It’s no secret that chronic back pain is a gargantuan medical matter—especially for the masses it plagues. Roughly 85 percent of Americans will experience a bout of chronic back pain during their lifetime. Back pain is the number one complaint of musculoskeletal pain, the second most common reason for a doctor’s visit (second to colds and flu), and is the leading cause of work-related absence in the U.S.
And all these visits aren’t cheap. Currently, Americans fork over approximately $100 billion each year for back pain. And yet, researchers from the University of Washington found that the dramatic rise in expenditures for the diagnosis and treatment of back and neck problems has not led to expected improvements in patient health. Instead, estimated medical costs and the prevalence of back pain continue to increase simultaneously. We have to ask ourselves, what are we missing?
What’s to blame for your back pain?
Unfortunately, when we arrive on this planet it’s without a user’s manual. Most of us are not told how to sit, stand, bend or move properly. And our culture is not teaching us well. We live in a technologically advanced, industrial-driven society where most of us spend generous portions of our day sitting. When we’re not sitting, we’re moving in ways that compromise the strength of our bodies. Since we’re often not told how to do it differently, the problems compound.
When sitting for prolonged periods of time, the body begins to shut down, muscles become weaker and dormant, and they no longer help to support the spine. Desk jobs, too much time on computers, texting or standing in undesirable positions all lead to an accelerated breakdown of the spine as muscles atrophy and bones begin to rest on bones. Sitting leads to weak and tight hips that eventually lose their ability to move well. Our bodies are not designed for a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting, far more destructive than most are aware, is now being referred to as “the new smoking.”
Not only does prolonged sitting cause problems, our movement patterns also determine our strength and wholeness. A large portion of back pain is a direct result of poor movement patterns. For example, our single most important movement pattern is hinging at the hips. Imagine how a toddler squats to pick up a toy. The back is practically straight and the hips hinge behind the ankles. As adults we often hinge higher up, bending or hinging with our spines. We have lost the ability, largely, to hinge at our hips, which creates a cascade of issues.
The spine has a limited number of bends throughout its lifespan before it begins to break down. Our backs are like metal coat hangers. They only bend so many times before they become weak and eventually break. Wherever there is movement, especially improper, excessive and repetitive movement (i.e., bending) there is increased mobility. But too much mobility leads to an accelerated breakdown of connective tissue, instability and eventual pain.
Why Conventional Treatment For Back Pain Is A Failure
Traditional back pain treatment focuses on symptom management. Most treatments start with rest, ice, heat and Advil, but they quickly accelerate to include muscle relaxers, injections, massage, acupuncture and chiropractics. When those fail to get rid of the pain, the majority considers surgery. Patients who suffer from failed back surgery are showing up in the offices of physicians, surgeons and pain specialists in overwhelming numbers. Sadly, as surgery continues to grow in prevalence, so will the number of failed surgeries.
Back pain is no different than any other chronic modern day health issue. If we continue to treat the symptom rather than the cause, a cure will never be found. And chances are that if you’ve suffered some episode of back pain or endure chronic back pain, it may seem reasonable to “give your back a break” by decreasing physical activity and movement. But that’s exactly the wrong approach.
A Modern Day Antidote To Back Pain
Rather than ignoring the underlying root of back pain—weak muscles and poor movement patterns—we should address them directly. The best way to get rid of poor movement patterns is to repeat better ones. Foundation Training (FT), created by Dr. Eric Goodman, is a series of corrective exercises designed to strengthen our “core.” Foundation Training redefines the core as any muscle that connects to our pelvis (hips). Rather than compartmentalizing muscles with isolated exercises like crunches, FT uses combined chains of movement to encourage the core muscles to work together as they are designed to move.
FT reminds the body how to bend properly by hinging at the hips and activating the glutes and posterior chain all while protecting the spine. FT also works to bring length to chronically tight muscles in the front of the body and strength and stability to weak muscles on the backside of the body.
In his book, “True to Form,” Dr. Goodman describes the purpose of FT:
“Foundation Training is a reaction to where our modern times have taken our bodies physically. It’s not that we don’t take care of ourselves, but the postures we’ve gotten used to while sitting in front of the computer and television prevent us from moving the way we’re meant to. Everyone puts his or her body into positions that are extremely challenging, and the body begins to support them. Foundation Training corrects those positions by working in opposition to them.”
Physical therapists, trainers and others heavily emphasize core strength to remedy back pain. However, many of the core exercises being prescribed involve repetitive bending of the spine. This accelerates the breakdown of the spine. Core muscles should be strengthened in a way that lengthens the muscles of the core, re-educating them on how to provide proper support to the spine. Hint: if you’ve been doing crunches to strengthen your “core,” chances are you’re adding to the problem.
Foundation Training Changed My Life
And I would know all about those problems. I was a personal trainer for over 10 years before I discovered Foundation Training for myself. I experienced debilitating and chronic pain for years, and even with all of my expertise and with help from doctors, chiropractors and specialists, I found no relief. With Foundation Training, however, I was able to change my story, opt out of the symptom treatment treadmill, and help my body regain strength and freedom from pain.
Now I can’t imagine my work as a personal trainer without Foundation Training. I became certified just over a year ago. Bicep curls and six-packs quickly lost their appeal as I witnessed FT’s incredible potential. Now it’s all I do. It blows my mind on a daily basis. Helping others out of pain will never get old!
How do I get started?
If you’re new to Foundation Training, I highly recommend booking a session with a certified FT instructor. Foundation Training is unlike anything you’ve done and has a bit of a learning curve. Once you’ve learned the exercises, there are instructional DVDs with daily workouts available online to help facilitate your progress. You can search for an instructor near you here: www.foundationtraining.com. Skype appointments are also available. If you are interested in learning more, you can purchase Dr. Goodman’s first book, “Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence” or his second book, “True to Form.”
Kate Murphy is the owner of Health Revolt and passionate movement expert and Foundation Training instructor. For more information visit healthrevolt.net.