Healing Back Pain
GUEST ARTICLE: by David Quigley
Evolutionary biologists have known for years that the upright posture and bipedal walking of Homo sapiens is a relatively recent innovation in mammalian development. It is a "work in progress." Therefore, our backs often bear the brunt of our bipedal habits of standing and walking, a task for which biologists admit these structures are poorly equipped. This is why, scientists believe, all humans who are physically active experience some back pain during their lives. But it only partially explains why so many millions of Americans are suffering severe and chronic back pain. Other factors include the awkwardness of sitting for hours a day in front of a computer, a generally sedentary life which weakens the muscles of the back, and the poor efficiency of most chairs, car seats, mattresses, etc. in giving us the comfort to relax and rejuvenate our spines. Just as important could be the ways we learn to hold and move our body in a culture that values keeping our bodies rigidly under control, and our emotions suppressed.
Sciatica Healed in One Hour
Paula Cross was crippled with sciatica for years. She entered our Alchemical Bodywork class leaning hard on a cane and in obvious pain. Her work (demonstrated at a recent IMDHA Conference) consisted of my using specific touch combined with hypnotic induction to help her enter the affected area of her spine. There she discovered and expressed deep tears about her mother’s neglect during her childhood. (She was the youngest of a large family). Then her mother (deceased) tearfully promised to make amends to her beloved daughter. Mother’s spirit demonstrated her commitment by listening to her daughter’s pain, offering her spiritual guidance, and then performing surgery on her daughter’s illness. Meanwhile I assisted her mother through various bodywork methods in the process of removing the obstruction in Paula’s spine, methods that included energy channeling, supportive touch, traction, and twisting techniques. In one hour she was over 90% free of pain. The next day she went dancing in comfort after years of crippling pain.
The potential solutions for this universal human dilemma are quite numerous. The problem is finding out which methods will work for YOU amidst a hailstorm of conflicting techniques, many of which are expensive, time consuming, and even potentially dangerous. While a Doctor's advice on these matters is necessary and valuable, few physicians are even aware of all the treatment options available in the new millennium. Here's a brief synopsis of some common treatment options. I will follow this with some specific recommendations for hypnotic movement as an adjunct or alternative to other methods.
Pain medication is the most commonly used treatment for back pain. While pain medication can eliminate some of the pain in a bad back, most physicians agree that it is simply treating the symptoms and not addressing the cause of this pain. Unfortunately, pain medicines can produce a host of unpleasant side effects, are expensive, and many are known to be addictive. Worse yet, while the pain signals from our backs are repressed by pain medication we may move our bodies in ways that further erode the health of our backs. This is comparable to a story I heard about an auto repair shop. A man brings his car to the shop because a warning light is showing up on the dashboard. The mechanic cuts the wire leading to the warning light, and then announces he has solved the problem. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is no solution. While pain medicine may be necessary at times, most specialists recommend other methods for long term healing.
Surgical procedures are sometimes recommended for severe chronic back pain. However, every doctor I have spoken to, especially orthopedic surgeons, have horror stories about how painful these procedures are. And they admit that the technology is in its infancy. In spite of the expense, the severe pain, and months of rehabilitation and bed rest that follows these procedures, a majority of surgery patients receive little long term benefit, and a minority is made worse by the procedure. While only a qualified physician can determine if one of these procedures is right for you, the consensus is that this should be a strategy of last resort.
Chiropractic adjustment, in sharp contrast, is an experience I recommend. The procedure is a manipulation of the spine performed by a professional Chiropractor. It is quick, usually painless, inexpensive, and in my opinion, remarkably effective in realigning the spine and vertebrae. Any licensed chiropractor can offer these methods. Unfortunately, years of negative propaganda from the medical establishment has given chiropractic work a bad reputation in some circles ... a reputation it does not deserve, as it is one of America's oldest schools of medicine.
Movement therapy is the therapy of choice in my experience that works best for back pain. Medical research has proven in several studies that when patients are encouraged to move their backs, even when it hurts, they have more rapid recovery than patients encouraged to rest in bed. And there are many forms of movement that have proven their value over the years. Your licensed physical therapist can assist you with guided and assisted movements unique to your back condition, and is very helpful. Other movement arts like yoga or tai chi can also be quite helpful, as long as one moves very slowly, and avoids any stretches that cause pain. Kick boxing is probably out. I recommend consulting your physician before beginning any exercise program.
Hypnotic movement is a technology which I have developed for dealing with pain and injury that has had great success in dealing with back pain. I have used it successfully with my own chronic back pain, freeing me to pursue the athletic life I used to only dream of enjoying. The concept is simple. In a state of relaxation I give my client (and my own body as well) the simple instructions: "Your body knows its own way to move, to relieve this pain and restore and realign itself. Now allow your body to move in its own unique way..." This is the essence of the script for hypnotic movement, although a large number of other hypnotic suggestions may be needed to start and maintain the process. Somatic Healing practitioners are also trained to use various supportive touches to assist this movement. So while it's obviously important to use the services of a trained somatic healing practitioner, the goal of this work is to learn to perform these movements and supportive touches on your own for a few minutes each day.
