Determining the cause of pain is essential to successfully treating back pain. When the specific cause is not known, even well-intentioned interventions like massage therapy might worsen the condition.
That is exactly what happened to a patient with low back pain who presented to our clinic. Her low back would be sorer after a massage than it was before.
I examined her using the McGill Method. Upon examination, it was clear that her pain was from excessive micromovements within her spine. This explained why massage therapy had worsened her condition. The massage reduced the tension in the muscles of her back, which act as guy wires for her spine. This resulted in increased instability and painful micromovements.
However, successfully treating her spinal instability required increasing, not reducing, the tension through her torso muscles. This increased the tension in the guy wire system, increasing the stability of her spine and eliminating the micromovements. She was taught how to do this by bracing her abdomen in the following way:
- She gently pushed her index and middle fingers into her abdomen 2 or 3 inches to the left and right of her belly button.
- She contracted or tightened up her stomach muscles to push her fingers out.
- She experimented with how hard she contracted her stomach muscles, thinking in terms of a dimmer switch instead of an on/off switch.
- She then used the minimum amount of bracing needed to eliminate her pain during those activities which would typically bother her.
Once the patient had learned how to successfully brace her core, she was able to immediately reduce her back pain. I also introduced her to a targeted core exercise program. The exercises enhanced her muscle strength and contributed to spine stabilization over the longer term.
Seven months after her initial consultation, the patient reported that she was still doing well.
If you are dealing with back pain, it is very important to obtain an accurate and specific diagnosis so that you can have a successful outcome. The McGill Method has helped thousands of people in this way.