the nerve’s function, often leading to pain, weakness, and numbness throughout many of the muscles in the leg.

The good news is that there are several simple ways to stretch out your piriformis muscle to provide relief from sciatica pain. Try these10 powerful piriformis stretches, and be sure to watch the videos, too."

There are some acupressure points that might help with back pain. Michael Gach recommends first rubing the lower back vigorously with the knuckles of both hands, for a minute or so, to create warmth. Then apply firm steady pressure inward toward the spine with the thumbs about 4" apart along the top of the "ropy" muscles of the lower back stimulating the bladder 47 points. Next move the thumbs until they are about 2" apart and stimulate the Bladder 23 points. Next, using a firm ball or your fist, apply pressure to the upper part of you buttocks stimulating Bladder 48. Then using your fingertips in the lower abdominal area between the belly button and pubic bone press into REN 6 1 to 2 inches deep for about a minute, as you breath deeply. Finally dig the fingers into the crease behind the knees and massage the area, Bladder 40, for about one minute. You can also tap any of these points if it is uncomfortable to massage. It is often suggested that rubbing Liver 3, located up in the crease between the big toe and second toe can stimulate relief from low back pain as well as stress.

Using visualization, guided imagery or meditation can often be helpful in the management of pain.

By placing the mind into a state of deep relaxation, the theta brainwave state, muscle tension and stress hormones are reduced. By using the the power of the mind we can create a positive, pleasant experience that distracts from pain, providing a sense of comfort and control of the issue.

Supplementation can sometimes help. According to Every Day Health "A study published in Pain Physician in 2013 found that severe pain was associated with a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in people with lumbar spinal stenosis, a condition with lower back pain as a symptom. Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids is something Dr. Bowler [Carrie Bowler, DO, a physician with One Medical Group in New York] says can help with inflammation that can cause back pain. Supplements are available in liquid or capsule form. Talk with your health care provider about your proper dosage because higher doses of omega-3’s can increase the risk for bleeding and may interfere with any blood-thinning medications you may be taking. You can also increase your intake of omega-3’s simply by eating more oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, and tuna, as well as dark leafy greens.

Turmeric is one of the supplements Bowler frequently recommends to her patients for its anti-inflammatory properties. The spice, which is commonly used in Indian curry dishes, can be taken as a powder in capsules, mixed into tea, or as a liquid extract. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAAM) reports that turmeric is considered safe for most adults, but prolonged use could cause stomach upset. As a dietary supplement, it's not recommended for people with gallbladder disease because it can make the condition worse."

Goodpath also suggests "Magnesium is used to help painful chronic conditions like low back pain. It may also reduce the need for pain medication post-surgery.

Precautions: If you have any underlying conditions associated with your:

  • blood pressure

  • heart

  • liver

  • kidneys Talk to your doctor before use as it may cause some problems."

I often use a topical magnesium, such as Sore + Tired, to help alleviate back muscle pain.

Fullscript suggets that: "The food you eat can either encourage or discourage the inflammation that contributes to back pain. Research demonstrates that an anti-inflammatory and healthy diet that is rich in fruits, dark leafy greens and other vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (e.g., olive oil), and fish may help alleviate chronic back pain." Avoid Nightshade vegetables and other inflammatory producing foods such as sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries, fried foods, red and especially processed meats.

In a study conducted by the NIH they concluded that "The IR [Infrared] therapy unit used was demonstrated to be effective in reducing chronic low back pain, and no adverse effects were observed. ... the IR wrap has clearly demonstrated that it is easy to use, safe and effective, and reduced chronic back pain by 50% over six weeks. Contraindications are rare (possibly malignant hyperthermia and scleroderma), and the risks of thermal injury are low and are minimized by the use of an automatic shut-off when the unit in contact with the skin rises to a temperature of 42°C. Other units such as lasers may not have such a safety device."

I hope that this article is helpful and I'm sure I've only scratched the surface of techniques and devices available to help alleviate back pain. As the NIH study states: "Back pain is the most common cause of disability in North America, and it accounts for 64% of new consultations at this pain clinic (RPMC); many of these patients have had failed back surgery."

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