Low back Pain
Over the years we have seen and continue to see clients with low back pain. Often it is the result of overdoing it with the gardening, moving boxes around the garage or basement, lifting the grandkids, care taking for a loved one. The causes are numerous and the pattern of muscular overuse is all too familiar. Low back pain is a major cause for reduced productivity at work and around the house. It is one of the top reasons people miss time at the workplace.
The low back (lumbar) area of the spine is made up of 5 large vertebral bones with a pad of cartilage (disk) between each. The lowest lumbar vertebra (L5) articulates with the sacrum which is wedged between the two pelvic bones. The shape of the fifth lumbar intervertebral disk is wedge shaped and often times it is pushed forward due to the misalignment of the lower lumbar curve. If you have ever fallen on your “tail bone” then you may have jammed your sacrum and changed its alignment with the adjoining 5th lumbar vertebra.
The lumbar vertebra are designed to allow a lot of movement in the forward/backward (flexion/extension) and side to side (lateral flexion) directions. However, there is very little twisting or rotational movement designed into the bony structure. There are boney projections built in to the sides of the vertebra that keep them from rotating in relationship to each other. Unfortunately, many people bend and twist their lumbar spine during work and play which accounts for many injuries. Think about it…have you ever lifted a laundry basket or box off the floor while bending from the waist (not the knees) and twisted to the side at the same time? This is how the damage happens all the time. Holding an animated infant or toddler (a bag of snakes, some say) causes the same kind of twisting stress on the back. So does reaching around a hospital type bed to shift the occupant while changing or adjusting the sheets.
While the spinal cord ends around the level of the 2nd lumbar vertebra, a thick leash of spinal nerves descends from that point. Exiting from between each pair of lumbar vertebra are a pair of spinal nerves which combine to form the sciatic nerve. Excessive tension in the muscles of the low back area can place pressure on these nerves leading to symptoms of tingling, pain, and numbness running down the hip, leg and foot similar to what is called sciatica.
The muscles which move the low back attach to the pelvis, sacrum, other vertebra and lower ribs. Excessive tightness and gluing in these muscles can limit mobility, put pressure on disks by squeezing the bones together, and cause pain in the hip, abdomen, thigh, and pelvis. When the muscles become tight they can clamp down on the vertebra and put pressure on the disks. Kind of like squeezing the center filling of Oreo cookies. The filling pushes out the sides. In a similar way, the disks between the vertebra may rupture or bulge placing pressure on the nerve roots passing next to them. The curve of the low back can become exaggerated in what some call the “sway back” posture (technical term is hyperlordosis).
In addition, they position of the pelvis is critical to the low back curve. Balance between hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteals and paraspinal muscles determines the resulting curve in the low back. This is why stretching and soft tissue maintenance are so important.
Muscles that are often involved in low back tension are the quadratus lumborum, iliacus, psoas major, gluteus maximus, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae group, multifidus, rectus abdominis, and the abdominal obliques.
Aside from muscle tension, trigger points that develop in these muscles can lead to referred pain patterns extending from the abodominal organs to the groin, into the thigh and down the leg as far as the knee.
It is always advisable to see a licensed medical professional for a diagnosis and evaluation if you are experiencing back pain. Any disk or bone involvement must be ruled out before massage can be considered.
You can massage many of these muscles yourself if you have an idea of where they attach and where the muscles are located. The videos covering massage of the back and massage of the thigh have muscular anatomy as well as skeletal anatomy explanations. Applying essential oils to relieve muscular pain gives added benefit to restoring low back health. Young Living therapeutic grade oils of Deep Relief (roll on), Panaway, Aroma Seiz, marjoram, peppermint, Idaho balsam fir and Relieve It are just a few of the oils and oil blends we use in such instances.
Of course it is a very good idea to make an appointment with an experienced massage therapist to address the soft tissue tension. There may be some muscles that are hard to get to on yourself.
Spiral Synergy for the low back is a comfortable way to put the muscles and bones in relaxing positions and let the body let go of tension. Release positions targeting the lumbar spine and iliopsoas muscle restore balance and reduce muscle and joint tension. A series of instructional videos are available to learn the techniques.
Address the reflex areas along the medial arch of the foot to affect the spine. In the illustration, area #3 indicates the low back area and #4 the sacral/tailbone area.