Body mechanics are often at the root of most back pain.
Before I became a body worker, when I was shoeing horses full-time, I used to think: I wish someone would watch my body mechanics and help me figure out how I’m hurting my back.
It turned out I had to figure that one out myself. The source of a lot of back pain comes from the lowest spinal vertebrae (L-5), where it forms an articulation with the sacrum. Poor body mechanics—lifting as little as 10 pounds—can result in a joint locking up. That’s called a fixation, or subluxation. In the case of my back issue, this was the problem that took 15 years before it was released, by accident, in massage school.
Anyone who’s visited Lori or myself has likely heard us explain “… keep your nose between your toes,” or the “… you twist, you’re going to shout” discussion. It’s easy to remember, and it can save folks a lot of grief.
Here’s an example of how you can tweak your back (using last winter’s monster snow as an example). You take your trusty shovel, jam it into a large pile of snow—with the shovel to the outside of your left foot, if you’re right handed. You then lift from a bent position. The shovel, your arms, and your lower back become a long lever. This motion rotates the sacrum in an opposite direction and locks it up, creating a very nasty fixation.
With this type of sacral torsion, you may or may not feel a twinge when it happens. As the day goes on, your back becomes stiff and painful. You’ll have trouble sleeping on one side, and it’ll be difficult to cross one leg over your knee when sitting. However, should you stick that shovel in the snow so it’s directly in front of you, between your feet, and then lift, you’ll be ok—hence “… nose between your toes.”
This is a sneaky motion that many people overlook. A few examples would be: putting a laptop on the floorboard of your car from the drivers seat; or when ladies carry a large purse and place it on the floor to the outside of their foot. Twisting while bent forward to pick up or set down the purse will lock up that sacrum. Also, racking weights at the gym while twisting.
Remember to keep weight in your midline, close to your body if possible, using your legs primarily for lifting, without the twisting motion. Be sure to keep your knees directly over your ankles while bending (like sitting in a chair). It’s fine to twist in yoga class, or stretch at the gym. The big no-no is moving weight, even light weight.
It’s easy to use poor body mechanics when you’re rushing around on a busy day. Sometimes you can wear these fixations around for a long time. For me it was 15 years of misery—but I learned my lesson. I’m 66, and still lugging my drums into gigs, shoeing/trimming horses, and doing bodywork with no fixations and no back pain. While Lori and I would love to see you this snowy winter, we’d rather it be in a social setting instead of our treatment room.
ARTICLE BY: Chris Crawford and Lori Robertson
— Crawford LMT, CMT (540.270.7601), and Robertson LMT, CMT (540.336.4737), operate Downstream to Wellness (Capstone Method)—with offices in Winchester (VA) and Shepherdstown (WV). They’re modern-day bonesetters specializing in manual therapy-based structural bodywork. Find out more at Capstone Method & Downstream on Facebook.