A Tale of Two Back Pains

Last year I worked, simultaneously, with two clients who had the same lower back pain. What I mean is their symptoms were exactly the same. Spookily similar. They both felt like they wanted to pull their hips away from their ribs on the side where they felt their pain – the same side. They craved stretches and twists that brought about this sensation.

So sometimes we did stretches and twists. I do, after all, believe in customer satisfaction. But stretches and twists are a band-aid solution. They help provide temporary relief, without addressing the underlying cause of pain. So that’s not how we spent most of our time. Instead, we practiced simple, supported movements and discovered they both compensated for limited mobility/stability in the hip region. Now here’s where it gets interesting.

One client was in the habit of using her lower back muscles to come into hip flexion. When you bend your knee and pick your foot up off the ground to take a step – that’s hip flexion. She had figured out, before coming to see me, that her back muscles were working overtime and had really made an effort to increase her abdominal strength. And then – surprise! – I told her to relax her belly and breathe. Our job was to reprogram her brain to bring her hip flexors back online.

The other client had the opposite problem. Her hip flexors tried to do everyone’s job. She had worked with a physical therapist who gave her some great exercises to build medial glute (outer hip) strength. But she wasn’t really getting the juice out of these exercises, because her awesome, over-achieving hip flexors were doing all the work. Our job was to teach the hip flexors to rest and allow the other muscles around her hips to wake up.

I’m working with a client now whose symptoms are, yet again, the same. Same lower back pain. Same desire to twist and stretch the side-body muscles between the hips and the ribs. We’re still in the discovery phase, but it’s looking like there may be a disconnect between her brain and the muscles that internally rotate her thigh bones.

So that’s three cases that are, on the surface, the same. But with three different causes and three unique solutions. This is why, lately, when friends and students ask me how to stretch out a bit of pain or tension, I find myself saying, “I’m sorry I don’t have more to offer you.”

The truth is, I do have more. I have a lot more to offer. I just don’t have a template fix. I know that if I suggest a couple stretches or yoga postures to try, they’re not really going to solve the problem.

If you’ve come to the realization that the five yoga postures or strengthening exercises Google recommends doesn’t cut it, and you’re ready to spend the time and energy it takes to really solve your pain, I would love to work with you. Schedule a free 20 minute consultation. Don’t worry. It’s just a chat. We’ll discuss what you’re looking for, what I offer, and whether it’s the right fit.

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