Back Fix Bodywork
HOW OUR STRUCTURES WORK &
WHY WE HAVE STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS
Scanning: Read Bold.
FROM CHAPTER 2
The misalignment cause of Back Pain
Chronic back problems exist when your pelvis tilts down in front,
and your position is formed in the shape of hard fascia. This
taken a long time to develop and the tilt is now the shape of your
So you can’t just un-tilt to a less
tense and balanced stance. Fascia doesn't “let go” the way a
muscle will when you turn off its nerve signal. You can’t think or
affirm tilts away. They are physically formed by hard, dried
So, instead, you
compensate by tilting some other part of your body in the opposite
direction. You curve backward above the waist. This is how you
"straighten up." But you will have to tighten your back muscles
to do this. Then you may feel pain in your lower or middle back.
If the compensating tilt of
your back is at too sharp an angle you’ll also squeeze vertebrae
together and compress the disks between them. And that can
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FROM CHAPTER 2:
NEXT, YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT
Think of your pelvis as a box. It’s a big bony structure connected at the
bottom by muscles in your legs and at the top by muscles in your abdomen,
sides and back. At the bottom, thigh bones connect at your hip joints,
and at the top, the spine connects in your back.
This box can swing and tilt. You can lean forward and back and from
side to side. You can rotate your pelvis left and right on your legs and
rotate your upper body, above the pelvis, at your waist. You can do all
this because you have conscious control over the movement of these
muscles. And when the muscles move, the bones of the pelvis, legs and
spine move. And “you” move.
If your pelvis is tilted too far in any direction, you’ll fall over
unless you compensate by tilting some other part of your body in the
opposite direction. You’ll tilt either at your waist or at your hip
joints. In both cases you will have to tighten your back muscles to do
this. If the compensating tilt is at too sharp an angle you’ll squeeze
vertebrae together and compress the disks between them. Then you may feel
pain in your lower back.
You can try it now. Tilt your pelvis down in front and arch your back.
See how you feel. Now try tucking you buttocks down in back and letting
your chest collapse into your abdomen. In both of these “exercises,”
can easily come back to a relaxed and more balanced position since you
have the muscle ability to “un” tilt.
But chronic back
problems exist when your tilts are formed in the shape of hard fascia.
They usually have taken a long time to develop and they’re now the shape
of your body. So you can’t just un-tilt to a less tense and balanced
stance. They don’t “let go.” You can’t think or affirm them away. They
are physically formed by hard, dried putty. As I explain later in this
book, emotional and digestive conditions do influence the amount of
tightness or looseness in our backs. But once the fascia gets bunched-up
and hard, that degree of tightness is “a done deal.” And it can
only be lengthened by getting the fascia to soften and then be pushed into
a longer shape.
FROM CHAPTER 14:
HOW HOLDING IN EMOTIONS IN THE ABDOMEN MAKES BACKS HURT
When we hold in emotions, much of it happens in the abdomen. Emotions
are “energy motion” in the body. An ingrained pattern to keep emotions in
check requires a person to tighten the external walls of the abdomen, the
muscles of the sides and lower back, the internal and external muscles of
the pelvis, the internal muscle of the diaphragm. and even the hamstrings
in the back of the thigh. It also requires tightening our old friend, the
psoas. As these structures were repeatedly tightened, the fascia around
and through the muscles grew into that restricted shape. And now the
muscles have to stay tightened.
The person’s physical body is now “designed” to hold in emotions. Even
if their mental intentions are to let the emotions out, the nerve signals
to the muscles have little effect. This is why Structural Integration
Bodywork helps psychotherapy so much. It lengthens and loosens the
serious chronic shortness and compression in all these muscles. That
allows the person to feel, identify and express emotions far better than
he (or she) has been able to do in years.
In the fascia of the psoas muscles
is imbedded the nerve plexus for
the intestines. So holding in our guts tightens the psoas and also
creates intestinal constipation, diarrhea and/or spasms. All this
tightens the lower back. In addition, the psoas and iliacus muscles are
controlled by a subconscious reflex connected to the Chinese Medicine
kidney “system.” This “system” tightens in response to fear. So fear,
too, tightens the lower back. (And now you know a scientific reason why
cartoon characters look so swaybacked when they’re running away in fear.)
When people learn healthy ways to release the emotions they hold on to,
their lower back pains often get better. Their expression removes the
direct cause of further torso tightening. And it gives the back a chance
to loosen up from some of its old tightness. This is especially true
after some of this Bodywork has freed up the hardened fascia.
