Why Your Back Keeps Going Out And Simple Solutions – Episode #5

Hello, and welcome back. Thanks for tuning in. This is the Good Living Doc show. My name is Dr. Mark Smith. I am the Good Living Doc. Goodlivingdoc.com. All of my podcasts are on my website. And you can also listen on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Apple Podcasts. This is episode 5. Today we’re going to talk about why your back keeps going out and what you can do about it. 

Before we begin, it’s important to know and to understand that I’m not your medical doctor and you shouldn’t take anything I say on this show as personal medical advice. I’ve never examined you, I don’t know you, so listen in for information purposes only. Please don’t try to treat, diagnose, or cure any symptom or disease in yourself or anyone else based solely on what I say here. It is not intended for you specifically. If you plan to make any changes to your lifestyle or your health care regimen based on anything I say, please do so with the guidance of a licensed health professional.

At least a handful of times every week, somebody comes in and says my back is out, my spine is out, something is out, I can feel something out. Please, help me. And what they want me to do, basically, is put it back, I guess. But when you feel like your back is out, I want to explain to you exactly what’s going on, what it means, and what you can do about it. 

The first thing I want you to understand is we have to really talk about what pain is, because pain is something for the majority of people that they just want to go away. Paint hurts. I’ve been in pain. I’ve been in so much pain that I was on my back and I couldn’t get up. I know what it’s like. I’ve experienced it, so I know that when you’re in that kind of pain, all you want is for the pain to go away. 

But what is pain? Pain is a symptom. Pain is an effect. Pain is not the actual problem that you’re having, even though at that time it is dominating everything about your life. The pain is not actually the issue, just like when you’ve got a pain in your tooth because you’ve got a cavity, the pain isn’t the problem. And if you just do something for the pain, if you just put some pain relieving gel on your gums or take an anti-inflammatory or pain pill and the pain goes away, that doesn’t make the cavity go away. 

Almost zero percent of the time is the pain the actual thing that needs to be addressed. The pain is always coming from somewhere else. And on this show, we don’t believe that the body is weak, sick and stupid like mainstream health care does. We believe that the body’s intelligent. And when you believe that your body is intelligent – when you look at that pain and you realize that that pain has a purpose – it changes the way that you approach that pain and your understanding about what your body is trying to do. 

I know that life is full of stuff to do, and I know people are busy, and I know they don’t want to be slowed down by pain. They just want the pain to go away. So we end up treating the pain. We end up doing whatever we can to make the pain go away. But when we do that, most of the time, the actual issue is still there. And when that happens, when you don’t actually handle the cause of the pain, the pain ends up recurring and you end up having chronic pain – which means pain that continues to occur. 

Signs that Your Back Problems are Getting Worse

I’d like to give you some signs, if you’ve got pain…I want to give you some signs that the problem that’s causing the pain is actually worsening. So if you have pain repeatedly in the same place in your back…like every six months or every year your lower back goes out. That’s a chronic problem. That’s something that continues to happen. So if that pain recurs, and it keeps recurring, that’s a chronic problem. 

Some signs that the chronic problem is worsening is that the bouts that you have with your back going out become more frequent. They start happening more and more often. Whether that’s… you have your back go out once a year and now it’s twice a year. Whether it goes out once a month and now it’s every three weeks. That’s an indication that the problem is getting worse.

Another sign to be aware of is if the pain that normally happens is also getting worse. If you have lower back pain on a regular basis, but that pain is starting to worsen, that’s an indication that the problem might be getting worse. 

Also, if it’s taking longer and longer for the pain to go away. If when your back goes out, you normally are over it in a week, and now it’s taking two weeks, that’s a sign that the problem may be getting worse. 

If the problem is getting worse, that means that whatever you’re doing for the problem is not working or you’re not actually addressing the thing that’s causing the pain. 

I have people in their 40s and 50s who come to see me and they say things like, “I’ve had problems with my back before, but never this bad. Why is it so bad now? Why does this keep happening now? Why is it getting so it’s happening like every month now? It’s never happened before like that.” That’s because the problem is getting worse. 

