What really happens when my back goes out?
Isn't it curious how we incorrrectly and inappropriately phrase things, leading us to believe that they are actually true? Like this phrase..."my back went out". Like our backs just decide one day to go rogue and go into spasm, or stop supporting us. Hmm...really?
The truth is that we have been mistreating them for some time, not consciously I might add, unknowingly.
I prefer the explanation that arises from the discipline of Hanna Somatics that understands that the muscles in our back lines, have been so tight, short and locked down in Green Light Reflex that in fact, repeating a movement pattern that invites them to a) shorten even more, or b) forces them long (to stretch), sends them into a) serious revolt and spasm or b) an intense and painful gripping.
Those of you who have a tendency for your back to go out, can likely recollect pretty clearly, how and in what movement pattern this sequence of events happens.
I am a gambling woman and willing to hedge a bet that it is generally in the motion of leaning to the side and folding forward - "bending" to pick something up that caused this painful and scary phenomenon.
So what really happened?
The CORRECT explanation is that the culprit muscles, the ones chronically short and tight, unbeknownst to you, or your brain, were experiencing what we call in somatics - Sensory Motor Amnesia or SMA.
Sensory Motor Amnesia is a memory loss of how to feel and control certain muscles or muscles groups in the body. It is a learned motor pattern of the nervous system whereby these muscles display a limited range of motion, maintain a higher than normal level of involuntary contraction at rest, experience ongoing pain, and other dysfunctions at rest or in use.
When they were asked to move outside their current pattern of holding/gripping, spasms occur, or stretch reflex occurs and a tight gripping results which is incredibly painful. Massage, stretching, muscle relaxants are all effective temporaily, however lasting change and long tem prevention requires the help of neuromuscular re-education work to reconnect the brain's control over the contraction and release of the back line muscles so they willing contract and lengthen as needed with movement.
Pandiculation - What does this mean?
The number one tool used in somatic neuromuscular re-education is a 3 part process, called a Pandiculation: It involves 1) a conscious, contraction of the muscle or muscle chain, 2) a conscious, controlled and slow lengthening of the muscle group or chain and 3) then the complete relaxation and rest of the muscle or muscle chain.
Essentially the magic involves bringing the back muscles back "online" and in connection with the brain so that they contract when they need to contract and release when they need to release. This serves many purposes particularly:
- Eliminates pain - because the muscle(s) are no longer gripping, short and working all the time.
- Restores strength because you know have cortical and the mind's control over the full length of the muscle, so you can gain power from the use of its entirety.
- You improve function because the muscles are now contracting and releasing, and shortening and lengthening as you conduct your day to day movements.
Want to learn more about this pandiculation stuff?
Go to Learning resources