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Have you ever suffered from back pain? It is one of the commonest conditions experienced by people and is a major cause of suffering and sick leave. Musculoskeletal conditions like back and neck pain are the main cause of sickness absence in the UK, resulting in 31 million days of lost work in 2013 alone!

Our backs contain lots of muscles, joints, bones, nerves and there is a network of connective tissue throughout the back. Pain can arise from dysfunction or disease in any of these areas:

  • muscle spasm or tension
  • osteoarthritis involving joints
  • osteoporosis causing collapsed vertebrae
  • slipped discs pressing on nerve roots.

These are some of the common conditions.

We may relate the onset of back pain to a particular episode of heavy lifting, an injury, bad posture, overusing muscles or twisting awkwardly, but often times we feel it has just arisen ‘out of the blue’. The thing is, whether we can relate it to a specific event or not, there is always a lead up in the way we have been living before the onset of actual pain.

Our bodies are not machines – they are affected by everything we do, by how we move and live every day. We tend to have developed certain ways of doing things or ways of moving and don’t even stop to consider if we should be doing it differently – perhaps until we get brought to a stop with back pain!

Being brought to a stop is a chance for us to reflect and evaluate on how we have been living:

  • Have we been taking care of ourselves?
  • Have we been having plenty of good quality sleep?
  • Do we speak up and share what is true for us or do we give our power away to others – e.g. saying ‘yes’ when we really feel to say ‘no’?
  • Have we been taking care of our finances and do we have a healthy relationship with money?
  • Are there any issues with our sex lives and relationships?
  • Have we withdrawn from life and given up to some extent?
  • Are we feeling depressed?

These are just a few questions we can explore to delve a bit deeper into what may be behind our back pain, irrespective of the medical cause.

What’s important to realise is that in addition to any medical help we get, there is lots that we can do to help ourselves by looking at our lifestyle and daily choices of life. For example, do we move gently or are we hard and rough? What is the quality that we bring to our movements? We can always deepen the quality of gentleness and tenderness we bring to our bodies through our movements, as well as addressing other areas of life like sleep, food and emotional wellbeing. We often don’t realise just how harsh or hard we are with our bodies and one way to help become more aware of how we are with our bodies and also to establish a new level of gentleness in our body is through Esoteric Connective Tissue Therapy (ECTT).

ECTT is a gentle treatment, which is great for releasing the tension in the back that is often present. It introduces a very gentle movement to the body that can serve as a marker or an aid for us going forward, that we can relate to and then begin to bring that same quality into our own movements.

The key here is learning how to move and exercise in a way that is truly gentle for the body, and not relying on sessions to ‘fix us’. We may only spend one hour in a treatment session but there are 23 more hours in the day and many days in the week when we are not having sessions – and where the quality we move with will be affecting our bodies in a way that is either beneficial or harmful.

We do not have to be a victim of back pain – but we can begin to address the different areas of our life where we have been less than gentle, tender or caring with ourselves. This isn’t just physically, but also mentally and emotionally – the type of thoughts we have about ourselves and whether we are predominantly steady or someone who is up and down and reactive to life events. All of these things affect our physical health.

Our back health is important – our back has an important job in keeping us upright and much more and is definitely worth looking after. Anyone who has had severe back pain knows how crippling it can be – even the simplest of tasks become nearly impossible. But consider the possibility that our body is giving us a message, bringing us to a stop for a reason – a reason that is intrinsically related to how we have been living and the choices we have made in all the years and days prior to the onset of the back pain.

The good news is that we then can also take responsibility and begin to heal ourselves, as well as having whatever medical treatment is required. We can begin to make different choices, bring a different quality to how we move and look after ourselves in every way. For true healing means arresting the choices that lead to the condition in the first place …and we are the only ones who can make those choices.

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Health conditionsPainMedical treatmentConnective tissueBack pain

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    Photography: Clayton Lloyd