So if you have a problem wanted to hear in your 20s and you don’t do anything about it and now you’re in your 40s and the problem is starting to get worse and happen more often and take longer to heal…that’s an indication that the problem has never been addressed. It’s really never been fixed. So, if you have chronic pain, we’re going to deal with what all that means. 

The Intelligent Purpose of Pain

Now, what is pain? What is the purpose of pain? See, because if your body is weak, sick, and stupid, the pain is just something that indicates your body is broken. Your body doesn’t like you and doesn’t want you to be happy or at ease, and so it hurts you for no reason. Or, if your body is weak, sick, and stupid like disease care people teach us, then it’s just because your genes are bad or you just have bad luck or you inherited it from your parents and your grandparents. And in that case, if your body is weak, sick, and stupid, there’s really nothing you can do except treat the pain and do the best you can. 

But if your body is intelligent, then that means that pain is intelligent. There’s a reason for it, and you might not really like the fact that your body is hurting you, but it’s hurting you for purpose. 

The purpose of pain is survival. If you’re walking through the forest and you feel something sharp stab you in the leg…what happens? What’s going to happen to you? The instinct is…you feel the flash of pain and you jump away…pull your leg away or you jump away. And then you look down because your brain is like what just happened? So you look down and check out your leg. Your brain doesn’t know at that moment…when you feel the pain and you jump back as a reflex…because, you know, your body is trying…doesn’t know what that is yet. It might be something dangerous. It doesn’t know if you just got stuck by a stick or if you got bitten by a snake. 

So your body reacts…gives you pain, bang! Makes you jump away…Ahhh! And then you look down and you realize, you just got this barb that scratched your leg and everything’s fine. Then what happens after you look at that…I mean…if the wound isn’t too bad…you know the pain just goes away. 

But that was something that your body used to save you. If it needed to save…if your body was getting ready for you to have to…if you had to save your life somehow, it was preparing you. Get away from that… that hurt! We don’t know what that was. Get away! 

Pain is your body’s way of trying to get you to change course. Pain is your body’s way of saying something in this environment, something that you’re doing in your daily life, is not good and you need to change course. 

For some people that’s sitting in a chair for eight hours a day and that makes your lower back hurt. Well, what’s your brain telling you? It’s telling you sitting in this chair all day is bad for me. You you need to get up, do something, change something. 

For some people, if they’re experiencing back pain and they’ve bend forward to pick something up and they get that flash of pain. That’s the brain and the body saying don’t do that, that’s not good for me. That’s going to cause further injury, or it might cause further injury, don’t bend that way. 

And for some people, the problem is so bad that their bodies actually will put them on the floor and make it almost impossible to get up, but all that is a way for the brain and the body to save itself. It’s trying to protect nerves and joints that are in jeopardy. 

Just like when you’re walking through the forest and you feel that stab on your leg. Your brain is telling you to change course, get out of there. The same thing happens when your lower back hurts. When your back starts to hurt, it means something that you’re doing is causing stress and that stress is starting to affect your health and your function and your ability, and it’s starting to wear on your body and your body’s telling you something has to change here.

Sometimes you can’t change. If your job is sitting in a chair for eight hours a day, you can’t really change that. So what do we do about it? I’m going to talk about that in just a few minutes.

Muscle Tension, Inflammation, and Fixation

But realize that the body is not weak, sick, and stupid. It’s intelligent. And so when you feel like your back goes out…the bones of your spine don’t just slip out. They don’t just slip out and go back in and go out and go back in. That’s just not true. It doesn’t do that.

Now, misalignments of the spine do happen, but that usually involves injury or degeneration or some kind of long-standing repetitive stress. So misalignments do happen. But your bones aren’t just slipping in and out throughout your day, and there is no such thing as a slipped disc. Discs don’t slip around on your bones or slip out of place.

So when someone comes in and says, my back is out, what’s actually happening is…now like I said, misalignments do occur…and when misalignments occur it does change the ability to move. It does change your range of motion and the ability of your spine to move freely. 

See, it’s not broken. Your body is protecting…and it does that with inflammation and tension. Those are the two things that the body uses to protect the spine…protect the joints of the spine and the nerves of the spine. 

