When I started experiencing lower back pain in 2013, I ignored it. It only hurt first thing in the morning and would dissipate after an hour and I could go about my day. But as the pain got worse, I would dread waking up in the morning because I knew I’d have to deal with intense pain for about an hour. Intense pain anywhere in the body can put you in a negative mood, but something about pain in the spine would cause me to wake up on the wrong side of the bed every day and in pain. I started getting massages once per month, as well as doing more core work. That helped about 2% — after working out or getting a massage, I’d feel AHmazing! But by the next morning, I was in pain yet again.
Fast forward to February 2017, I wake up with excruciating back pain per usual and power through my morning just waiting to get warm enough that the pain subsides. I decided that I need to pursue a remedy like I’d pursue any other task — just keep going until something clicked.
I had heard acupuncture can help with physical and emotional pain (these are more connected than most of us realize!). I know people who’ve had acupuncture and liked it, so it seemed like a good place to start.
The day of my appointment, I was excited to experience this ancient treatment and hoped it would help. I described my lower back pain to the Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc). I also mentioned I’m tight in the hips and calves. He explained that these could all be connected — especially the lower back and hips. The psoas (which I’ve often heard mentioned in yoga) runs from the front of the hips and around the lower back.
According to yoganatomy.com, the psoas muscle “is probably the single most important postural and structural muscle in the body. There is a long list of reasons why it is so important:
- It connects the upper half of the body to the lower half of the body.
- It lies on either side of the sacrum and therefore our center of gravity, which means…
- It is key in controlling big movements of the body.
- Related to the strength of the spine.
- Can create a strong lordosis (accentuated lumbar curve).
- Often gets related to back pain.
- The epitome of “core” muscles.”
The LAc explained stress can also cause a tight psoas. He put pins in my hands, my feet, and one at the top of my head–all painless. I did feel a strange jolt of energy when he put a needle in my foot. I felt relaxed yet invigorated. Best of all, during and after the session I felt ZERO lower back pain. He explained more about the mind-body connection saying mental and emotional stress transfer to the body. I believe I’m carrying my stress in my lower back and hips. After this session, I decided to increase my core work but most importantly, focus on stretching my psoas and using meditation to ease my mind so I can keep stress from negatively impacting my body.
Here is a stretch I do daily on my bed. Remeber to always be gentle with your body!
Laying halfway on your bed, let one arm and leg hang off the bed. Grab your foot and gently pull it toward your head (like dancer’s pose). Stretch out the other leg, or pull your knee into your chest. Lie like this for about a minute and slowly release and do the other side.
Gaining flexibility is not a quick-fix solution to back pain. I still have back pain but it’s not as intense. I’m eager to fast-forward six months down the road and see how much of a difference stretching will make. For now, though, I know I can rely on acupuncture.