In the last few months I’ve been experiencing some intense outbreaks of lower back pain. The truth is that I’ve been overdoing it, overloading with weight training on my barbell squats, not stretching my hamstrings enough (one day we’ll talk about how tight hamstrings compromise the posture of your squat), and as a result my lower back muscles have decided to stiffen up and go on an immobility strike until further notice. That has caused them to shorten, harden, and my lower back curve is no longer so curved. Which further affects my spinal alignment, and contributes to me being in a low mood most of the time.
I don’t know why I was caught by surprise, when yesterday while singing at my gig I was unable to hit the notes properly, let alone breathe normally! Ahhh! the mighty DIAPHRAGM. We take it for granted when, really, it is the most important muscle in the whole body, as without it we wouldn’t be able to breathe! Unsurprisingly, I found myself tensing my neck, upper back, shoulders, jaw and everything I had from the chest upwards, trying to find some support for that air passing through the vocal cords in order to be heard outside of my body. My larynx was under a lot of pressure for no reason, and the colour of my voice was duller. What an uncomfortable experience! even my ears were tense! Then I did some research and I found out that my experience had already been corroborated by science:
“We found reduced diaphragm movement in patients with chronic low back pain compared to healthy controls…” – Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy.
The diaphragm not only plays a major role in our breathing, but also in our posture, so when one thing is compromised it immediately has an effect on the other one, to such extent that it could also happen the other way round and you could end up getting lower back pain from an incorrect use of your diaphragm! (gosh! that sounds awful).
“Abnormal postural activation of the diaphragm may serve as one underlying mechanism of chronic low back pain. Patients with chronic back pain appear to have both abnormal position and a steeper slope of the diaphragm, which may contribute to the etiology of the disorder” – Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy.
Our inner unit is our deep core muscles, it’s like a cage which upper layer is the diaphragm, front layer the transversus abdominus, back layer the multifidus and lower layer the pelvic floor. It’s our kinetic box. These mighty four are at the centre of our movement, breathing, posture and core stability. They balance our body with opposing, balancing forces. Keeping them in good shape with the right exercises and stretches is key for a strong breathing support.
There are other very important muscles that contribute to lower back pain and that are key in the support of our breathing: the quadratus lumborum and the hip flexors (here referring only to the psoas for the purposes of this article, although hip flexors can include other muscles depending on the author)…
… along with the quite often forgotten thoracolumbar fascia, a broad sheet of tendons from different muscles merged together. This means that not only your obvious core muscles can be the cause of back pain, but also those whose origins/insertions merge in the TLF (ThoracoLumbar Fascia). So the hamstrings, piriformis, gluteals, latissimus dorsi, trapezius… so many muscles merge in the TLF and all of them could be implied in lower back pain! think about it for a second… it’s quite a thing.
Funnily enough, and this is also backed up by research, I feel that as I become more emotionally stressed about the whole situation, the more pain I get (or was it that I was stressed beforehand and then I got the pain?). Blistering barnacles! but hold on… what’s it got to do with it? EVERYTHING. As I’ve been saying repeatedly, EMOTIONS are the cause of all the physical goods and bads in our body. ENERGY = MATTER.
“Back pain is not attributed to mechanical or physical factors, but rather due to the patient’s feelings, personality, and unconscious issues. These factors are not always obvious. In addition, the people who are likely to get lower back pain are of the Type A personality, with characteristics such as:
- strong inner drive to succeed
- great sense of responsibility
- self-motivated and disciplined
- perfectionist and compulsive”
– Dr. Sarno
It rings a bell.
It’s such a relief to have more and more enlightened people such as Dr. Sarno with his Tension Myositis Syndrome (read Lower Back Pain and Emotional Stress by Doctor Sarno), or more recently Enric Corbera Institute, with his Bioneuroemotion© who understand the relationship between the unseen and the seen, the emotions (e-motions = energetic motions = chemical reactions) and the body… but really, all this knowledge has been amongst us for a zillion years disguised in the forms of rituals, sorcery, magic, and the gods’ curses. We keep on being shut down by the system with its various tools but, surprise! all this ancient wisdom has always been here.
So yes, singing is not a pleasant activity when one has lower back pain. If you happen to suffer the same condition try these:
- Rest as much as you can (body and mind).
- Veeeerrry slow, gentle mobility and stretching exercises – stop all sorts of exercise (including low impact cardio or body weight exercises – trust me, I’ve done it – it doesn’t work, just stop and take a real break).
- Drink plenty of water.
- Acupuncture and cupping.
- Deep (yet gentle) sports massage.
- I would be very careful with foam rolling: it hasn’t worked for me.
- Reiki / Energy healing.
- Soak yourself in a warm epsom salts bath.
- Apply this Chinese Wood Lock Oil to the affected area.
- Relax your mind and your heart.
- Meditate under some tree (ground yourself, stop thinking).
- Apply some self-love and surround yourself with unicorns and rainbows.
And suddenly one day you’ll wake up with no more pain and you’ll be able to sing normally again.