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Back Pain Part 1 of 3

Most back pain cases I see are caused by unhealthy life choices that have nothing to do with the back. It starts with the stomach. Let me explain.

 

We get new energy every day from our stomach. We break down the food we eat and absorb the nutrients. Those nutrients power our bodies and make us feel lively and happy. In Chinese medicine, we call the energy from food “acquired qi (qi=vitality)” because we acquire new “qi” from food every day.

 

But What happens if we overwork and spend more energy than we’re taking in? Like the back pain patient I recently saw who runs 6 miles/day and eats mainly salads.

 

Or if we’re eating on the go in a stressed way and we don’t process the foods we’re eating? Like the back pain patient I saw last week who confessed that he eats breakfast and lunch while walking or driving due to his demanding career. 

 

When the energy we acquire from food is insufficient to fuel our activities, our adrenal glands secrete adrenaline, which gives us a burst of energy. In Chinese Medicine, we call this “Kidney Qi” because the adrenal glands sit on top of the Kidneys.

 

The Kidney Qi is like your energy savings account. You only want to dip into it for emergencies. The qi you acquire from food every day is like your salary. People who spend more energy than they’re taking in from digestion end up draining their savings account, draining their Kidney Qi. Well guess what one of the first symptoms of depleted Kidney Qi is, you guessed it, chronic lower back pain.

 

Why? Because when the body is deeply tired, it’s like a phone with low battery in power-save mode. When the Kidney Qi is depleted, our brain causes the psoas muscle to tighten up to hold the frame of the body upright, while weakening the activity of other back muscles such as the quadratus lumborum. The psoas attaches to the femur head, hip, and spine. When it spasms, it pulls these bones out of alignment disrupting normal posture and circulation in the low back leading to pain.

 

For those PT’s out there, this might sound crazy because it’s not part of your training, but clinically, it works. Next time you have a chronic back pain pain patient, palpate their psoas at the attachment to the illiacus. It will be really uncomfortable. IF you manually release it, it’ll tighten back up the next day because the body is relying on it to hold the frame upright. You won’t see good results with the back pain unless you strengthen the underlying cause of the tight psoas and restore healthy alignment to the lower back.

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