The 5 Hidden Causes of Chronic Back Pain
By Brian Foltz
Is chronic back pain draining the energy and joy from your life?
If you are searching for a real solution to persistent body aches and pains, then I have some good news for you.
New research, shown in Deutsche Welle’s (DW) video of “Fascia – The Mysterious World Under the Skin,” has uncovered clues to the underlying causes of chronic pain. These breakthroughs have led to new types of bodywork therapies that address the root causes of long-term pain.
Chronic pain is when a body pain lasts for more than 3 to 6 months. A study by the CDC (Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain – United States 2016) show that at least 30 million Americans suffer from chronic pain.
Another report states that 11 million Americans have “high-impact” chronic pain, which is pain severe enough that it frequently limits life or work activities, based on a recent National Institute for Health study published in 2019 in the Journal of Pain.
Why is chronic pain such a widespread problem?
It’s not easy to find solutions to complex health problems.
When you go to the doctor for pain, you typically get a prescription for pain pills. If the pain persists, then it’s injections, possible surgery or a referral to a physical therapist. And maybe you try some type of massage, chiropractic or other therapies for your pain.
But if the pain keeps coming back, you have not found the actual cause of the pain.
Treating Symptoms of Chronic Pain
We’ve all seen TV commercials that say, "inflammation causes pain". Just take this pill to get rid of your pain.
Problem solved, right? No, the problem is still there.
Because inflammation is not the actual, underlying cause. It is a symptom of a deeper issue.
Covering up the symptom does not stop the pain from coming back or getting worse.
Most medical treatments and therapies treat symptoms, which can provide temporary relief and sometimes that’s all you need for the body to recover and heal itself.
But for many people, it’s not enough because it fails to address the underlying cause of the pain.
The first challenge in dealing with chronic pain is to understand what is actually causing the pain.
The Key Questions to Find Chronic Pain Relief
To find the causes of your chronic pain, you must keep asking questions like these:
- Why does my back pain keep coming back?
- Why is my body not healing itself and clearing away the pain?
Keep asking “why” questions to everything you hear until you get an answer that fully explains the problem and opens the door to a complete handling of the problem.
I’m not saying it’s easy, far from it. But keep looking and don’t give up. There probably are answers for your specific situation, but it’s up to you to keep asking questions to find the actual causes of your persistent pain.
Some causes of long-term pain are well known, such as injuries, long-term illnesses, diseases, nutritional deficiencies and chronic stress, however these are not the causes of most chronic pain.
In my own personal search for answers, I found five “hidden causes” of chronic pain.
Hidden Cause #1 - The Silver Bullet
The first hidden cause is how our culture looks at the problem of chronic pain.
Ever since the discovery of penicillin, American society in general has been sold on the idea of taking a pill to solve a problem. It certainly works for some problems, but not chronic health problems.
This quick-fix mentality has led to the popularity of symptom-based “solutions” and simplistic ways of looking at health problems, including pain. But there is no pill or magic bullet for aches and pains that don't go away.
Hidden Cause #2 – Super-Specialization
The next hidden cause is a failure to look at the body as a fully integrated and connected whole.
The idea that our body is made up of parts and each part should be addressed separately has led to super-specialization in the field of medicine. This has led to many advances in medicine, but it’s also had a cost.
If you have back pain, you go see a back specialist and maybe get back surgery. Right?
But what if your back pain is being caused by some other part of the body? (It usually is.)
Hidden Cause #3 - Fascial Stress
This primary hidden cause of chronic pain has been overlooked by mainstream medicine for decades, until it was recently “discovered” to be the largest system in the human body. Some scientists are calling it a new organ2.
It’s called Fascia.
Your body’s Fascial System is all the connective tissue that connects and surrounds all your bones, muscles, nerves and organs in the body. Also known as the Myofascial System, makes up about 20% of your body weight.
Your fascia forms a continuous structure from head to toe.
This image shows one type of fascia, known as the body's "fascia tracks", which are sheets of fascia connecting different parts of the body to each other.
Picture from “Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists” by Thomas W. Myers
This is important to recognize, because chronic pain in one area of your body is usually the result of injuries and stressed fascia in a completely different part of the body.
One of its most important functions is to protect the body from the trauma and shock of injuries.
How Fascial Stress Can Lead Cause Chronic Back Pain
Let’s look at a simple example.
First, you injure the back of your right leg (hamstring muscle). After the injury, the fascia in your leg tightens down to restrict movement and protect the area of injury while it's healing.
This restriction causes your hamstring muscle to shorten (while the body heals the injury).
Normally this would heal within about 6 weeks and the fascia would release the tension in the area, and your hamstring would go back to its normal length.
But what happens if the injured tissues don't completely heal?
If the injury doesn't fully heal and release the tightened down fascia, then it will cause your hamstring muscles to remain shorter than they should be.
To compensate and maintain the body's balance, your hips rotate backward and to the right.
This then causes your shoulders to tilt forward and to the left, again to maintain your balance.
These compensating actions are caused by our body’s senior priority to maintain your balance against the forces of gravity, so you can move without falling over.
This is a deeply rooted survival mechanism in the body that forces structural imbalances (poor posture) to stay in place, so the body can move.
