What is causing my chronic back pain?
Structural patterns - Though out our lives we are building up patterns of movement that then go on to shape for our body, posture and habits. Our bodies respond to the stresses that we place on them by laying down greater tensile strength in the tissues where we place the greatest demand. If our movement patterns though out our days are restricted we may find that we lose flexibility in certain areas and our body becomes more bound in others, creating trigger points in our tissues. Tissues may become dehydrated by bound areas of fascia in places where demand for certain movements or holding patterns have been high. When the tissues are dehydrated they are less able to move freely or receive the nourishment that they need in order to glide freely over each other. This is turn creates tension and a directional pull throughout the body. As the fascia is connected in one sheet throughout the body these tensile forces can cause areas to feel stuck, restricted or compressed, all of which can lead to pain.
Emotional Stress and Nervous System Activation - When we are very stressed we are more susceptible to physical pain due to the heightened state of our nervous systems. When we have a big shock, face emotional trauma or are deeply triggered our bodies response is to activate the nervous system into a fight or flight stress response, an evolutionary trait to provide extra energy to deal with the situation. This response takes a lot of energy to maintain and if it goes on for a long time such as in phases of chronic stress and we may find ourselves feeling tired with low energy and yet unable to properly rest or relax due to the strong cocktail of activating hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in our body. Over time or in times or complete overwhelm this can escalate to a state of inner collapse where the body starts to shut down these fight or flight responses in order to save energy known as a freeze response. These nervous system patterns speak of ongoing stress on the nervous system and whilst the nerves are highly activated they are more sensitive to pain.
Check in with your Doctor
If your chronic pain is new or severe, unrelenting and does not allow you to sleep at night you need to see a Doctor and get checked out so that other causes can be ruled out and you can receive the medical support you need.
What can be done about it?
Diversity of movement - If we are able to become conscious of our daily postural habits we can go some way to balancing them by diversifying our movements. We may do things to break up these habits and therefore the stresses that are creating fascial tissue to be laid down in certain ways throughout our body in response to these habits. For example we may vary the way we cross our legs, the hip we carry the baby on. the side we sleep on, the hand we use to brush our teeth or the way we take the stairs. It will also help to switch up the way we exercise, again to vary the demands on the body. This may mean taking a new class, learning new techniques and taking time to stretch out in a varied way and in response to how your body feels rather than sticking to a regime. Allow yourself to take breaks in your day to day life to stretch and think about how you can move differently and so that you are more diverse in your movements.
Relaxation and Stress management - Taking time to acknowledge how you are feeling can be challenging and often we stay busy to avoid doing so, yet this is the most important step on the way to recovery. We heal most effectively in community with others, when we are able to express what we are going through, receive emotional support and feel heard. It might be that you are able to talk with a trusted friend, start counselling, find a new creative outlet, take time in nature to reflect or a mixture of these things. By taking time to externalise your internal processes you are creating emotional connection and release, which in time allows your nervous system to regulate and return to a state of safety. As the state of our nervous system has such a huge role in our perception of pain, addressing pain on this level can be very beneficial.
Myofascial release and Massage - MFR works to improve the state of balance within the fascial system of the body, finding and unlocking areas of tension and bound tissue and increasing the amount of hydration and glide between the tissues. As some of the holding is due to emotional tension there can also be emotional release during a session which helps to relive the stress on the system and also improves pain symptoms and can also increase range of movement with the joints of the body. In this way MFR combines the physical and emotional and helps build awareness of the interconnectedness of how we feel mentally and how we feel physically.
A daily yoga practice is a keystone in keeping your body flexible and strong. Yoga is both a physical and emotional practice and can also bring a spiritual dimension to your life. Practising in a trauma-informed way is about acknowledging the needs of your body on all levels and responding to them with an attitude of kindness. This might be with movement, breath and meditative practices that feel aligned, helpful and lead to a more regulated and responsive nervous system. To be effective your daily practice does not need to be long but it will be more impactful if it is done regularly and is tailored closely to your own personal needs.
Getting the right support
Chronic back pain, or any type of chronic pain is something that can effect the whole of your life, limiting your activities, effecting your mood and how you feel about yourself. It is a holistic issue and needs to be addressed in a variety of ways to put you on the path to recovery. Getting the right support is crucial to integrate the changes needed in your body and in your life. If you would like to talk about how bodywork, MFR and trauma informed yoga can help you with your recovery please get in touch or book a session.
Prana Lotus contact details
Kristina - 07907508624
Kristina is a Massage, Myofascial Release and Yoga Therapist who lives in Peebles in the Scottish Borders with her husband, two children and two cats. Kristina teaches One on one yoga, Pregnancy yoga and Sacred Cycles Yoga and offers massage and MFR bodywork in venues in Edinburgh and Peebles.