It can strike at any moment. Reaching for a car door, twisting to pull a sheet off the bed or bending down to pick up the dog’s bone–the most common motion could be enough to have your back go into a spasm. The pain can be excruciating and leave you totally immobilized. One step can be an impossible task.

Back pain, or sciatica, is not easily forgotten. Trying to go down steps is as challenging as running a marathon. Trying to move from a prone position to a sitting position takes every ounce of effort. A consistent back problem restricts movement, keeps a person tense and irritable and surely takes the fun out of life.

Back pain, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people younger than 45 years and is the most expensive health care problem for the 30- to 50-year-old age group. Unfortunately, there’s much more we do not know about the problem than we know. Various reports suggest that back surgery, the most frequent of the invasive therapies used, really isn’t working. As a matter of fact, the problems often continue after surgery.

Thomas Myers, in his article on “The Spine,” gives an accurate description of our human spines’ design problems. It’s like supporting a tent pole, he suggests, with 24 moving parts above the sacrum, with a 12-pound head sitting on top, with the wind-filled sail of a ribcage bellowing in and out, and with a wildly mobile shoulder hanging off on either side. It’s a wonder we work at all!

A great deal of thought has also been given to the powerful connection between your mind/emotions and your back. Often a large percentage of back pain stems from both external and internal stress. Remember the saying “The straw that broke the camel’s back!”

A book called Healing Back Pain Naturally by Art Brownstein, which I highly recommend for all back-pain sufferers, makes a clear case for the connection between the mind and the back.
His research shows, in an overwhelming majority of cases, problems in the back are created or made worse by mental stress or tension. Brownstein’s conclusions are direct–your back

muscles automatically tighten up under stress and even if you have had an injury; your back cannot heal when the muscles are tense.

What’s important to remember is the spine is the living be-all and end-all. Every move you make, every turn of the head, will affect your back. The spine determines the quality of your life. My yoga teacher always said, after long stretches of tedious spinal exercises, “You’re as young as your spine is flexible.”
The nervous system, which in polarity therapy is reflexed to the entire body, creates all other living systems, and is connected through the spine. Like an electric pole that delivers energy to your house, the spinal cord becomes the tower of life. The muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding your spine hold it upright, support your structure and connect top to bottom.

Most holistic practitioners will assess the whole body when trying to resolve back issues. Foot reflexologists are accurate in pinpointing where specific stress resides in your back. Massage therapists, rolfers, and myofascial specialists are skilled in identifying which muscle groups are tense and holding patterns that are detrimental to your spine. Polarity practitioners work specifically with spinal harmonics to locate and release the tension and energy blocks in your back. Chiropractors are effective in stabilizing the alignment of your back. The exercise specialist or trainer can tone your muscles to keep that support system strong.

A December 2000 Consumer Reports survey on back pain indicated that deep-tissue massage, chiropractic treatment and exercise were among the treatments receiving the highest marks for back pain. Prescription drugs were rated low.

Other manual therapies including energy therapies have also been reported to have significant success with back pain. The reason is that back pain is related to stress and emotional overloading and a skilled practitioner will work on these areas. Taking time out of your life for an hour of regular bodywork is worth its weight in gold.

It’s alarming how infant in nature our insurance companies are by not acknowledging the great success alternative therapies are having with back problems. Paying for hands-on therapy, even for a lengthy period, would still be more cost effective than the thousands of dollars spent on surgeries that often do not work. Prevention is a word not understood by health insurers.

Your back is your boss. Don’t underestimate its power.

May the longtime sun shine upon you.