Tuesday, May 13, 2014
| Category: Function
Ryan Wohlfert, DC, CCSP
Low back pain is one of the most common and costly conditions in the United States. There are three main reasons why you may have low back pain: 1) Physical, 2) Chemical, and/or 3) Emotional Stresses that you put onto or into your body. Let’s start with the physical stress.
Physical stress could be any accidents that you’ve been in, not just recently but honestly, ever. It could be poor posture, sitting at a computer all day, standing on a hard surface, bending all day, how you sleep, yard work, playing sports, golfing, bowling -- the postures and positions that you’re in.
Chemical stress comes from your diet and what you eat or don’t eat, from the drugs or medications you take. All drugs, whether they’re recreational, over-the-counter, or prescription, have side effects. If you’re eating too many processed foods or too much sugar, if you smoke, drink a lot of alcohol or soda and not enough water, those are all things that put a chemical stress on your body.
Emotional stress is another big factor. That’s the stress people are usually referring to when they say, “I’m stressed out”. So if you get “stressed out”, like frustrated, worried, or mad, whether it be at work, home, or in your car, guess what, that’s a stress you’re putting on your body. That stress is not good for it and makes it harder for your body to heal. Usually, it is a combination of the physical, chemical, and emotional stresses that determines how we feel and heal, not just one of them.
OK, now you know about these stresses. This stress causes your body to get imbalanced (i.e. in a weakened position against gravity), especially in your spine, but it could be your knee, shoulder, hip, or any joint really. When you get these imbalances in your spine, they irritate the nervous system and put pressure on your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. So this stress on these structures, usually over time, will cause poor health and, in turn, pain.
So the question is, do you want to correct the actual problem and improve your health so your symptoms go away, or do just want to treat the symptom, where it will have a much better chance of coming back? If you improve your health, your symptoms will go away. Health is 100% function of your body. If your spine was in the most advantageous and strong position against gravity, it would function correctly and you wouldn’t have low back pain. Focus on your health and your symptoms go away.
When you get low back pain, you may have said to yourself that you’re “not doing anything different” or “not doing anything to cause the pain.” The truth is you don’t have to do anything different if those stresses you put on your body have already caused it to weaken and get damages. For example, most of us have had a cavity in a tooth. What causes the cavity? Is it because you ate something different before the dentist found it? Usually that’s not the case; right? It’s been happening over time by doing the same thing over and over again. Doing things that are stressful repeatedly is just as bad as doing something different, maybe even worse, because it’s harder to identify the problem. It just takes longer and you wonder why you have it. It’s the same thing with the rest of your body; if you put stress on your spine and nervous system over and over again, it can and usually does cause a problem. Just because you’ve never had a certain pain before like low back pain, headaches, whatever it is, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. We hear that a lot. “I’ve never had that before.” Well you haven’t had the symptom yet, but the problem has been building over time. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, you might say.
Most people haven’t had a heart attack before they actually have one. Most problems don’t happen overnight. It takes time for those physical, chemical and emotional stresses to add up and cause symptoms. So the problem is actually there awhile before you actually feel the symptom. That’s why how you are feeling does not determine how healthy you are. I know people that are 100 pounds overweight and they say that they feel fine. Does that mean they’re healthy? No! They take blood pressure medication, have high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, etc. But what would happen if they improved their health? If you’ve ever watched the Biggest Loser, you know what I’m talking about. You see overweight and obese people trying to lose weight and get healthy. I remember one episode where the wife of one of the contestants came to visit after the contestant had lost a lot of weight. She asked him how his asthma was. He said it was gone. How’s your reflux? Gone. How’s your cholesterol? Normal. And this isn’t the exception. That’s what happens when you take control of your health and choose to get healthy. It’s your choice. It’s not anyone else’s. If you don’t choose to get healthy, whose fault is it? It’s not your doctor’s, family’s, or co-workers fault. It’s yours. Get empowered to improve your health, not just get rid of pain. If you improve your health, your symptoms go away.
One last thing; sometimes pain is not a bad thing. Most of the time it’s what makes you seek care. We’d much rather see you before you’re in pain to see if there is something that needs to be fixed so it has less potential to cause pain, but that’s in an ideal world. What if you couldn’t feel pain? You probably wouldn’t be alive. It’s the body’s alarm system that something is wrong. So it’s important to take care of yourself, even if you don’t have any symptoms. It’s definitely better to fix or, better yet, prevent a problem so it doesn’t become painful. Again, using a weight loss example, do you have to wait until you’re 20, 30, or 50 pounds overweight before you exercise? Absolutely not! Hopefully you understand that, and you are equipped with the knowledge of what it takes not just be pain free, but to be healthy.