So usually when people are saying, “Oh, I’m out. I can feel I’m out right here,” what they’re feeling is a loss of mobility. They’re feeling restricted. We call that fixation. They’re feeling muscle tension…they’re feeling inflammation…so it feels like something’s not right there. It feels like something’s out of place, but actually what the body is doing is locking it down.

Either the misalignment is causing it to be locked down or the body’s locking it down itself in order to protect you from moving in ways that you shouldn’t move. 

That’s part of the pain sensation too…is your body stopping you from doing things. It’s guiding you. It’s telling you what to do and what not to do. But usually, when you’re feeling like your back is out, you’re actually feeling the fixation, the inflammation, and the tension. 

That’s a misconception because people think that their spine is out, obviously that bone of their spine is out and I put it in and then suddenly after a couple of days or whatever the spine’s back in and so now everything’s back to normal and everything is normal until it goes out again. That’s not what happens. That’s not biomechanically what happens. It’s inflammation and tension and loss of movement, and you have to understand that this is your body protecting you.

This is not a bad thing. Your body is not weak, sick, and stupid. It’s intelligent. It’s doing this for a reason. You’re not broken. Your body is doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s protecting you. It’s a matter of survival. It’s hurting you so you stop hurting it. 

People tell me all day long…they’re like my back is killing me. And I say, well, are you killing it? Because a lot of times that’s the problem. So what causes the body to have to protect itself? 

What Causes Your Back to Go Out?

There are a lot of things that cause the body to have to protect itself. It all depends on you as an individual and what your ability is to withstand physical, emotional, and chemical stressors in life. Some people can sit for eight hours a day and it doesn’t bother them. It all depends on you as an individual and what your spine is like and what your lifestyle is like. 

But when the stress on the spine gets to be too much, you get inflammation, tension, and fixation. Those are the things that are making you feel like your back is out, but what causes that? 

It can be physical stress. If you’re in a job where you’re lifting heavy things all day long…working construction, lugging concrete, you know, hard manual labor…can do that eventually…can cause the spine to start reacting because it has to protect itself from something like that. 

If you’re in a job where you’re in awkward positions all day or stressful positions all day like sitting. Sitting doesn’t seem like a stressful position but it is. The body doesn’t like that. That is a stressful thing on your lower back. Standing all day. Hair stylists, dental hygienists, mechanics, people that are in these strange positions all day that are kind of off balance and not symmetrical. That can cause a lot of strain in the spine. 

I have it myself. I’m bent over tables all day, moving people around. So physical stresses like that. Also, you know, accidents, car accidents, sports accidents, lifting something in the gym that’s really…you’re off balance…you’re not ready for it at that moment. Those are physical stressors and if they get to be too much for your spine, it will respond with inflammation, tension, and fixation. 

There are also emotional stressors. That’s what we usually think about when we talk about stress, right? Anxiety, worry, people have money problems, they have problems with their kids. They’ve got bills on the table that need to be paid and no money. Or, you know, work deadlines, school deadlines, living environments that aren’t healthy…or abusive…and also mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. Those things can cause tension. 

There have been many times when I work on somebody for a time and we get them in a really good place, and then a couple months later they come in and all their original symptoms are back…like back to square one and they feel terrible and they say, I don’t know what I did. I haven’t done anything physically stressful. And I say, well, what happened last couple weeks, anything really traumatic, you know, emotionally? Then we find out there was a death in the family, or somebody lost a job, or something mentally stressful happened that can bring all their problems back. 

Then there are chemical stressors also, that cause tension in the body…cause the body to start to protect. And all this stuff works through your nervous system. It’s not just your muscles that get tense. It’s a nervous system reaction when you have something stressful going on in your body. So chemical stressors can affect the nervous system and also cause this kind of tension and can cause the things we are talking about. 

So food chemicals, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, anything that you put in your body that’s really not natural…it doesn’t come from the Earth…can be a stressor on your body and in your nervous system. It’s something your body has to deal with and too much of it causes stress and stress makes the body adapt and adaptation a lot of times results in protection. Those are all protective responses. 

What Can You Do When Your Back Is Out?

So what can you do when your back is out? What we have to do when your back is out is restore movement to the spine. We’ve got to get the spine moving. We have to get it moving again in a gentle, healthy way. 

