What Causes Back Pain?

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in current health articles, Healthy Lifestyle, Muscle Therapy and Health

Natural Remedies for Back Pain

 

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

What Causes Back Pain? 

Exploring the Overlooked Muscular Causes:

 

what causes back painYour back is a symphony of overlapping, interconnected, groups of muscles, tendons, and nerves. Each muscle merges into a tendon, which then crosses over a joint and inserts into a bone. When the muscle contracts it will pull on the tendon and the joint moves.

Your spine has 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, and 5 lumbar vertebrae, each separated by a gelatinous disk that acts as a cushion to separate the bones and protect them from wear. Muscles span your entire spine, in some cases originating on the vertebrae and connecting each vertebra to the next, in some cases the muscles originate on the ribs and insert into the vertebrae in order to move your spine in the infinite number of angles, and in other cases the muscles originate on your vertebrae and insert into moveable bones such as your shoulder blade, pulling it in various directions.

In order to move in the opposite direction, the contracted muscle needs to relax to remove the strain from the bone, and the muscle on the opposite side contracts to pull the bone in the opposite direction. If the muscle that needs to release is in a spasm it can’t relax, and you have the muscles pulling in two opposite directions – and you have back pain.

The answer to what causes back pain is so broad that it needs to be broken down into four categories:

(1)   Why a Muscular Component Can Be What Causes Back Pain

Back pain is commonly caused by repetitively straining the muscles that insert into the vertebrae and ribs.  The list of muscles that insert into the bones of your back is long, with each muscle potentially causing pain when it is in spasm and pulling on the bone. Your back is a system of overlapping muscles, so many times when you are treating a muscle for one thing, you are also treating the source of a totally different problem.

This commonly happens when you are treating a thigh muscle that causes knee pain, but is also a key muscle that causes back pain, groin pain, and sciatica.

Natural Remedies for Back Pain

natural remedies for backTreating the muscle is one of the natural remedies for back pain. For this muscle treatment I suggest you use a 12″x 1 1/2″ length of PVC pipe and slide (don’t roll) from the top of your thigh to just above your knee.  The main area of treatment is shown in this picture.  It’s NOT on the front of your thigh, and it’s NOT on the outside of your thigh, but instead it is in between these two lines.

As you go down your thigh you’ll go over several “bumps,” which are actually large spasms that are pulling down on the front of your pelvis. The pelvis rotation causes a strain on your low back, and presses your posterior pelvis up into your sciatic nerve.

There’s a lot more to this muscle, but it’s so broad that it can’t be explained properly here. In fact, each of the muscles that cause back pain are fully explained, and treatments are demonstrated in my Trigger Point Yoga kit.

(2) Why a Bulging or Herniated Disk Causes Back Pain

herniated disk can be what causes back painThe disk between each vertebra is meant to be a cushion for the bones so they don’t rub on each other.  However, tight muscles that originate on each vertebra can pull the bones together, pressing down on the disks and cause them to either bulge in the opposite direction, or herniate.  For example, if the muscles on the right side of the spine are tight, they will bring the vertebrae closer together on the right, causing the disk to bulge toward the left.

If the muscles on both sides of the spine are tight, they will draw the vertebrae closer together and potentially cause the disk to herniate.

In either case the disks will put pressure on the spinal cord and causes back pain to be severe in that area.  However, if it is treated before permanent damage is done, releasing the muscle tension on the vertebrae will move the bones off the disk and the pain will be eliminated.

(3) Why a Vertebra Out of Alignment Can Be What Causes Back Pain

out of alignment can cause back painYour spine stays in perfect alignment because muscles are putting the exact amount of “pull” on each side. In fact, without muscles the spine would just hang straight and not be able to move at all — like a skeleton on a hook.  It is only because of muscles that the spine has any mobility at all.

The only way a vertebrae can move is either by a traumatic accident (such as falling down a flight of steps, or having a car accident), or by muscles pulling on the bones.

However, if muscles are pulling more on one side than the other the vertebrae will move toward the tight muscles.

The tension in the muscles must be released first if the bones are to be moved back into alignment and not be pulled out again by the tight muscles.

(4) Scoliosis, Osteoporosis, Spinal Stenosis, and other Causes of Back Pain

There are medical conditions such as scoliosis, osteoporosis, spinal stenosis, diabetes, and cancer that are also causes of back pain.  These are serious conditions that need medical attention.  It is always important to eliminate the possibility of any serious health risks before embarking on a path of treatment for back pain.