FROM CHAPTER 18:
COMPARING: COLLAPSING DOWN - VERSUS - STRAINING UP
Now I’ll spend a few sections describing the reasons people have one
kind of back pain or another. In all cases, lower and middle back
pain (and most upper back pain) occurs when the back muscles are tightened
- usually automatically - to compensate for shortened leg and abdominal muscles. And
it’s almost always accompanied by a tilted pelvis. There is a very clear
relationship between the way the pelvis is tilted and the kind of attitude
about life the person has. These sections will elucidate on that.
Rather than being a second compensation on top of the first tilt,
tucking the buttocks down in back can be thought of as an alternate way to
compensate for short psoas and iliacus. The person simply chooses another
way to stand up against “the forces of the world.”
The choice of tilting forward or backward occurs out of experiences in
childhood, including parental and cultural conditioning. By the time
we’re seven years old, the form has been set in our fascia, and the pull
of gravity, over time, increases the distortion. This happens for both
males and females and can create tension and pain after many years. Often
times, an injury or repeated intensive activity suddenly makes the
condition much worse, so that it needs therapy. High heels significantly
accentuate misalignments and are often the cause of physical problems.
Whatever physical or emotional way we “bunch up,” the major cause of
back pain is always our imbalanced relationship to the pull of gravity.
Gravity is the most consistent and most pervading force on our physical
bodies. Even though we usually don’t think of it in this way, you can see
from my preceding discussion that our bodies are very involved with
gravity just to stand up.
Comparing the two general patterns helps us understand them better.
Instead of curving backward above the pelvis, alternate
compensation people curve backward below the pelvis. Instead of
pinching the vertebrae in the middle of the lower back, they pinch the
buttocks into the hamstrings. Curving backward above the pelvis is a
“straining up” posture. Curving backward below the pelvis is a
“collapsing down” posture.
Let’s assume the Basic Imbalance to start with; the pelvis is tilted
down in front. In the first case, the person tries to pull the
front of the pelvis back up, literally, by pulling up and back against the
force of gravity. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is by also
pulling down and tightening the lower back. To lift up the front of the
torso with muscular effort, you have to pull down with the muscles of the
back. It’s a lever action and the pivot occurs right at the vertebrae
numbered L3, in the middle of the lower back.
As the person bends backward with the lumbar spine, it pushes the belly
out to the front and pushes the upper torso up and to the back. Even
though the chest gets tight and is pulled down by short fascia, this
bending backward is also a way of pushing the chest up. Then, because of
the curve of the spine, this forces the head and neck to jut forward. The
person is straining to stand upright, and technically, is trying to
pull the pelvis horizontal.
In the other compensation, the people try to push the front of
the pelvis upward, from below. They do this by pulling the bottom of the
buttocks down, which also pushes it toward the front of the upper thighs
and up into the bottom front of the pelvic area. Pulling the buttocks
down also pulls down on the rest of the back. So this, too, is a lever
motion, to try to get the front of the torso up. But it starts a little
lower to the ground and significantly, occurs in the legs and lower pelvis
rather than in the torso. People who’ve done this often have
exceptionally dense, tight thighs. The pivot is at the hip joints where
the thighs connect to the pelvis. Again, it’s an unconscious attempt to
correct the tilt and make the pelvis horizontal. And like the first
method of arching with the back, this dipping of the buttocks is an over
Neither approach really corrects the original shortness.
They just add their own versions of more tightness. And
psych-somatically, the person has created a rigid stance in his or her way
of relating to all his daily events and interpersonal relationships.
The person is either straining up
against things so "Nothing will pull me down. I can stand up to all
the forces of the world by myself. I am the responsible and capable
Or, the person has already
given in to the forces and continually strains to stand up on top of that.
There is also resentment and resistance in the back of the thighs.
Many of these people may seem to ask for help, but then resist it as soon
as it's offered. The straining part above the pelvis is not the same
"person" as the extremely tight part below the pelvis.
FROM CHAPTER 30:
THE PROBLEMS OF TIGHT ARMS WITH EXAMPLES OF HOW ARM TIGHTNESS
CAUSES TORSO TIGHTNESS
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is an inflammation of the tendons and tendon
sheaths in the wrists. This condition also originates from tight arms.
For computer data entry personnel and newspaper reporters, the latest term
for the problem is “Computeritis,” because they type on computers.
worked on an inflamed wrist tendon problem for a 32 year old woman just
out of graduate school. She could no longer write without pain occurring
in her wrists, hands and forearms. Some of it would hurt all the time.
