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AMPLIFY: News + Discussion

Learn more about achieving back pain emancipation - how to amplify your Body Guitar - with news and discussion you can share updated here.


Screen Shot 2015 10 13 at 9By Sean M. Wheeler, M.D.  

Earlier I wrote of the importance of your power to remain motionless in achieving liberation from chronic low back pain.  As to many this is counterintuitive idea, lets discuss further.  

As each of us began our lives, to walk we had to achieve a degree of fixed stillness to acquire the self-directed power to move.

To move our legs and learn to walk, select muscles of our bodies had to remain motionless, or still.      

These select muscles are specialized bracing muscles appearing in six high-performance locations within the body — ankles, feet, low back, neck, shoulders, and hips. 

At peak capability and as the label implies, bracing muscles brace, providing stability by not moving throughout the day endurance, while our action muscles move only intermittently when we direct them to flex or move.

A baby begins to walk as she gradually masters the innate use of her bracing muscles; so that her young body is able to brace itself permitting self-directed movement, including the taking of her first steps.       

Understanding how our bodies must simultaneously develop the power of fixed stillness within months of birth, and combine it with the power to move, offers deep insight into how we learn to walk, and how our bodies retain mobility through a lifetime.

As we age or through injury, diminished circulation [blood flow] to our bracing muscles cause them to lose their endurance and the power of fixed stillness — to brace.  Our bodies attempt to make up for this loss by altering movements through, for example, shortening gait, restricting joint motion, and substituting action muscle strength for bracing muscle endurance.

These altered movements too often result in other physical ailments, leading to a life of decreased mobility and often chronic pain.

What if, as initially accomplished as a newborn, we were to live our lives continually renewing our power of fixed stillness?  What would we unlock in ourselves?  How might our lives become richer and more fulfilling?

Think of this for a moment.  By renewing our power of fixed stillness, could we live a life of greater mobility as we age? 

The answers are found in the wisdom we each gained as newborns, relying on the fixed stillness of our bracing muscles to develop self-directed movement; to walk. 

Our newborn wisdom.    

[Image credit: Steve Wisbauer]


ApplecoreSo many people are doing core strengthening these days and, in the past decade, we have physical therapists, personal trainers, and others who have become core strengthening experts. Fitness magazines regularly share the newest Best Core Workout for Back Pain, yet, there are an extraordinary number of people who work on their core and still have, or will get, chronic back pain — including famous athletes

When it comes to back pain, "core strengthening" speaks to an idea that has run its course. Rather than focus on the Action Muscles, the muscles that strengthen by moving them, we  — doctors, physical therapists, personal trainers, healthcare professionals, and back pain patients — must focus on the muscles that strengthen by building circulation to them — the Bracing Muscles. 


GettyImages 56405447 compI recently shared my Google+ Collection — "Stretch It Out: Yoga and Pilates for Back Pain" — with fellow members of the Health and Wellness Networking Group on LinkedIn. The post sparked some interesting and intelligent thoughts, comments, and debate around the subject, and I thought I'd share some of the conversation here, as it relates to back pain, pain management, and the themes in my book, UPRISE. 

As one contributor noted: The mind has a big part in the healing process, which is why the mindfulness movement has gained momentum. Yoga is more than stretches and movements. Although those movements are beneficial, we reap even more when we let go of fear and the "what ifs."

As a pain management expert and back pain physician, here's my take:

I often find in back pain patients that an idea — a pattern of thinking that "something is wrong" — often leads to psoas and QL tightness as a result of these muscles fighting each other, effectively locking the spine into a "stable position." This does not allow for normal movement, which then leads to more pain. The concept of mindfulness has helped so many people. However, without a deeper understanding of what is going on, many people with complex back problems are told that if they can just decrease the stress in their lives, then they can have a "normal" back. This is harmful to someone with a real problem. I see the worst of the worst. People come from all over the country to my clinic, and what I have come to understand is that there is no one answer. Anyone who tells you that there is does not understand back pain — There is no one solution for pain.

But there is one pattern.

If you hurt your arm, the pain goes away and you can get back to normal activities. When you hurt your back, the way your body maintains stability changes.

The first step is to get you out of pain, so you can then work to regain your stability through Bracing Muscle strengthening. If you don't, the pain will eventually come back, as you haven't addressed the root cause of chronic back pain progression — Bracing Muscle weakness. 

The idea of mindfulness, the mindfulness movement, or even positive thinking, while incredibly important, can be confusing to someone with underlying back issues. In this case, the thought — "something is terribly wrong" — is accurate, and we need to fix it. At the same time, that the thought — "something is terribly wrong" — can cause pain is a powerful tool in the treatment of pain, which should be regarded with kindness, thoughtfulness and all the information in hand.

My book "UPRISE" goes over misdiagnosis and the essential role bracing muscles play in a pain free back, before teaching you how to regain your posture, stability, flexibility, and joint motion. I have no technique in there, no exercises, no device to sell. My thought is to change the way the world sees and treats back pain. Once this begins to take place, yoga, Pilates, massage, acupuncture and anything else you can think of will find its place in this mindful dynamic.  

 Learn more about Dr. Sean Wheeler, Bracing Muscles, Healthy Posture, and how we can finally treat the cause of chronic back pain in UPRISE: Back Pain Liberation, by Tuning Your Body Guitar.

I recently had the chance to join Wellness Practictioner Dr. Michelle Robin on her weekly radio show, Small Changes, Big ShiftsWe talked in depth about the motivation behind my new book, UPRISE: Back Pain Liberation, by Tuning Your Body Guitar, a broken medical system that has not made any advances in long-term back pain relief in over 40 years, and the crucial role an understanding of the interplay between Bracing Muscles and Action Muscles plays in liberation from chronic low back pain. 

After the interview aired, we received an interesting question from a listener regarding Pilates, Posture, and Pain: 



GettyImages 460714021 compIn UPRISE, it is by design that I focus on exploring and explaining how the Body Guitar — your unique human back, including the lumbar spine (low back) and Bracing Muscles — can get so out of tune before delving into the readjustment process, which I call Tune Me. Understanding the how — the CAUSE of your back pain — is crucial. Why? Because one kind of pain leads to another kind of pain and causes a cascade of problems throughout the whole system of the body. It is this process that causes the progression of back pain and throws our bodies out of tune. 

When a patient first comes to a doctor complaining of back pain, all too often a one-size-fits-all approach is taken in treating them. By and large, rather than using a more specialized exam to diagnose patients, pain doctors have begun using a highly specialized treatment algorithm. UPRISE explains this in further detail, but know that problems with this treatment algorithm are numerous; it is diagnosis by trial and error. 

 Instead, patients should be properly diagnosed to see exactly what is causing their pain. While the initial cause can vary widely, most manifestations of lower back pain are attributable to one of five problems, which are all part of the same progression of chronic back pain.

  • Muscle Strain 
  • Facet Joint Pain
  • Disc Bulges 
  • Discogenic Pain 
  • Sacroiliac Joint Pain
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Until now, few studies systematically examine what really works against repeated back pain and what doesn’t.

Gretchen Reynolds, NYTimes Well blog

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