Conclusion

Obviously, as noted in #4 above, there are medical causes of back pain, but it is clear that the one that is consistently overlooked, and therefore not treated, is the muscular component.  My experience with thousands of clients over the years, both at my office and virtually online, is that muscles are frequently what causes back pain, and that the pain can be lessened or eliminated by treating the tight muscles demonstrating one of the natural remedies of back pain.

You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by exploring the muscular component to back pain!

 

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

About The Author

julie donnellyJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

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Comments (3)

  • LaRue Wright

    |

    I have Osteoarthritis in one knee and have had for a while. Now seeing that my back on that same side is being affected. I would love to know about her exercises/therapy to help that. Would love to keep it from progressing….

    Reply

    • Dr. Steve Chaney

      |

      I will suggest this to Julie Donnelly as a topic for a future article

      Reply

      • Julie Donnelly

        |

        I don’t have an article ready, but I’ll be happy to write one for you and will get it back asap.

        Reply

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Latest Article

One of the Little known Causes of Headaches

Posted August 15, 2017 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Your Sleeping Position May Be Causing Your Headaches!

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

Can sleeping position be one of the causes of headaches?  

A Sleeping position that has your head tilted puts pressure on your spinal cord and will cause headaches. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times, and the reasoning is so logical it’s easy to understand.

causes of headachesYour spinal cord runs from your brain, through each of your vertebrae, down your arms and legs. Nerves pass out of the vertebrae and go to every cell in your body, including each of your organs. When you are sleeping it is important to keep your head, neck, and spine in a horizontal plane so you aren’t straining the muscles that insert into your vertebrae.

The graphic above is a close-up of your skull and the cervical (neck) vertebrae. Your nerves are shown in yellow, and your artery is shown in red.  Consider what happens if you hold your head to one side for hours. You can notice that the nerves and artery will likely be press upon. Also, since your spinal cord comes down the inside of the vertebrae, it will also be impinged.

In 2004 the Archives of Internal Medicine published an article stating that 1 out of 13 people have morning headaches. It’s interesting to note that the article never mentions the spinal cord being impinged by the vertebrae. That’s a major oversight!

Muscles merge into tendons, and the tendons insert into the bone.  As you stayed in the tilted position for hours, the muscles actually shortened to the new length.  Then you try to turn over, but the short muscles are holding your cervical vertebrae tightly, and they can’t lengthen.

The weight of your head pulls on the vertebrae, putting even more pressure on your spinal cord and nerves.  Plus, the tight muscles are pulling on the bones, causing pain on the bone.

Your Pillow is Involved in Your Sleeping Position and the Causes of  Headaches

sleep left side

The analogy I always use is; just as pulling your hair hurts your scalp, the muscle pulling on the tendons hurts the bone where it inserts.  In this case it is your neck muscles putting a strain on your cervical bones.  For example, if you sleep on your left side and your pillow is too thick, your head will be tilted up toward the ceiling. This position tightens the muscles on the right side of your neck.

sleeping in car and desk

Dozing off while sitting in a car waiting for someone to arrive, or while working for hours at your desk can also horizontal line sleepcause headaches. The pictures above show a strain on the neck when you fall asleep without any support on your neck. Both of these people will wake up with a headache, and with stiffness in their neck.

The best sleeping position to prevent headaches is to have your pillow adjusted so your head, neck, and spine are in a horizontal line. Play with your pillows, putting two thin pillows into one case if necessary. If your pillow is too thick try to open up a corner and pull out some of the stuffing.

 

sleeping on stomachSleeping on Your Back & Stomach

If you sleep on your back and have your head on the mattress, your spine is straight. All you need is a little neck pillow for support, and a pillow under your knees.

Stomach sleeping is the worst sleeping position for not only headaches, but so many other aches and pains. It’s a tough habit to break, but it can be done. This sleeping position deserves its own blog, which I will do in the future.

 

Treating the Muscles That Cause Headaches

sleeping position causes of headachesAll of the muscles that originate or insert into your cervical vertebrae, and many that insert into your shoulder and upper back, need to be treated.  The treatments are all taught in Treat Yourself to Pain Free Living, in the neck and shoulder chapters.  Here is one treatment that will help you get relief.

Take either a tennis ball or the Perfect Ball (which really is Perfect because it has a solid center and soft outside) and press into your shoulder as shown.  You are treating a muscle called Levator Scapulae which pulls your cervical vertebrae out of alignment when it is tight.

Hold the press for about 30 seconds, release, and then press again.

Your pillow is a key to neck pain and headaches caused by your sleeping position.  It’s worth the time and energy to investigate how you sleep and correct your pillow.  I believe this blog will help you find the solution and will insure you have restful sleep each night.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

About The Author

julie donnelly

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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