The first thing I’m going to tell you to do is find a chiropractor to adjust you. Find a good chiropractor and get a good adjustment because an adjustment restores movement. That’s the whole point of the adjustment is to restore movement to release that fixation so that the body can go back to moving properly and things can relax…the tension can go away…the inflammation can go away. 

So we have to restore movement and the way we do that is with gentle, healthy movement. But what’s that look like aside from chiropractic?

Walking. Walking is great for your spine. It’s one of the best exercises for your spine. Your whole spine is exercised when you’re walking. Pick up the pace a little bit. Get your heart pumping a little. Get your breathing up a little bit. Make your joints work. 

I should say…any of these exercises I’m going to tell you about…if they cause your pain or they increase your pain, you should stop. All right, don’t work through pain. That’s not a good thing.

Swimming…is a non-stressful exercise…works the whole body…works your spine in a weightless environment. A lot of older people do exercises in water because it’s so much easier on their joints. They can actually move their joints in a healthy way without the stress of gravity or the pounding that happens when you’re doing exercises on land…if you’re running or something like that. So swimming is a great exercise. 

Bicycling is a great exercise. It’s low impact. You’re moving your hips, you’re getting your heart rate up.

Really what you want in these situations is…you want movement without stress. You want to move your spine without stressing it. 

Yoga is also excellent. Yoga is amazing. It’s the perfect complement to chiropractic because in chiropractic, we improve the movement of the spine and get the function back in the spine… notice I’m talking about movement and function. I’m not talking about pain because pain isn’t the problem. A lack of movement is the problem. 

A lack of movement causes changes in the nervous system that cause pain. And so we’re trying to increase the function of the spine. This is where people kind of go wrong when they’re trying to better their spinal health and maintain their spinal health or deal with the pain in their spine…is that when their spine is better, when their pain is gone, they think that their spine is better and that’s not always the case. 

If the pain is gone but the function has not improved, then they will be back in my office. You’ll be back because we didn’t fix anything. If you break your knee and you have to rehab your knee and you go to a physical therapist and they’re rehabbing your knee, and you’ve got 60 percent of your knee function back but the pain is gone, do you stop? No you don’t stop. You don’t have your function back yet. You have to keep going until 100% of the function is back because that’s when you’ve got a healthy knee. If you stop when the pain is gone, you may not have reached a state of healthy function…function and movement… that’s what we’re after. 

I like yoga, not because of the stretching…I like yoga because yoga makes you move your spine through a complete range of motion in a safe, gentle way. And I’m not talking about an hour of yoga every day or trying to work on some of these really advanced poses that you’ve seen in magazines or you know, online…the crazy ways people, you know, that can bend themselves.

I’m talking about the really easy beginner stuff on the floor. That’s really all you need. 10, 15 minutes a day of moving your spine in a healthy, gentle way goes a long way to restoring the function and movement in the spine. 

Modern life is hard on the spine. There’s just…everything that we do is just hard on our spines and so most people are going to have some level of inflammation and tension in their spine anyway. But when that becomes a problem is when the movement starts to become affected, when you start to get less movement, less range of motion, that becomes a problem. 

Tension and inflammation are natural and they’re healthy. They’re protective. But when movement becomes affected, that’s the problem. Because a lack of movement affects the nervous system, and that causes a lot of other strange problems in the body…other terrible issues to start popping up.

In the last episode, we talked about the two things that cause chronic disease in humans. And it applies here, too. Deficiency and toxicity. If you’re not moving, if you’re not exercising, you have a movement deficiency. Exercise is a genetic necessity because it makes our bodies move. Movement is key. 

There was a saying when I went to college. Everybody knew it. Everybody said it all the time. Motion is life…and you have to be able to move. Movement is living. So we have to move ourselves. The healthiest people in my practice are people who move. So we have to fill those movement deficiencies and we can do that with these simple exercises. 

I’ll give you another one…dancing. Dancing is amazing. If you like to dance, put some music in your ears, close the blinds – or open the blinds depending on who you are – and dance. It’s great for your hips, neck, legs…everything. Get your heart rate up depending on how you do it. Dancing is amazing. 