Until you have a chance to work with a practitioner, here are some movements you can begin to use right now to relieve back pain. First, understand that all movements we will be discussing need to emerge from your back, not from any desire on the part of your mind to do it right. Second, these movements are very very slow, gentle, and do not produce more pain. If the way you are moving produces pain, stop, relax, and let your back lead the way.
First, some movements while lying down. Getting a new quality mattress has helped many people with back problems. Sleeping on a good mattress every night is probably the easiest thing you can do now to improve your back. And while you are in bed there is much more you can do in only a few minutes each night before going to sleep. While lying down try letting your whole body stretch itself in a fluid twisting way. Stretch your legs and feet as far toward the bottom of the bed as possible. Wriggle and twist your back, SLOWLY, completely free of pain, and imagine it is expanding, the vertebrae moving and twisting apart. Let a slow wavelike rhythm form in your spine, as if your spine has become a slowly wriggling serpent, twisting ecstatically on the bed. Even your neck and head are moving in that twisting rhythm...Breathe deeply and slowly. Sometimes it helps to let your body make noises, sigh, groan, cry as your body moves. One of the important benefits of this process is decompressing and stretching the spine. Another decompression technique useful for back pain is to lie on your back, curl your legs and hold them against your chest. Let your back and hips twist, rock up and down and right and left in their own way to stretch and realign your lower back. You will actually feel taller after only a few minutes of these exercises. After just 5 minutes of these motions, notice the improvement.
Sitting strategies. I used to feel terrible back pain after long drives of two hours or more. Then I decided to let my back move while I drove, at least when a quiet stretch of road allowed me to tune into my back. Then I noticed my back liked to wiggle, to shift, and to fidget about on the car seat. I simply allowed it. Within minutes, the pain was relieved. Ironically, now that I use this method with every drive, I find at the end of even the longest drive, my back feels better at the end of the trip than when the drive began. The same method works well when I'm sitting at the computer or the piano for hours on end. Note that none of these methods require the use of special car seats, pillows, or chairs. While such aids may be helpful for someone in severe pain, I have found such supports make my back muscles lazy, and are far less effective than hypnotic movement in the long term. I sometimes refer to this simple strategy as "wiggle therapy." Try it. And use our interactive feature to let me know how it works for you.
Strategies for standing and walking. First, avoid standing still as much as possible. Standing still is a difficult thing to do with back problems. So if I'm forced to wait in line, I shuffle my feet, wriggle my legs and hips, and rotate my pelvis in all the ways that my body wants to move. We must also learn a new way to walk. I used to suffer severe back pain after a hike of 4 or more miles. Then I began listening to my back. My back wanted to walk differently, with a swing of my hips and my back swaying slightly like a reed in the breeze as I walked. My body also wanted to vary its style of walking from minute to minute. Only as I began listening to my body's instinctive desire to move in its own natural way did I discover how wooden my walking style had been before. I discovered a way of walking that was both enjoyable and rejuvenating. Now I can readily hike, run, and climb 10-15 miles, leaving my legs weak and tired, while my back remains pain free.
Learning to move in this new way can begin with a hypnotic session in which, in a light trance, your body moves on my therapy couch in the ways that can heal. I've taken clients into trance and had them lie, sit, stretch, stand, and walk in hypnosis in these new ways. Then I use hypnotic suggestion to embed these new ways of moving into daily life, everything from walking the dog to sitting at the computer. Most are pain free as they leave my office...and amazed by the powers of their own body. Over the next few weeks, their pain continues to diminish as they start doing the movements on their own.
Two factors could limit the effectiveness of this methodology. First, trauma stored in the body, generally from childhood abuse, can block the client's ability to listen to their body's intuition, and hold in place rigid patterns of posture and movement which keep the intense emotions of this trauma locked up in the musculature of the body, and perpetuate the pain. Emotional Clearing Therapy is essential for these clients as a part of this work.
The largest obstacle to its success however is the fatalistic attitude of the majority of the population, whose attitude is best summarized by the belief that "my back pain has nothing to do with me or my behavior, but is just a curse I have to endure until the Doctor can fix me." This attitude alas is encouraged by many in the medical/pharmaceutical industry, whether out of ignorance or greed. For these individuals drugs and surgery have an irresistible appeal, in spite of the poor record of success that these treatments afford.
How you choose to address your back is important. Not only because your back is the center of movement in your body, but because it is the essential nerve center for every function of the body below the head. To ignore your back's signals is to risk compromising the health of every part of your body. In your search for longevity and health you cannot afford to neglect it. Good luck on your journey to recovery.
To your health!
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Article posted: August 19, 2008