Back Pain?

You don’t need a mechanic.

You need a coach.

Photo by  Tory Bishop  on  Unsplash

Photo by Tory Bishop on Unsplash

A man in his 30s just came to me for a consultation.

Among his complaints, he mentioned that if he sits in a chair for a long time, getting up is hard. He can’t get his back to straighten right away... It takes him a few seconds, even after he is standing on his two legs, to actually get his back to unfold and be upright.

‘What’s the deal?’ He wanted to know.

He has also had intermittent nerve pain in his left upper leg. Again, what’s the deal?

Most people think that such problems need a mechanic. A chiropractor to crack something. Or in extreme cases, a surgeon to apply a blade.

But Back pain doesn’t need a mechanic. Back pain needs a coach.

Photo by  Samuel Zeller  on  Unsplash

A coach is someone who can watch you perform a task, see where you have room for improvement and help you make adjustments that have you performing better. For people with back pain, a coach can help to lessen or disappear pain. This is a non-invasive way of approaching pain, and it works!

That’s because the majority of back pain is not caused by structural problems, but by performance problems. Throughout life, we all make little muscular adjustments whenever we’re in a situation that’s at all uncomfortable. We produce little tensions to cover up our own discomfort. Sometimes the adjustments are made consciously, sometimes unconsciously. But even the conscious adjustments quickly become part of an unconscious repertoire of holding patterns that protect us from the harshness of the world. We’re protected but we limit what we can feel and make life smaller. Over long periods of time, these kind of performance problems lead to structural problems. Not the other way around.

As a back pain coach who thinks about pain problems this way, I make certain recommendations. In this client’s case, I observed his standing posture and had him observe himself standing as well. Then I had him lie down on the floor and I instructed him on some simple movements and ways to direct his attention. The most important skills, at first, are learning how to move slowly and learning how to distribute attention.

When he got up after 20 minutes of such activity, both he and I noticed that his posture was different. He said he liked the way he was standing. He felt taller. There was still something strange going on with his left leg, but it wasn’t the same old pain. The pain had moved from his upper leg to his lower, and the quality of the pain was different. Sometimes a shift like that can be encouraging when it means that a long standing problem has started to shift.

With the right kind of movement coaching, people benefit in a very short period of time.95% of clients I’ve worked with noticed significant changes after one session. And the best thing about the coach approach compared to the mechanical one is that you won’t have to worry about how long the relief will last. That’s because with coaching, you are learning how to use your own capacities to help yourself. When you understand how to do it, you can do it whenever you want.