So deficiency and toxicity. If you’re not moving, you’re deficient in healthy movement. Or if you’re moving incorrectly, that’s a toxicity. Toxic movement can be, you know, all the things we were talking about. I go to the gym sometimes and I see people exercising incorrectly and they might not have pain right then but they’re going to if they keep doing these kinds of things. Deficiency and Toxicity. 

If all you do is treat your pain, you will always be declining. The problem that’s causing the pain is going to keep declining. That’s the issue that I wish everybody would get. It’s like a cavity in your mouth. If you don’t take care of the cavity, it gets worse. It’s going to spread and it’s going to cause you a lot of misery and a lot of money when it comes to the point where you have to take care of it. 

The presence or absence of pain is not what we’re after because pain is an effect, and if it’s the effect you’re trying to fix, the cause never goes away…which is why the effect keeps occurring. 

If you have high blood pressure and you take high blood pressure medication, your blood pressure comes down. What happens if you stop the medication? It goes back up, because all you’re doing is dealing with the symptom, not actually taking care of the cause of the high blood pressure. 

Okay, we’re getting long here, so let’s stop there. In the last few episodes, I’ve done the tip of the day. So episode 5 tip of the day. Let me bring this up on my computer because I want to tell you about this study that I saw today. 

Episode 5 Tip of the Day

It was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and it was done on type 2 diabetes…and they were testing people who were exercising with type 2 diabetes. And the results of this study were…

“Participation in physical activity, particularly moderate to vigorous physical activity, especially in those with high genetic risk of type 2 diabetes…moderate to vigorous physical activity can slash the risk of diabetes by three quarters. Those who managed more than an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise per day, were 74 percent less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes compared to other participants who were sedentary. The protection of exercise even applied to genetically predisposed patients when the disease runs in the family.”

Now pay attention because this says moderate to vigorous activity. That means, you know, we talked about very gentle exercises here. They get the spine moving in a gentle way, but eventually you have to work yourself up to something more intense. Eventually, the body has to be challenged. 

That’s the point eventually to exercise. That’s ultimately the goal is to challenge your body. If you’re trying to lower your risk of chronic disease, taking a 30 minute walk every day – while healthy in a lot of ways – is not enough. You have to get your body moving in new ways, in different ways, and in ways that challenge it. Because when you challenge the body, you make it look for ways to work more efficiently.

If you’re making your body do something every day, it’s going to look for ways to do it better and to do it more efficiently, because that’s what the body does because it’s intelligent. That’s just a natural outcome. So we’re talking about exercises that get you sweating, get you out of breath a little bit. Now, if you’re walking at a good clip, that can be good enough. I mean, we’re not meandering. We’re really getting, you know, we’re really working for it. 

Moderate to vigorous exercise has also been shown in dozens of studies to improve insulin sensitivity. With a lot of people with type 2 diabetes, the problem is insulin resistance, you can actually make your body more receptive to insulin by exercising. 

So depending on what state of health you’re in, you’ve got to start somewhere, start with some of these…especially if you’re in pain. Start with some of these exercises. Start with the gentle ones. Try and work your body up to doing harder things, new things where you can challenge yourself a little bit and get your body…making it work and adapt. You’ll be better off for it in the long run. 

That’s one of the first steps in trying to reach this state of wellness that we’re all after. Movement is the key. If I had to focus on one thing to teach people, it wouldn’t be nutrition. It would be movement. I would be trying to get people moving. 

Nutrition is colossally important, but movement changes everything. Movement improves the function of every single cell in your body. Motion is life. I’m gonna stop there. 

Thanks a lot for listening to the end gang. I really appreciate it. I can’t do this without you. I’m Dr. Mark Smith, the Good Living Doc, goodlivingdoc.com. There are transcripts of each episode on the website in case you prefer to read it, and if you like what I’m saying here, or you think somebody can benefit from it, please share it on social media. It’s probably the best way to get this out there. 

I hope the rest of your day is the best one so far this year. Until next time, gang. Let’s get to work. Healing takes time. Real healing. The healing that we’re after that brings us toward wellness…takes time. So be patient. Be kind to yourself. Until next time. I’ll be back with more…coming up soon. Until then, take care.

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