Over time, as more injuries, fascia stress and postural imbalances accumulate, your fascia tightens down further, turning fascia into dense knots and adhesions, making it more difficult for the body to move freely and heal itself.
The Cycle of Chronic Pain
It starts with injury, trauma and/or bad posture that causes fascial stress, the muscles to shorten and your body to compensate to maintain balance.
This causes more fascia stress in other areas of the body, more compensation and increased risk of injury.
Chronic back pain can be caused by fascia stress from almost anywhere in the body because the back is a central hub and connected to all other parts of the body.
In this example, the cause of back pain was not an injury to the back.
Its actual cause was unreleased (chronic) fascial stress in the right leg, which led the body into the cycle of pain.
Hidden Cause #4 - Structural Imbalances (Poor Posture)
This one is easy to miss because we all know posture is important. But good posture is more than "important", it is vital to living a pain-free life.
Ideal structural alignment (good posture) is the horizontal and vertical alignment of your bones and joints, against the forces of gravity.
Throughout evolution, balance in an upright position has been a top priority because movement has always been vital to survival.
So, what causes structural (bones and joints) imbalances?
Well, your bones and joints are held in place by muscles.
So, what causes the muscles to keep bones and joints out of balance? Fascial Stress.
When stress in the fascia does not release and becomes fixed in the tissue, it will cause the muscles in the immediate area to shorten.
This added tension pulls on the bones connected to it, and as it hardens it holds your bones out of ideal alignment, which, as described above, contributes in a major way to the Cycle of Chronic Pain.
Repetitive Movement Causes Structural Imbalances
Repetitive motion injuries are among the most common injuries, making up over 50% of all athletic-related injuries. Even simple everyday actions, like typing, can lead to structural imbalances and conditions such as tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
For example, when we repeat a motion with one side of the body, such as hitting a tennis ball with the right arm, that builds muscle on one side of the body only.
If repeated enough, this is unbalanced repetitive movement will eventually cause injury or structural imbalances, which can initiate or perpetuate the Cycle of Chronic Pain.
Muscles have an intelligence and memory.
Each time you repeat the same motion, your muscle memory is reenforced and it becomes easier to do the same movement next time.
Your body's muscle memory has many benefits, but it also comes with a very serious downside.
Muscle memory records both the good and the bad movement!
The problem arises when muscle memory locks in the compensation patterns from injuries, fascia stress and repetitive motions, causing your muscles to hold your bones and joints out of their proper place.
The good news is we can retrain muscle memory, through postural therapy.
Lack of Movement
The human body was designed for lots of movement. When we don't get enough of the right kinds of movement, then the body's muscles cannot maintain the structural balance it needs to heal and restore balance in the body after stress or injury.
Mimicry is another valuable survival mechanism that also has a downside. When you mimic the movements and/or posture of your parents or others with bad posture, then your muscle memory can take over and can cause structural imbalances that cause or contribute to the Cycle of Chronic Pain.
Other Health Problems
Structural Imbalances not only lead to chronic pain, they also affect the health of the entire body because the vital organs are encased, protected and connected by the fascial system.
This is especially true for problems with the hip joint, because fascia directly connects the pelvis to vital organs responsible for healthy digestion, detoxification, hormones and breathing. It's all connected.
Hidden Cause #5 - Mental-Emotional Stress
Mental and emotional stress can have a profound impact on your physical body.
Normally, the body's inner healing process will eventually release the fascial stress resulting from an injury and the tissue returns back to normal.
However, when mental-emotional stress occurs at the time of a physical injury, the mind identifies (equates) the emotional trauma with the physical injury. This can cause the body to hold fascial stress restrictions in place, long after it should be released.
The Emotional and Chronic Pain Connection
If your body does not clear the pain, after a reasonable amount of time, then you may have mental-emotional blocks or residual mental pain holding it in place.
You may just need more rest, better nutrition or the right type of exercise, bodywork or other therapy to release it. But there is another reason. Let's look at an example...
Suzie is a happy 8-year girl, laughing and playing with her dog at the top of the stairs. She trips and falls down the stairs and breaks her arm. She has no mental-emotional pain connected to the injury, so it heals completely.
Now imagine Suzie crying, running and upset after hearing her very angry Mom scream at her Dad about getting a divorce. She falls down the stairs and breaks her arm.
Her arm heals, but it never completely releases the fascial stress in her arm because of the emotional pain associated with it, along with regular reminders of an angry divorce. This can hold the fascial stress in place, long after it should have been released, which can contribute to chronic pain later in life.
Now, the Good News...
Today there is new hope for anyone suffering from chronic pain and looking for answers and real solutions.
After 70+ years of dedicated research and clinical application by a handful of visionary healers and researchers, many of the actual underlying causes of chronic pain have been identified.
This has led to exciting new treatments for chronic pain, using Fascia Bodywork and Postural Alignment Therapies, now available to anyone suffering from chronic back pain in Las Vegas.
Your Path to a Pain-Free Life
Chronic pain is a complex problem and the road to full recovery and freedom from pain can be long. But now you are armed with some new insights to help you ask the right questions.
I encourage you to search for and find your own answers, be your own advisor and judge your truth by the most important question. Does it actually work?
I hope this inspires and helps you on your journey to a new life without pain.
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