How Does Working on Your Neck Help Your Lower Back Pain?
If you have frequent or chronic low back pain and you’re not getting any long-term relief from the pain by working on your low back then maybe you need to take a closer look at… your neck. Yes! Your spine is isn’t just a stack of 24 individual bones that can be shoved, pushed, or pulled back into place. And tight muscles won’t release their tension and stay relaxed just because they got a massage. Fixing chronic low back pain requires getting to the root of the problem – which may NOT be in your low back at all.
If you’ve already been working in the area of your low back for months and you still struggle with frequent or chronic low back pain then there are two main areas you need to take a close look at – your daily activities and your “neck on body” relationship.
Are you daily activities causing your low back pain?
Unless you’re a professional athlete you probably don’t have the time to spend 4 hours in the gym, 2 hours stretching, and 1 hour taking an afternoon nap… every day. The majority of us have jobs that require us to sit or stand and do the same movements over and over throughout the day – and that’s a problem for your body!
If you look at the human body with the eyes of a structural engineer or architect it’s clear that our bodies were never meant to be in a chair position. Being in a traditional chair puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on the joints in the lower back causing them to ache and get stiff. Spending a lot of time in a chair also causes certain muscle groups to get tight and weak (hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, abs). If you have to sit for work then you have to get used to NOT SITTING as much as possible at home.
Here’s a tip:
When you’re at home relaxing with the TV, tablet, or phone sit on the floor without leaning up against the nearest couch or wall. It will take some getting used to, but doing it will help undo all the stuff that sitting in a chair all day did to your body. It will help improve the flexibility and strength of the low back, hip, pelvis, and abs.
Is your tilted head causing your low back pain?…
Have you ever heard the statement… “where the head goes the body will follow.”? Just watch a baby who’s learning to walk or an adult who’s had too much to drink… when their head starts to tip to one side the whole body will follow until they’re standing up straight again. If they can’t get their body back under their tilting head they’ll fall over.
There’s a complicated set of reflexes that help us keep our balance and posture as we move around and they all have to do with keeping our head and eyes level. When your head is slightly tilted your body will automatically begin to shift your lower neck, lower back, and hips in an effort to keep your head and eyes level.
How level your head is on your body largely determined by the alignment of the first two bones in your neck – atlas (C1) and axis (C2). If those two bones are slightly out of alignment your head will be slightly tilted. If your head is always slightly tilted your lower back will always have to compensate in order to keep your head level. The joints and muscles in your lower back will start to hurt and ache, but trying to adjust or massage the lower back into place won’t last because as soon as you sit or stand up again your lower back will start compensating to help keep the head level.
Here’s a tip:
You can check at home to see if you might have a tilted head. Stand in front of a full length mirror (or at least from the waist up) while wearing shorts and a tank top. Stand up nice and straight while facing yourself in the mirror. Then close your eyes and shake out your arms and legs, move your head side to side, and before you open your eyes try to stand up nice and straight again. Open your eyes very slowly and check to see if your head, shoulders, and hips are level. (You can have a friend stand behind you and check your head, neck, shoulders, and hips for levelness). If you can see a problem then find an upper cervical chiropractor in your area and ask for an evaluation.
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