toronto functional medicine back pain preventionHave you noticed more aches and pains than usual since the COVID-19 quarantine kicked in? Are you wondering how to reduce back pain? Let’s get into it!

It comes with the territory of working from home, sitting hours upon hours in front of a computer, spending less time outdoors and more time online. And not being able to get your maintenance acupuncture and fascial release treatments (which we’ve taken VIRTUAL, by the way), doesn’t help either. One of the most common questions we get at TMB is, “How can I reduce back pain?”

Dr. Bhat thought she’d sit down and share her thoughts with you on the subject and TMB’s expert suggestions for helping to reduce tension in your body.

First things first, let’s dive into what you don’t know about back pain

Before we get into answering the question about how to reduce back pain, let’s back up (haha) and talk about our favourite thing ever, fascia! Fascia is the fabric that surrounds our muscles, organs, bones, and joints. It lives right under our skin. Picture an orange, specifically the white stuff that surrounds each droplet, but also each quarter, each half and the entire orange! That’s like our fascia!

Still having a hard time visualizing it? Try this. Picture wearing a one piece bathing suit and someone pulls up the straps. What happens? You get a wedgie and unless the tension was released up at the straps, the wedgie wouldn’t go away. Our fascia works in a similar fashion.

This is important to acknowledge because feeling stiffness in the back can be rooted in a myriad of other tension-inducing spots. It could be the neck and shoulders (like the wedgie analogy), or it could be hips/pelvis. So addressing our fascia as a whole is important to help alleviate tension in the body.

What are some causes of lower back aches and upper back pain?

Another thing to note about fascia is that it is like a sponge. When you first open up a sponge, it’s springy. However, after you’ve used it and placed it out to dry, it becomes brittle and in order to move it, bend lines are created. But all that sponge needs to restore its resilience is to be run under warm water again! Our fascia operates in a similar manner and restoring fascia resilience helps us to reduce back pain.

Some of the main culprits of fascial adhesions and lower back stiffness (especially in these COVID times, but also always!) are the following:

CAUSE OF BACK PAIN #1:  EXCESSIVE SITTING
Sitting, especially hunched over a laptop with our eyes gazing down and our pelvis softly rounding into our couch, causes the back line of our fascia to stretch, and the front side of the body to get tight, creating a mismatch of tensional pull.

CAUSE OF BACK PAIN #2: LACK OF MOVEMENT
Movement, even gentle movement, lubricates our fascia (think of the sponge analogy) and rehydrates our soft tissues. Make sure you’re moving your body every day, even if it’s just going for a walk outside! If you’re needing a guided workout, we know some pretty killer instructors who run a virtual Pilates studio (hint hint!)

CAUSE OF BACK PAIN #3: SUGAR AND PROCESSED FOODS
These are pro-inflammatory foods that can create “stickiness” in the fascia for lack of a better term. Picture putting your hands into a bowl of sugar water then taking them out and letting them dry. Now try to rub them together. It doesn’t glide nicely and gets stuck easily!

This is what happens when you eat a lot of sugar and processed foods. Instead, opting for a diet high in fiber, colour, good quality proteins, healthy fats and lots of filtered water will help the tissue glide and slide easily and thus help to reduce back pain and general aches. Need some healthy food guidance? Join TMB’S CLEAN GUT DETOX PROGRAM for expert assistance in this department!

Bonus TMB TIP to help reduce back pain!

Dehydrated fascia does not glide well either! Try drinking something other than coffee and wine to help your body. Simply put: drink more filtered water!

CAUSE OF BACK PAIN #4: STRESS
Let’s go back to the wedgie analogy. If you’re stressed (read: shoulders automatically clenching up to your ears without you even realizing it). When we are stressed, our nervous system is in “fight or flight” mode and whether we realize it or not, our nervous system naturally “primes” the muscles to be ready to “run” from a tiger (aka what your body thinks you’re trying to do). As such, there is a low level “clench” happening in our muscles/fascia. Nothing a little mindfulness, fascial release, meditation, dancing, yoga, journalling or deep breathing can’t shake up!

Why are more people experiencing sore backs and back pain right now?

CAUSE OF BACK PAIN #5: EXCESSIVE SCREEN TIME
From our work, workouts, family gatherings and social lives all on a screen right now, we are literally in front of a screen (and probably a laptop) more than ever before. Most of us likely did not have the ergonomics pop up before this happened to set up our desks and screens properly.

Seated on a couch, which is too soft for the pelvis, and eyes down to the lap top creates a “C” shape in the spine).  The spine is meant to be in an “S” shape. That’s when it is most resilient/springy/injury proof. So when we get in that “C” posture and then pop up to do a quick Insta live workout of 50 burpees or something crazy on a primed, stressed C shaped spine, that’s a recipe for injury.

CAUSE OF BACK PAIN #6: MICROTRAUMA
When we sit for too long (or do anything for too long without moving) we get stiff. After 20 minutes our fascia experiences something called “CREEP”; it will stretch for the whole 20 minutes and then after 20 minutes it’s like a little tear in a nylon, and over time, that nylon will continue to run and run and run.

That doesn’t make for strong tissues, and we become more susceptible to “throwing our back out”, when the kids suddenly ask to be picked up, or we reach down in the shower to pick up the soap, OR the simple REPETITIVE nature of creep day after day!

What are some common misconceptions about back aches and back pain in general?

One common misconception here is that back pain is strictly mechanical (aka, “But I didn’t DO anything, I just woke up like this!”) We sometimes think unless we fell on our back or tried to move a couch and there was no “incident” that how could it be! Postural microtrauma (see above) plays a huge role in this. The same goes with workout microtrauma aka working out “crazy hard” with a C shaped spine is not doing anything positive for you!

Could also be a seemingly unrelated reason: women around their period (cramps can manifest as back pain and you might notice it more MONTHLY), digestion (gas pains can sometimes feel like a back ache so might notice it 30-90 mins after eating), inflammation (if the body is in a stressed state due to stress, lack of sleep, food sensitivities, toxins etc. it lowers the resilience of the tissue, if chronic might just be low-grade ‘always’ in the background), harbouring negative emotions (anger/resentment can all be stored in the lower pelvis/hip flexor/back area again – this would be “low grade” and kind of ‘always’ in the background).

Another misconception is that you need a MECHANICAL solution to “fix” it. Again, if it’s a digestive discomfort for example, a stretch/exercise isn’t going to do the trick. If foam rolling etc. didn’t work, maybe it’s time to go inward and check out the gut, stress, emotions, sleep etc. OR to get a treatment.

How TMB can help you reduce back pain — virtually too!

This is where we are truly UNIQUE here at TMB, where we have the ability to assess this type of discomfort from the INSIDE OUT (gut/inflammation etc.) and the OUTSIDE IN (mechanical/injury)!

Since you might not be able to see us in person, we’re offering VIRTUAL VISITS as well! Through fascial release techniques, acupressure, foam rolling, and movement our expert advice can get your body back on track and help to get rid of those pesky aches and pains.


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