For Back Pain Management, Be Mindful of Mindfulness

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I recently shared my Google+ Collection — “Stretch It Out: Yoga and Pilates for Back Pain” — with fellow members of the Health and Wellness Networking Group on LinkedIn. The post sparked some interesting and intelligent thoughts, comments, and debate around the subject, and I thought I’d share some of the conversation here, as it relates to back pain, pain management, and the themes in my book, UPRISE.

As one contributor noted: The mind has a big part in the healing process, which is why the mindfulness movement has gained momentum. Yoga is more than stretches and movements. Although those movements are beneficial, we reap even more when we let go of fear and the “what ifs.”

As a pain management expert and back pain physician, here’s my take:

I often find in back pain patients that an idea — a pattern of thinking that “something is wrong” — often leads to psoas and QL tightness as a result of these muscles fighting each other, effectively locking the spine into a “stable position.” This does not allow for normal movement, which then leads to more pain. The concept of mindfulness has helped so many people. However, without a deeper understanding of what is going on, many people with complex back problems are told that if they can just decrease the stress in their lives, then they can have a “normal” back. This is harmful to someone with a real problem. I see the worst of the worst. People come from all over the country to my clinic, and what I have come to understand is that there is no one answer. Anyone who tells you that there is does not understand back pain — There is no one solution for pain.

But there is one pattern.

If you hurt your arm, the pain goes away and you can get back to normal activities. When you hurt your back, the way your body maintains stability changes.

The first step is to get you out of pain, so you can then work to regain your stability through Bracing Muscle strengthening. If you don’t, the pain will eventually come back, as you haven’t addressed the root cause of chronic back pain progression — Bracing Muscle weakness.

The idea of mindfulness, the mindfulness movement, or even positive thinking, while incredibly important, can be confusing to someone with underlying back issues. In this case, the thought — “something is terribly wrong” — is accurate, and we need to fix it. At the same time, that the thought — “something is terribly wrong” — can cause pain is a powerful tool in the treatment of pain, which should be regarded with kindness, thoughtfulness and all the information in hand.

My book “UPRISE” goes over misdiagnosis and the essential role bracing muscles play in a pain free back, before teaching you how to regain your posture, stability, flexibility, and joint motion. I have no technique in there, no exercises, no device to sell. My thought is to change the way the world sees and treats back pain. Once this begins to take place, yoga, Pilates, massage, acupuncture and anything else you can think of will find its place in this mindful dynamic.

Learn more about Dr. Sean Wheeler, Bracing Muscles, Healthy Posture, and how we can finally treat the cause of chronic back pain in UPRISE: Back Pain Liberation, by Tuning Your Body Guitar.