One of the most common complaints of physical pain that people have tends to be focused on the lower back. Whether it's stiffness, tightness, aches, or pains, the lower back seems to cover them all. It's a condition that fills up chiropractors, physiotherapists, osteopaths, and acupuncturists' clinics alike. But when it comes to self-health care for the pain that keeps you up at night, have you ever considered trying Qigong for back pain?
The structure of the human body is a marvel of biomechanics. 639 muscles move 206 bones by way of 360 joints. It is an incredibly complex machine that like any expensive sports car, needs constant fine-tuning and adjustments.
Air, food, and water provide the raw materials needed to constantly repair and rebuild the structural damage caused by how we physically move through life. With that, roughly every 7 years the body replaces all 37 trillion cells that make up our physical structure.
Now, some of us are mindful of the materials we use to do the rebuilding in the hopes of making a better version of "us" each time we do our very own self remodel. Others choose to take in whatever they can get their hands on and... I guess.... hope for the best! lol
People are more likely to check the contents of their pet food or the quality of the gas they put in their car before they actually read the label on their toaster strudel box. Those same people tend to blame genetics for the constant irritation, inflammation, and degeneration they experience in their bodies.
I find it amazing how people so flippantly throw around terms like "degenerative disc disease", and accept this WAAAY to common diagnoses as a natural process of aging. The truth is our bodies are built to heal themselves, and if they aren't, like the vast majority of problems with your computer, USER ERROR is to blame.
Many years ago one of my martial art teachers said to me "The physical fountain of youth is made up of flexibility, range of motion, and muscular stability". It's a concept that I never forgot and have carried and applied throughout my life as well as my medical practice.
Strong bones, moved around pliable joints, by flexible muscles... this is what keeps us young!
The problem lies in the fact that most people rarely move in dynamic ways. They stretch once in a while. They work out when they have time. They go for a walk on the weekend. Our bodies are built to move! Not once in a while. Not to break up an eight-hour day in a chair. Not as a treat on the weekend. Our amazing biological machines are built to move in new and challenging ways...EVERYDAY!
It is a consequence of the physical ease of modern life. Very few of us rely on hunting for our meat or gathering for our fruits and veggies and only a small fraction of people grow the food that the majority of us eat. When walking a few steps to the fridge is all that is required to feed ourselves, physical activity tends to take a back seat of importance in our lives.
Physical activity has become something that people need to artificially add to their lives. Mobility work has become something a trainer has you do. Stretching is done in a class. Cardiovascular conditioning is done in place in front of a screen. Strength building is provided by lifting weighted handles with certain specific movements. Lastly and most hilarious and alarming, proclaiming you took 10,000 steps has become something to admire.
Is it any wonder our bodies don't move naturally or age gracefully when there is very little that is natural about the way we physically stimulate it? In today's modern world, sitting in a chair for hours on end has become one of the most damaging activities to befall the human body.
Our minds have become the ultimate "Yang". Never taking a break. Always wandering from place to place. From screen to screen. Rifling through images of the past or reeling through dreams of the future. Never coming to rest in the moment.
Our bodies on the other hand have become the ultimate "Yin". Sitting when we socialize. Sitting when we eat. Sitting when we work. Sitting when we travel. Sitting, sitting, sitting!!!
Why do we get pain in the lower back?
The undulating curvature of our spine is designed to support our 8 - 10lbs head above our pelvis and our pelvis above our ankles. If the muscles of our body can maintain that balance, everything is hunky-dory! The problem comes as always, from imbalance.
Any extra weight added to the front of the body causes compounded stress on the back of the body. Constantly tipping your head forward to scroll through social media causes a geometric increase in the stress on the supporting structure (your neck). For every 6" your head tips forward the weight of the head is effectively doubled. Now that's a pain in the neck!
When you look at your chest or abdomen, any added unbalanced weight on the front puts 7 times the pressure on the back at the same level. For women, their breasts can put significant strain on the upper back and neck, depending on their size and weight. Even if they are only 1-2lbs, that equates to 7-14lbs of pressure on the upper back and neck. For that reason, strengthening the mid-fiber traps and rhomboids is crucial for women.
The same is true for added weight on the abdomen. The average adult carries 10-40lbs of added weight on their belly. That equates to 70 - 280lbs of pressure on the lower back. Is it any wonder back pain is the sixth most costly condition in the united states. Health care costs due to back pain are over $12 billion per year.
So, obviously, one part of the equation is burning off.... let's call it "the energy waiting to be used", to alleviate the pressure on the back. The second part is to reeducate and condition the back muscles on the proper way to function.
How can we use Qigong for back pain?
Our back is designed to rotate around the center axis, as well as flex and extend forward, backward, and laterally. But because we don't spend our days walking, running, climbing, and digging like we used to, we need to be creative and most of all functional in our physical training ideas. This is where using Qigong for back pain comes in handy.
The dynamic movements of Qigong are fantastic at stimulating every muscle in the body to work together. Qigong exercises incorporate rotation, flexion, and extension as well as circumductive motion in the spine. This provides effective and efficient conditioning for the muscles of the trunk which will rebalance and align the body.
The greatest benefit comes in the functional challenge of the movements. Qigong exercises for back pain encourage the body to explore planes of motion not used in everyday modern life. They will cause you to twist and stretch, rotate and flex, all while maintaining a connection to your mind and breath.
As your mind becomes more yin and your body more yang, you regain the balance you lost which caused the problem in the first place... give it a try.
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