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Your Body, and Mind,
FIXING BACK PROBLEMS
In many cases, this systematic “un-tightening” over the whole body will correct the cause of chronic back pain, even when repeated chiropractic and massage have not fixed it. And I, myself can often do it in a matter of hours of treatment.
Since back pain affects at least half the U.S. population, and because my 20 years of professional experience have shown that Structural Integration is often the treatment of choice for most back problems, I’ve added a few pages to this write-up to explain both the problem and the solution. These pages will also explain some of the differences between this procedure and both massage and chiropractic.
Many people view the first few sessions of Structural Integration they get as a deep massage that works better to loosen them than other massages they’ve had. And they do feel a change in their structures. That’s a very valuable benefit. It really does re-lengthen a lot of tightness very quickly, and it makes the body work better because it improves the way the muscles, bones and joints work together. So if these folks continue on, to get their whole bodies re-lengthened and their whole bone and muscle system “integrated,” they’ll then be able to experience how much more the Structural Integration change can make them feel and function.
Our bodies are really a single, unified system that is all working together. But most of us have it working together at a low level of performance and well-being. Because of our built up shortness and blockage, some of the “built-in” features we have available in our neuro-muscular system are not being used. So, while many of us recognize that some parts of our bodies need loosening in order to work better, we don’t know that these parts, and others, could actually work better, when the system is improved in an “integrated” way.
So I’ll now describe how correcting the cause of “back problems” also corrects the cause of many other problems, both physical and psychological. And whether a person has back problems or not, when enough of the body is re-lengthened and “integrated,” all these parts will start working together better. The person will experience a “higher” level of both physical and psychological well-being, and performance.
In the section following this, I’ll explain another significant way we can improve ourselves. We can add some Bodymind Therapy techniques to the Bodywork treatment itself. That will, even more effectively, and quickly, remove trauma, old painful emotions and repetitive negative attitudes. And at the same time, they will remove even more tension and distortion from the body, and all of that “clearing” will increase the capacity of our mind.
In Structural Integration, we know we can correct the cause of many back problems by making the body more balanced with the constant force of gravity.
Creating balance in the body is, in fact, a primary goal of the Structural Integration “system.” And as the hands-on manipulations get us more and more to this goal, all the physical and psychological benefits I’ve described come about. As I’ll now explain, this balance also tends to keep our muscles from tightening up so much again, and it even keeps us more balanced and centered psychologically.
When you think about your body, it’s obvious that it has a lot of “sections” that can move around at the joints, like lower legs, thighs, pelvis, abdomen, chest, and even the neck and head. Depending on how flexible you are, each of these parts can wiggle around separately from the others, as when you’re dancing, or when you’re walking briskly or playing sports. The flexibility even allows you to work under your car better.
Obviously, the longer the fascia in the muscles of each section, the more flexible you’ll be at the joints. That’s why people stretch and get bodywork.
Now, when you get the lengths of all your sections more toward their proper, full size, the length of your body’s muscle fibers will match that of your bones. What I’m saying is, that when we correct the negative fascial “side effects,” this shortness, then the rest of the anatomy works properly again. We’re designed that way. Both the local areas will have been spread out and there will be a lot less pulling from other, interconnected areas, in the rest of the body. It’s a “whole-body” re-lengthening. And that process puts all these “sections” into their proper positions, one to the other. This is what the Structural Integration series of steps on the different muscle groups does.
The end result is, that when we are long enough in the whole system, all the sections balance one on top of the other, and the force of gravity pulls our weight straight down through the bones and joints. This is how evolution has developed human structures to work on planet Earth. This straight down “transmission of weight” means that our various muscles don’t have to stay tight to keep holding the different sections up.
But before this correction in the shape of our fascial system, we aren’t arranged that way.
We usually don’t think about it, but gravity is pulling down on every part of our bodies all day long. When the fascia of our whole structure is bunched up, we don’t stand up straight with one part of the body balanced on another. Instead, we stand in a zig-zagged manner. If we look at ourselves sideways in a mirror, we’ll see that the legs lean forward with a bulge in the back of the calves. The torso leans backward and the neck and head jut forward. Sometimes the upper back also curves forward. Try looking at yourself. What do you see?
