Self-Help for Back Pain
The following is intended only to inform the reader about correction methods taught to patients by their therapists. Although a great number of back-pain sufferers have used these methods to reduce or even eliminate their back pain, it is not to be inferred that they replace the need for medical diagnosis and treatment.

Whoever uses these methods does so at their own risk. Ask your doctor or other licensed health practitioner for advice before beginning any exercise or other self-treatment regime.

Dr. Robert Frost - US and Swiss dual-citizen, residing in Carlsbad, California. Studied psychology, biology and physics at the University of California at Santa Cruz and has his doctorate in Psychology. He took his three year training as an Alexander Technique teacher (training is optimal posture and patterns of movement) from Patrick Mcdonald in London.

Robert is a member of the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK). He worked for eight years in the Baxamed medical clinic in Basel, Switzerland; mostly with back pain cases with which he had an excellent rate of success. He teaches various alternate healing methods to medical doctors, therapists and lay persons throughout Europe; mostly in England, Germany, Switzerland and Spain.

The procedures presented here are described in greater detail in his book, Applied Kinesiology - A Training Manual and Reference Book of Basic Principles and Practices, published by North Atlantic Books.

Dr. Robert Frost

Back pain is a very common complaints. More than half of the adult population periodically suffers from moderate to severe back pain, mostly in the low to mid back areas. Back pain often immobilizes us and prevents us from doing what we would like to do. When back pain is severe, we cannot work and must call in sick. This loss of working hours costs employers a vast amount of money each year, which is then reflected in higher prices for us all.


Why is this problem so common and what can we do to prevent it or get rid of it? Part of the problem is postural. Consider the muscles on each side of the body in this region. When the “stomach” (abdominal) muscles on the front of the body contract, the rib cage and the pubic bone are pulled toward each other, “crunching” the abdomen and rounding the lower back.. When the “back” (sacrospinalis) muscles along the lower spine contract, the low back is hollowed, producing the curve we call the “sway back” (lordosis).

Proper upright posture requires a balance in the tone, the ongoing tension between these two groups of muscles. Typically, back pain sufferers have overly tight back muscles and overly weak abdominal muscles. Yet doing “sit ups” to strengthen the abdominal muscles may make back pain worse. To understand this problem, we will here make a short excursion into the physiology of muscular contraction and define some terms:

1) Muscle Contraction versus Muscle Tone
When a muscle contracts, it shortens and pulls the bones it is attached to together. The willful contraction of muscles produces movement. Certain muscles are always in a state of partial contraction. For example, were the jaw muscles to relax, the mouth would fall open. Were the circular muscles around the eyes to relax, the eyes would open, even when we are asleep. When standing, the muscles of the calves must continually contract or we would fall on our faces. These muscular activities occur without conscious intention and usually without conscious awareness. This continual, non-willful, partial contraction of muscles is called “muscle tone”.

2) Facilitation and Inhibition: When a muscle is facilitated (contracted), it’s opponent is inhibited (relaxed).
Muscles generally function in pairs. One flexes and its opponent extends. For example, the biceps flexes and the triceps extends the arm. When the biceps is flexing the arm, the triceps is naturally inhibited and thus prevented from contracting at the same time. When the triceps is extending the arm, the biceps is inhibited. This is natural and good. Were both muscles to contract at the same time, we would be fighting against ourselves, trying to flex and extend the arm at the same time. This would waste energy and jam the surfaces of the bones in the joint together. Done long and hard enough, this inappropriate tension could cause injury to the joint. Note that it is possible to consciously override this natural inhibition of the opponant muscle and tighten both biceps and triceps at the same time. A muscle-man does so while posing, but it is anatomically undesirable to perform movements with such inappropriate tension.

3) When the opponant to a muscle does not have adequate tone, the muscle contracts (shortens and tightens).
An extreme example can demonstrate this principle: When a severe accident causes the tendon of the biceps muscle to be separated from the bone it attaches to, the muscle does not hang flaccid but rather tightens into a short “knot”. This is a problem for the surgeon who must pull it hard to lengthen it so he can reattach it.

Consider the “swing door” still seen in the saloon in old Western movies. A spring on each side of the door keeps it in place. If the spring on one side of the door gets stretched out so far that it can no longer pull so hard on the door, what happens? The other spring shortens and pulls the door it’s direction. Note that the problem is not the shortened spring but rather the stretched-out spring that no longer pulls the door enough.

Human anatomy functions similarly. When the abdominal muscles do not have adequate tone, the back muscles overly tighten, making a “sway back”. Consequently, the back muscles hurt from this excess, constant state of tension. But note that the problem in this example is not the back muscles themselves but rather the lack of adequate tone in the abdominal muscles. Massaging the back muscles may produce temporary relief, but does not address the cause of the problem. For this reason, the problem usually recurs.

