Low Back: The Big Picture

Published by Synergy Healthcare on

man laying on side with physical therapist touching his back

Low back pain is a common, almost universal complaint. At some point in life, almost everyone has experienced this problem. Some unfortunate people are plagued with a chronic condition that continues despite medication, treatment, and expensive mattresses.

Americans spend at least $50 BILLION each year on low back pain. It is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. Low back pain follows headaches as the second neurological ailment reported most in the United States. Here at Synergy Healthcare, we have effective treatments for this universal ailment.

What Causes Lower Back Pain?

Most acute low back pain is mechanical in nature, caused by trauma, overuse, or incorrect use of the musculoskeletal system. Symptoms can range from restricted range-of-motion, muscle ache, or stabbing pain to the inability to come to upright standing. If not remedied, this can lead to chronic pain that is more difficult to deal with.

The low back area is similar to a complex freeway interchange in a major city. It houses and protects the internal communication and electrical systems of the body, transfers gravitational, load bearing, and shear forces. It mechanically articulates with other structural components of the skeleton for movement and support, allows transport of fluids (blood, lymph and wastes), and protects internal organs. All this activity takes place in one of the most structurally vulnerable places in the human body. When the low back is dysfunctional, it can affect many of the body’s functions.

Skeletally, the low back is made up of the lumbar vertebral bodies attached superior to the sacrum and pelvis and inferior to the thoracic spine & ribs. These 5 bones not only stack on one another to support the weight of the upper body, but also house the spinal cord that innervates the lower body. Between each of these bones are gelatinous intervertebral disks that act as shock absorbers and allow movement.

Low Back Pain Relief

Synergy Healthcare has multiple therapies geared toward addressing low back pain, including Strain Counterstrain, Myofascial Release, Feldenkrais, Total Motion Release, Craniosacral Therapy, and specific movement.

A unique therapy offered at Synergy is the Feldenkrais Method, based on the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, D.Sc. A form of somatic education, it focuses on the skeletal system and uses gentle movement and directed attention to improve movement. It is based on the principles of physics, biomechanics, and human development. We offer group lessons called Awareness Through Movement as well as individual sessions called Functional Integration. These address functional movement, posture, and unnecessary habitual patterns that relate to the whole body.

Many muscles are involved in the low back region including: latissimus dorsi, external obliques, serratus posterior inferior, longissimus thoracis, multifidus, spinalis thoracis, transversus abdominis, internal obliques, quadratus lumborum and psoas major. And these are just the tip of the iceberg, so-to-speak. Each of these muscles attach to other structures via ligaments that can all have their own mis-alignments and dysfunctions.

One of the manual therapies utilized at Synergy Healthcare is Myofascial Release, MFR. Fascia is a thin, tough, elastic connective tissue that wraps around all the organs, muscles, and structures of the body. It can become restricted due to trauma, overuse, injury, scar tissue, muscle tension, diminished blood flow, or inactivity. Often the result is pain. The therapist locates restricted areas of movement and then directly or indirectly manipulates the fascia to regain mobility.

We all know that low back pain does not exist in a vacuum. The human body is a whole entity, where each part affects all the other parts. The place where pain or symptoms present themselves is not always where the dysfunction or primary problem exists. Treating just the symptom “low back pain” will not necessarily cure the root problem. We make an effort to observe and treat the “whole” person. It might be a leg length problem, a knee or ankle problem or even a digestive issues contributing to the issues at hand.

Some of the therapists at Synergy have been trained in Total Body Balancing, TBB. This technique is based on the work of John Wenham D. O. It assesses and treats the whole body with the use of long levers and rhythmic mobilization to release tension in the muscles, fascia, joint capsules, and ligaments to improve circulation, and arterial, venous, and lymphatic flow. It helps to normalize sympathetic and parasympathetic neurological activity, and improves global systemic vitality. TBB influences all systems of the body including lymphatic, visceral, myofascial, and musculoskeletal systems.

Total Motion Release, TMR, is an effective therapy used in treating low back pain. It allows the therapist to evaluate and then treat the patient by identifying movement imbalances. The therapist first evaluates the patient in the office and then gives them a simple, easy-to-follow home exercise program designed to address imbalance throughout the whole body. It is unique because it focuses on utilizing the strong side to remedy imbalances on the weak side. This leads to a more symmetrical presentation, which ultimately leads to less pain.

Chronic pain, pain lasting more than 6 months, can originate with an initial trauma or injury but persists long after the injury heals. Prolonged pain leads to anxiety, stress, depression, and fatigue that may interact with the body’s production of natural painkillers. These negative feelings may increase the level of substances that amplify sensations of pain, causing a vicious cycle of pain. There is evidence that unrelenting pain can suppress the immune system.

One of the most widely used treatments for chronic pain at Synergy is Strain Counterstrain, (SCS). This technique is a type of “passive positional release” created by Lawrence Jones D.O. It is a manual therapy that alleviates muscle and connective tissue tightness in a gentle and non-traumatic way. During a treatment, the involved tissue is put “on slack” enabling aberrant reflexes that produce muscle spasms to relax. In most cases, it has almost immediate effects on reducing pain and swelling while improving mobility.

Lastly, specific visceral restriction can be the cause of low back pain including chronic constipation and diarrhea, reflux and surgical scar adhesions from laparoscopic or other major surgeries.

Overall, Synergy Healthcare has many treatment options for people that suffer from low back pain. If you have a patient that has not gotten results from traditional physical therapy for their pain, please consider referring them to Synergy Healthcare, where we treat our patients as a whole, well-balanced person, not just a symptom or disease.