Back pain might be trying to tell you something.
We often take our bodies for granted, especially when we are in good health and free from symptoms. It has been said that we live in a high-pressure world, but perhaps more importantly, we often place pressure and expectations on ourselves. When this happens, we tend to overlook or ignore minor discomforts. If we’re lucky, the situation is temporary; aches, tight muscles, low-grade pain might fade away on their own.
However, there is a school of thought that our bodies talk to us, using pain as a symbol or metaphor for stressful situations we’re in the middle of. In fact, language is full of physical images. We’ve all heard expressions like pain in the neck, a broken heart, swallowing feelings, dizzy with anger, all choked up, etc. When we hear ourselves use such phrases, it often means our body is trying to get our attention. We might be able to avoid a lot more pain if we started listening to early discomforts before pain is bad enough to derail our daily activities with doctor appointments, time-consuming tests, extra days in bed, and visits to a physical therapist or chiropractor.
Of all the body parts that suggest we need to take a closer look at what’s going on in our work and relationships, the back is the most common. It is estimated that 90% of people will have troubling back pain at some time in their lives, and it is the reason that people most often seek pain relief. True, there are many abnormal physical conditions and injuries that have nothing to do with life circumstances. But in countless cases, back pain might be a pointer to making a much-needed situational change.
Here are three oft-used expressions that can give a clue to what your back might be saying:
- “I feel like I’m carrying the world on my shoulders.” Life has a way of piling on burdens for which we bear responsibility: an elderly parent with chronic medical conditions; a tax hike for which there’s not enough money; layoffs at work that mean you have more demands (even though you’re glad you still have a job, you are overwhelmed); being a single parent, etc. In many cases, the burdens are not in your control, but taking time to identify them and write them down is a first step. The two questions to ask yourself (in order to relieve you aching back) are a) where can I say “no, I can’t” and b) if you can’t offload any responsibility, who can give you emotional support to help you shoulder the weight?
- “He stabbed in the back.” Feeling lied to and betrayed can lead to a buildup of resentment and anger. The bones and muscles in our backs are physically structured to present a defensive structure to protect vital organs. Think of the instinct to curl inward and turn our backs toward situations in which there is flying debris – we let our backs take the impact as a way to increase the chances of survival. When someone has “penetrated our defenses” by “ambushing” us emotionally, we feel like we’ve been stabbed in the back. In such situations, we can carry back tension for months, even years, of unresolved anger. Consider developing better assertion skills, and perhaps even confronting the “backstabber” to demand an apology and negotiate a better resolution. No back surgery or chiropractor can address the real root of the pain.
- “I wish I could go back and do it over.” Is something in your past following you wherever you go? Again, take time to identify what is nagging at you, perhaps something you regret or feel guilty about. You thought you “left it behind” but it may still be “holding you back” from achieving your goals and peace of mind. It won’t go away, so it’s worth analyzing what you might do now to rectify the old situation. If you need extra help to understand it and strategize a better outcome, consider getting counseling.
For back pain that is the result of a physical condition such as osteoarthritis of the spine, all the self-analysis in the world won’t address the problem. When back pain is acute or chronic, and does not respond to medication, exercise, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, etc. the Sperling Medical Group offers expert MRI diagnosis. If the pain is due to deterioration of the facet joints, and nerve pain is involved, contact us for more information on MRgFUS to relieve facet joint pain in either the lower back, or the cervical spine (neck area).
- Facet Pain