Consciously tightening the abdominal muscles does not solve the problem either. A ballet dancer came to me in the clinic where I worked in Basel, Switzerland. She had very strong back muscles and a sway back that caused her pain. Her dance teacher told her to tighten her abdominal muscles and pull the front of her pelvis up. She did so and her teacher said, “Good. That looks much better.” However, this “improved” posture caused more pain than before. Why? The “correction” consisted of consciously tightening the abdominal muscles to “fight” the excess tension in the back muscles. Now she was overly tight on both sides of the abdomen, which pulled and jammed all the vertebrae of her low back together, causing more pain. Conscious attempts to correct posture often produce this consequence: inappropriate excess muscular tension and consequent pain.

Certainly, one part of the problem is the typical weakness of the abdominal muscles so common in our society. But many back-pain sufferers have experienced that attempts to strengthen the abdominal muscles by performing sit-ups or other abdominal muscle exercises often make back pain worse. To eliminate low back pain, what is required first is to increase the muscle tone of the abdominal muscles which automatically decreases the tone of the back muscles, relaxing them and relieving the pain. Then needed exercise, performed correctly, can be applied to strengthen the muscularly weak abdominal muscles.

Increasing Muscle Tone
Applied Kinesiology techniques are very effective in increasing muscle tone. A few simple Applied Kinesiology techniques will be described here for the increasing of the muscle tone of the abdominal muscles. They have been given to patients by therapists for self-application with excellent results. In order to be effective, the abdominal muscles need to be strongly contracted before and after the corrective technique. You may think of this as the “muscle-test sandwich”. The bread on each side of the sandwich is the strong contraction of the muscle. The filling consists of the various strengthening techniques.

Therapists who use the techniques of Applied Kinesiology will first assess the functional strength of abdominal muscles by testing them. For our purposes (reducing back pain), this step is unnecessary. The muscle test for the abdominals is depicted here for the therapist with the necessary training to apply it correctly. To do so, the patient lies on the back with the knees bent and feet near the pelvis. The therapist uses one arm upon the patients thighs to hold the patient’s legs firmly down upon the table. The other arm is placed with the hand upon on shoulder and the elbow upon the other shoulder. The patient gradually builds up a complete contraction of the abdominal muscles. The therapist provides adequate counterpressure to resist the patient’s contraction. Then the therapist presses upon the shoulders gently, attempting the push the patient’s torso down upon the table. If the patient cannot resist this pressure, the muscle “tested weak”. After adequate corrective procedures the muscle should then “test strong”. Note that when a trained therapist performs this procedure, the required contraction of the abdominal muscles (before and after the corrective proceedures) occurs when the muscle is tested.
For our purposes, it is adequate for the patient to simply tighten the abdominal muscles strongly as if to protect against a punch in the stomach. Then the neurolymphatic points on the inner thighs near the knees are firmly massaged. Massaging this area may be painful and often produces an unpleasant electric shock sensation. Mention this before proceeding. The patient may perform the massage. If you are a licensed therapist and you plan to massage this point for the patient, it is advised to stand out of the reach to avoid being accidently struck.
Next, the neurolymphatic points in the dimple next to the lowest vertebra, the pelvis and the sacrum are firmly massaged.
The neurovascular point, directly above the hole in the ear on the edge of the top of the head, may be adequately treated by lightly holding it, on both sides of the head, for about 30 seconds. Use the amount of pressure that you would use to feel the pulse at the wrist (about 1 once or 20-30 grams of pressure).
Weak-testing abdominal muscles are found in conjunction with a jamming together of the sagittal suture. If this suture remains jammed, any correction of the abdominals will not hold. Correcting this jamming of the sagittal suture is one of the simplest and safest of all cranial fault corrections. Using the fingertips on each side of the suture, the patient pulls it apart as if trying to pull open the top back of the patient’s head toward the right and left ear. This is performed three or four times.

For best results, tighten the abdominal muscles strongly before, between, and after each of the above corrective proceedures.

This whole technique can be easily performed at your desk at work without attracting much attention to yourself. In short: Tighten your stomach muscles strongly. Make them really hard. Then relax them. Massage the “electric” spots just above the inside of your knees. Tighten and then relax the abs. Massage the dimples next to your spine and above the pelvis. Tighten and then relax the abs. Gently hold the spots directly above your ears on the top edge of your head. Tighten and then relax your abs. Pull the top back of your head apart toward your ears 3 or 4 times. Tighten and then relax your abs. Presto! You back pain is reduced or gone.

Chronic disturbances of the small intestine may make the abdominal muscles weak. In such cases, dietary changes and the drinking of lots more water may be required before any correction of the abdominal muscles will hold. In any case, unless you have congestive heart failure or kidney insufficiency, drinking lots more water is a very good idea for your health. Vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 may also help to correct chronically weak abdominal muscles.

If you continue to have poor posture and put undue strain into your back, or if you continue to have emotional stress that tightens your back muscles, your back pain will likely recur. More advanced techniques can be performed by a qualified therapist to produce more lasting results. But at least you yourself can spend about one minute and use the methods described here to reduce your pain or make your back pain go away and then repeat the process when needed.

Exercises to Safely Strengthen the Abdominal Muscles

The Banish Back Pain Program

Did these techniques work for you? If so, leave me a message, please. It always makes my day to hear that someone has been helped.

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