Every day that I go to my office, 50% of the clients I see are suffering from back pain. I had a client in so much pain, he could not sit in a chair, lie face down or face up. He was on the floor on his knees with his head in the chair when I walked out into the waiting area. In 1 week I helped reduce his pain by 50% and in 3 weeks he was back to work pain-free. This man had tried everything for years. This was not a fluke as I see this every week in my office. It is not a miracle either, just an understanding about why our backs hurt. Somehow the medical establishment missed this in their training.
First off, I am not a doctor nor pretending to be one. I am a massage therapist that has gone beyond just giving massages. I have been fascinated with the muscles of the human body and how they play a role in how we feel. There has been way too much attention paid to strength training our muscles. In every peer-reviewed journal, there are hundreds to thousands of studies on strengthening our muscles. There has been very little research on why we need to stretch and what is the best way. This is mostly why we cannot figure out back pain, once and for all, until now.
There are three areas of our body that can cause back pain. To figure out which one is not hard. If your back hurts when you stand up after sitting or lying for a while, or after standing for a period of time, or after bending over to pick up something, chances are the cause is on the front side of your body. More specifically, the front of your thighs if the pain is to either side of the low back. If the pain is in the middle, chances are the inner thighs are causing the pain.On the other hand, if your back hurts after sitting for a while, that usually means the hamstrings are tight.
As you can see, I said nothing about the back. These three sets of muscles can actually tilt the pelvis forward or backwards placing tremendous pressure on the lower spine. This can lead to bulging discs, herniated discs, or pinched nerves later on if left untreated. Let’s not wait for that to happen.
If you work out at the gym and talk to a trainer about these areas, they will show stretches that don’t really work. The quad stretch where you stand and pull your heel up to your hip is really more for the knee at best. You may feel a pull in your quads but that is only because they are tight and any tight bending of the knee will cause that. Squatting will do the same. Once the quads get tight enough, the knee cannot bend as far. In the resource box below I will add the link to some of my videos.
The second mistake in back stretches is trying to stretch your back by leaning forward. It does feel good in the moment, but since you are not stretching the front thighs, it won’t last long.
Inner thigh stretches where you sit on the floor, place the soles of the feet together, then press the knees down will not work either. If you are already flexible this is great, if not, you may injure yourself.
Touching your toes by standing and bending forward thinking that will stretch your hamstrings or back is mistake also. First, you have three hamstrings so you are only stretching one at best. Second, if the cause is on the front side this will not help. I worked with a woman who was an avid yoga person. She had back pain and went to her doctor. When she showed him she could bend forward and place the palms of her hands on the floor, he said, “Yeah, you are flexible, that is not the problem.” When I asked her about bending backwards to stretch the front thighs, she said she never did that as it was too hard. I showed her how to stretch them and in 2 weeks she was pain-free and still is after 5 years.
The biggest mistake people make stretching, or teaching stretching, is not including the brain. Your brain will not let you do something if it thinks you will hurt yourself. If the brain does not believe you can do it, you will not. Stretching is about showing the brain the movement is possible. When people try to force a stretch or hold beyond 5 seconds when in pain, the brain will contract the opposing muscles to stop the pain. this can cause cramps. It will take a different mindset to learn how to stretch correctly.
The key is to be able to unlearn everything we were taught about stretching and re-learn a new way that is much more beneficial for your body. If you can do that, you will find that the older you get, the less pain you will endure. I have virtually no pain daily at 60, however at 40, I was in so much pain it led me to create this technique.
Butch Phelps has a B.S. in Aging Sciences, a licensed massage therapist, and an Active Isolated Stretching therapist.