What can Rolfing® do for low back pain?
Low back pain is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart, because it’s what brought me to Rolfing in the first place - I struggled with it for several years before finding Rolfing.
Disclaimer: Every body is different. As a Rolfer, I work to help people based on their individual needs. There is almost never a one-size-fits-all technique when it comes to balancing the body. As such, what is said here is very generalized, and is meant to give you a better understanding of what is going on rather than diagnose or treat any specific ailment.
1. What causes low back pain?
Essentially, there are two main types of low back pain: muscular and skeletal. Yours may be primarily one, or a combination of both.
Muscular low back pain is generally caused by an imbalance in the body that puts a disproportionate load on the muscles of the low back. Most commonly, this is brought on by postural issues from things like sitting for too long, slouching, walking or running with an imbalanced gait, etc.
Skeletal low back pains (slipped discs, ruptured discs, etc.) generally are best addressed by a combination of Rolfing and Chiropractic work. Chiropractic works to realign the discs and other bony structures, while Rolfing helps to reset the fascial and muscular imbalances that may have caused or been caused by the skeletal issues.
2.What do we work on during a Rolfing session or series?
For low back pain, we work to address the muscles and fascial systems that are causing the imbalance in your low back:
Hip flexors (Quads, Iliacus and Psoas):
This is one of the most common origins of low back pain in people. Iliacus and Psoas are the primary muscles that flex the hip, meaning they help pull the knee up towards your chest or forward as you walk. The quadriceps are also a minor hip flexor, but they only carry a bit of the load. When the hip flexors get overly tight, or worse, when only one side gets overly tight, they pull the low spine forward, causing the muscles on the back of the body - the Erector group and Quadratus Lumborum - to over work to hold the spine in a neutral position.
Over time, this causes those muscles to grow tired, over stretched, inflamed, or just stuck in a stretched position and not able to function properly. By releasing the hip flexors, we allow the low back to regain its original neutral position and the muscles on the back to stop over working, and therefore stop hurting.
Hamstrings and Glutes:
The other area we typically work on for low back pain is the Glutes and Hamstrings. The Glutes and Hamstrings serve the opposite purpose of the hip flexors - the pull the legs behind you as you walk. However, more important than that for working on low back pain, they help stabilize the hips when you’re walking or standing. If there’s a large imbalance between the two sides, whether from an old injury, new injury, or years of habits, they could cause the low back muscles to react in a disproportionate way, and just like with the hip flexors, cause the low back muscles to over-work and eventually tire out.
Therefore, with the Hamstrings and Glutes, our primary goal is to balance the right and the left sides to equalize weight distribution when standing or walking.
Just like with any issue, there will always be other factors to work on as well - correcting sitting or standing position, creating new habits when walking or standing, or just working other areas of the body that may have an influence on your specific issue.
3. What do I do after working on these areas?
The best thing to do is to maintain balance, length and strength through the hip flexors, Hamstrings and Glutes. You will typically be given a series of stretches or strengthening exercises to help to balance these issues.
As always, if you have any questions about your own specific issues, feel free to give me a call or schedule a free consultation.