How Much Low Back Pain Are You In, 1-10?
You know that is a ridiculous question, right?
Answering a “7” means you are at 70% of the highest threshold of pain you can tolerate.
What would push you to an 8? How would you qualify getting to a “9” or know that your number went down to a 5?
How does your, “7,” relate to an amputee with phantom limb syndrome? Do you wake up daily and visualize a horrific car accident that took your leg?
Pain is real. Quantifying or qualifying your pain, however, is impossible. It is impossible because pain is complex. Pain is a symptom of your perception of the emotional, physical, and mental stressors in your life.
Pain = (Physical + Mental + Emotional) x Perception
Yes, your perception. Meaning that pain starts in the brain and not in the body.
Past the Physical
I spent a recent weekend at The Challenged Athlete Foundation half marathon. This race is not your typical half marathon. Athletes in this race are missing limbs, in wheelchairs, and experiencing life in ways that express the human spirit more than world record accomplishments.
I struck up a conversation with a researcher for a major international magazine – himself a below the knee amputee – that reinforced what I know about pain.
“I was working my dream job. I was a researcher, travelled, got paid, and influenced peoples’ minds through one of the most popular and beautiful magazines in the world. One year ago, I was in a motor vehicle accident and lost my left leg below the knee. My life forever changed. I no longer felt invincible. I felt like my ability to be a quality father, son, even researcher suffered. This brought me emotional pain.”
His emotional connection to pain instantly struck me. I hear this exact story in my clinic with every patient experiencing lower back pain. The pain they feel in their lower back is the tip of the spear to the larger problem; their inability to experience life. The physical pain is the outward expression of the insecurities, lack of confidence, and depression that buries the joy your life once had.
The Pain Cycle
The complex relationship between the brain and body are rarely understood until lower back pain strikes. One day you are working out and the next day you are at the chiro looking for answers. It becomes paramount to your life that you find these answers because the brain and the body are not mutually exclusive. Every aspect of your life is affected by lower back pain.
The day the injury hits you instantly go on the defense. Lower back pain is an attack on your body and has the ability to drop you to your knees. The fear is on your mind perpetuating a downward spiral that bleeds into your self-perception.
If you are in pain, how can you be a good parent, spouse, or employee?
You are never 100% present because lower back pain occupies the subconscious, controlling the way you move and experience life.
“It was as if my self-worth was wrapped up in this leg. Having lost my lower leg, I had lost my self-worth. On top of that, I felt this physical pain in an area that didn’t exist anymore. It was a total mind fuck. At the point of wanting to put myself out of my misery, I was willing to try anything to help myself get out of this pain.”
Phantom limb syndrome gives a rare insight into the brain’s perception pain and self-worth. The brain knows you are not 100% and unable to perform optimally. In pain, your brain is constantly reminding you of the things you cannot do. Dealing with chronic pain and the, “I cant’s,” long enough chips away at your confidence, opens the flood gates to self-doubt, insecurity, and depression.
Healing Starts on the Inside
Try pointing to the exact spot your lower back pain is coming from.
I do not have to be next to you to know you cannot do it. The idea that there is a specific spot causing you pain is a gross misunderstanding of the brain’s role in pain.
Pain is a witch’s brew of factors and is always accompanied by a layer of brain-generated complexity.
“I started working with a physical therapist who took me down a mind-body path to healing my pain. She had me perform mirror therapy which helped my brain understand and finally realize my leg was not there. She had me meditate, perform deep breathing drills, yoga, strength training, and participate in classes where there were other people like myself- who had lost a limb or had a trauma and felt alone. All of these things helped me. It was an integrated approach.”
You can put a band aid on problems in a multitude of ways. Healing, however, is an integrated, long term solution creating a pattern interrupt in the way you behave. Healing begins in the mind by creating space from the pain. Objectively viewing pain creates a proactive mindset that builds confidence. Confidence snowballs. The brain gives the body more freedom, confidence, and reverses the downward spiral.
Breath, Balance, Behavior
The most powerful lesson you can learn for long-term healing is that you are 100% capable. You absolutely, without a doubt, have the power to change the way you experience pain and life.
The simplest change, starting with the breath, is the catalyst to confidence and commitment to progress. It is too easy to fall victim to pain. The breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system and systematically changes the way your brain perceives fear, suffering, and setbacks.
As your perception changes, you begin to peel back the layers that lead to pain. You recognize the external stressors that dominate the stories you tell yourself. You can control where you apply your attention leading to increased balance, less stress, and focused attention.
“I had to think about how I was moving, who I was spending time with, how I was breathing, what I was thinking about, I had to go slower, be more methodical, test myself, take time for myself.”
The long-term answer to healing resides in your behavior. Changing your behavior is a process, not a pill, and it takes work.
“I learned through practical experience my brain is the control center for my body. I must fix my perceptions, my thoughts, I must choose to slow down, and treat myself with respect to allow my mind, my nervous system to relax. Through my brain I was able to desensitize the physical feeling of pain I had.”
Your lower back pain is an opportunity to heal, grow, and rediscover life. It is no longer a hindrance to your life. Lower back pain is a minor hurdle that you can control by the way you behave.
One Morning at a Time
The first twenty minutes you are awake sets the tone for the rest of your day. If you get out of bed and feel pain in your lower back, you are immediately thrust into the downward spiral.
Changing that response and your perception of pain as soon as you wake up creates a snowball of positivity and confidence through the remainder of your day.
The Low Back Fix morning routine is based in the breath, creates balance in the body, and layers quality movement patterns that build trust with your brain and body.
This morning routine will create a ripple effect of pain free, confident movement throughout your day and life. I believe in this methodology so much, I am giving it to you for free by clicking the picture below.