She was also a very “tight” person, all over her body, and had had an
exceptionally tense family life. She’d had knee problems due to tightness
After I spent three hours doing her arms, her grip was much stronger
but she still had localized pain in the wrist, yet now only when she tried
to write. The tendons and their sheaths were still inflamed, but the
original cause, the tight muscles from chest to shoulder to fingertips,
I did notice, though, as I worked further and further up her
arm, that the tight muscles in each section had contributed to the hand
and wrist problem. Even after I’d loosened up to her shoulders, her grip
did not come from her whole body, which was still chronically tight. All
she still had available to her, in large range of motion, were the arm
muscles that I’d lengthened.
UNDERSTANDING THE EVOLUTION OF HUMAN STRUCTURE, AND FROM THAT
UNDERSTANDING, LEARNING TO USE THE ARMS AND SHOULDERS BETTER
The pelvis is the largest and heaviest weighted area of our
bodies. And the thigh bones are the longest bones in the body. The hip
joints connect these together, and they are very strong ball-in-socket
mechanisms that allow a lot of movement. So our pelvis and thigh area is
very solid, very strong and very flexible. Further, this powerful part of
us stands on and is connected to, the ground, which is 8000 miles thick
and made of rock.
The arms and shoulders, on the other hand, are much smaller in both
bone and muscle mass, and the shoulder area has a less stable but much
more flexible joint system. Your arms and shoulders are connected to the
air, an enormously spacious place, but one lacking anything you can stand
on the way you can stand on the ground with your legs.
The best, and least painful, way to use our bodies is to take advantage
of this situation: How we’re built and what we’re connected to. Since we
are not fully educated in just how our body structures are designed to
work, we don’t use them to the best of their abilities. The purpose of
this chapter is to clarify this anatomy so you can get a better idea of
what you can be doing. Then you can seek out Bodywork and Movement
Training that will help you live to more of your potential, and with less
tightness and pain.
The major thing we
do wrong is have locked and rigid pelvic-hip areas and then try to use
more effort from the shoulder and arm areas than they are designed for.
If we learn to use our pelvis, hips and thighs as the power source, and
the upper limbs as the directors of this power, we’ll be able to do more
with less strain. That’s a good idea in the context of this book because
much of that strain occurs in the back.
THE STRUCTURE AND TENSIONS OF THE HEAD AND
HOW THEY AFFECT THE BACK
The structure of the head, itself, gets tight. The head is not a hard
ball of bone, stuck rigidly on the end of a stick we call the spine. The
head is a dynamic structure of 25-30 inter-locking bones with
interconnecting muscles, tendons, ligaments and “sheets” of tough fascia.
It’s designed to expand and contract, once every four seconds or so, to
pump the cerebro-spinal fluid up the spinal column into the brain cavity.
And all these muscles of the head end up connected to the neck. They’re
called pre- (or “in front of”) vertebral muscles. The eyes, the facial
muscles and the jaw all connect to the front side of the spine in the back
of the neck. Therefore, any tightness held in the face, skull or jaw
tightens the neck by pulling the vertebrae closer together and
accentuating their curve. This tightens the rest of the spine, too, and
creates tension in many muscles. This section will describe to you the
many ways it happens.
For starters, you can try it now
yourself. Tighten your face hard and sense what happens to your neck.
Now imagine what’s happening for you all the time, with your undetected, chronic
HEAD AND BACK ENERGY CONNECTIONS, AND THE PROBLEMS
OF GETTING STUCK IN MENTAL STRAIN
As I mentioned in the section on arms, energy flows run up and down the
body. Almost all of them run through the head. And the few that don’t
reach into the head do run through the shoulders and neck. So a tight
head blocks or constricts energy flow in the arms, legs and torso and
creates tightness in the muscles where the flows run through.
Of special interest are the three “yang” meridians whose energy
flows start in the head and run down through the neck, torso and legs, and
end in the feet. Together, they form a “covering” over the outer
portions of the body. They run down the front, back and sides. These are
the energies of “doing outwardly” in the world. And they indeed run
through the middle of our big external “doing” muscles.
At their terminus in the feet and head these flows connect to
(or become) three “yin” energy meridians. The yin flows then run upward
from the inner arches of the feet, along the inner muscles of the legs,
and up the central column of the torso to the head.
The “yin” meridians provide energy into the
functions that the “yang” meridians accomplish, sort of like supplying
energy from a battery to power our motors. So it’s a loop; nourishment
coming up through the center; accomplishment flowing down the outside.
The yin is also supposed to settle
into the body and promote relaxation and rejuvenation, when we’re not
But a tight head and neck “locks” the
energy up at the top of the body; less continuous flow circulates.
The yang keeps pulling more and more energy from the yin sources. This
actually makes the head structure even tighter and drains our storage
batteries. People’s energies get “used up,” and they burn out. And
this is one of the physiological results of stress.
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