Back pain is common place in modern society... that doesn't mean it has to be the status quo. How many people do you know with back pain? Unless you've been living alone on a desert island you likely had multiple names and faces pop into your mind. Odds are, your name and your face came to mind as well. Back pain is estimated to cost the United States 100 billion dollars per year, that's more than the GDP of over 100 smaller countries. Yes you read that correctly, the United States spends more money on back pain than many countries make.
Some of it has to do with injury, not all of it. Some people have very demanding occupations, not everyone. In fact back pain is nearly as prevalent in occupations that are primarily done while sitting as those that are more physically demanding.
Sounds crazy right?
Not so much if you think about it. Everything else body related has a sweet spot because everything lies on a spectrum. If you eat too much you get fat, if you eat too little you die. If you exercise too much you get injured, if you exercise too little you lose resiliency and get sick. If you get too little sunlight you get depressed, if you get too much you get burned/cancer. The list goes on and on
Interesting thing about back pain is that it's never just ONE thing. It's usually a composite of tissues that are unable to handle the loads of too much or too little activity. There's a curveball though, those tissues are essentially touching your spinal cord, and go figure your nervous system is going to do WHATEVER it deems necessary to keep itself safe. That action of the nervous system entangles all of those factors making them nearly impossible to separate.
See how convoluted this is getting?
All of these variables (and this is only the surface) interacting and influencing one another can make it difficult to track down the root(s) of the REAL problem.
What does this have to do with the breath?
The answer... EVERYTHING!
The breath has an astonishingly close connection and heavy influence over the nervous system. Using your breath alone you can shift you nervous system nearly at will in any direction you like.
What does that even mean?
You've heard the term "fight or flight" right? Fight or flight refers to a neurological state that is focused on short term self-preservation, think see the bear and run from the bear, even though your foot is broken. Having the ability to shift into that mode is invaluable in a dangerous situation. As it turns out this is the same mode that a nervous system with a back injury shifts into and stays there.
Wait a minute though isn't the fight or flight response meant to be an emergency, short term, after burner type response?
YES! See where this is going?
Using the breath we can turn off the fight or flight response and untangle the other variables. It’s an elegant “solution” to a 100 billion dollar question.
Don't get me wrong getting your breath back in line isn't going to fix everything. It gives you and your coach or physio a powerful tool that enables you to work on specific aspects of your back pain. As opposed to throwing everything you've seen on instagram this week and hoping something sticks.
Speaking of Instagram here are a HELPFUL posts to get you started.
Breath Tuck Hold
Standing Segmental Flexion
Thoracic Rotation w/Breath