This back and forth leaning means that the bottom half of the body is always being pulled down and forward by the force of gravity. And gravity is also pulling the top half of the body down, but backward. The weight of the two halves going in opposite directions balances us, so we can stand up against the downward pulls. But the overall effect is that we’re staying tight constantly. And the fascia has long ago grown into that shape.
Each half has to stay tense to counter the forces coming from the other half. And we’re doing this because gravity is a real force, and we have to use our muscles to fight against it. In addition, as we lean to and fro, this force of gravity keeps pulling those parts of us even further toward the ground. So our muscles in the legs, pelvis, belly, chest, back, shoulders, neck and head, all have to tighten further and the backward lean has to get worse.
Yes, this tension actually affects every muscle in the body. Many times we can feel it. So even without making intense physical effort, we are creating tension and bunch-up just by trying to stand up, and for many people, even when they’re just trying to sit up.
The pulling back with the torso is what causes a lot of lower back problems. When we make that backward bend, we have to tighten the muscles of the “whole” back, and the buttocks and neck, too. We even have to tighten the muscles in the back of the legs and the back of the skull. This creates back tension and soreness. For most people, this happens mostly in the lower back, and sometimes in the middle back and between the shoulder blades. In many cases, there’s also chronic neck pain and shoulder stiffness.
Those back, neck, buttocks and leg muscles are now working for hours at a time, just as if they were being worked out in the gym for hours. This uses up lots of nutrition, and it’s then not available for actual physical activity. We can even get a calcium and magnesium deficiency, which in itself creates tension in the muscles and can lower our threshold to pain. I’ve noticed people in chronic pain have been using up their cal-mag reserves for a long time,
The continuous muscle tightness also creates lots of waste products like lactic acid, because that’s what muscles release when they work out. The waste products themselves create soreness until they’re washed away by the lymph and blood circulation. This is where massage can help. It will push those toxins out of the muscles, so the soreness and some amount of tension will go right away.
But the shape of the body still stays in its front-to-back zig-zag. Massage strokes are not designed to spread lots of fascia. And the massage system is not performed in accord with lengthening the interlocking tensions nor realigning the body’s shape with the downward pull of gravity.
So when we again stand up and move around, the same soreness and bunching up will happen all over again. And as time goes on, the lean in the lower back can get even worse so that, eventually, disks are compressed or protrude from between the vertebrae and the nerves get pinched as they come out from the spinal column through the vertebral notches. This is what usually causes sciatica. The body’s shape is so compressed that the lower back spinal curve is too sharp from front to back, and there’s also a sideways tilt in the spine caused by too much bunch-up on one side of the body versus another. So the nerves on that side get rubbed at the notch. People feel it in the leg, because that’s what the sensory nerve signal is telling the brain. But the actual rubbing is by the bones.
For all these back problems, many people try a long series of chiropractic adjustments that keep trying to put the vertebrae back into their proper positions. But the misalignment of the whole body usually keeps pulling the vertebrae back out again, both from front to back and side to side. Just pushing on the bones doesn’t correct the cause of this vertebral misalignment. And that cause, we know, is the bunched-up shortness in the fascial network of the whole body.
The legs, pelvis, and abdomen are involved, not just the tightness in the back. They’re tight, so the pelvis actually tips down to the front, and we’d have to lean over all day unless we pulled our torsos back upright. And the way we do this is by tightening the back muscles. Many times, the arms, head and neck are also tight, or rather, their fascia is bunched-up, too. And that’s having an effect on the back muscles as well.
In many cases of chronic back problems I’ve worked with, the chiropractors have not even been able to get a number of vertebrae to go back in, to where the chiropractor knows they should. That’s because the overall shortness had made the back much too tight for any movement away from the distortion.
In other words, the chronic back pain and the vertebral misalignment was just one part of a bigger condition; the whole body had been frozen into a tight form by hard, and short soft connective tissue, and that also caused a misalignment of all the body parts, not just in the shape and looseness of the spine. The bones had nowhere to be but where that frozen putty had placed them. It’s like chocolate chips fixed in place by the hard cookie dough. And even where there was enough “play” in the system for the chiropractor to move the vertebrae, they’d still go out again. When the person stood up for a while and interacted his (or her) misalignment with the pull of gravity, those little bones had no stable place to be but to go back into the shape of the “short,” misaligned form.