Low back pain is a very common, and very persistent problem. As a massage therapist, it is one of the most common problems that my clients come to see me for. Getting a high quality massage is a great source of relief for this issue, but it often isn’t enough by itself to completely overcome low back pain. The problem originates from the way in which we are holding and moving our body on a daily basis. It is a lack of body awareness and a lack of coordination in certain muscles that causes and perpetuates chronic low back pain. Massage can alleviate much of the pain on a temporary basis, but only through training in proper body mechanics, posture and movement can we eliminate the problem completely. To eliminate it completely sounds too good to be true for many people, but it can be done if the person has sufficient determination and the right information.
A person who suffers from low back pain and wishes to overcome it must have the necessary degree of determination.
They must monitor their body constantly to catch and correct things in their daily lives that are perpetuating the problem. The way you sit, how long you sit without a break, how you walk, how you stand, how much you eat, your stress levels, all of these things and more will have an effect on what you experience as low back pain. The most important of all is body awareness. It is the awareness of how force is moving through your body at any given time.
Understanding the controlling geometry of the body enables us to understand how force will move through, and thereby, shape the body and its parts.
The body operates in accordance with the laws of physics. Its condition is simply a response to the forces that we subject it to. It has an ideal way of operating. This ideal is revealed by sacred geometry. This level of viewing the issue is perhaps too broad for some, so I will proceed with specific applications of this information.
When walking, many people simply raise their leg up in front of them and then fall onto it. This is the lazy and undisciplined way of walking. It is an example of poor body mechanics. Unfortunately, it is the VAST majority of people who are walking this way. When we do so, the force of our weight impacts the ground and then ricochets back up the leg and into the hip. It results in an accumulation of tension in the muscles at the top of the leg, in the anterior hip, such as the rectus femoris, IT band and TFL, and gluteus minimus and iliopsoas. It also maximizes the shock of the impact in our hips and low back. We tend to “bounce” when walking this way. The head can be observed rising and falling with each step. We should strive to reduce the up and down motion as much as possible. Walking is a movement in the horizontal plane. Movements in the vertical plane are an unnecessary waste of energy.
Instead of merely falling forward onto the leg, using the momentum that is generated to move forward, we should reach the leg out and “grab” onto the ground, and then use the hamstrings to pull the body forward. The forward motion comes from muscular effort instead of momentum. This simple change has a long list of positive effects on our body mechanics. We will not bob up and down when walking, but travel smoothly at an even level. We will step with greatly reduced impact on our joints and spinal discs. We will not cause excessive tension to accumulate in our anterior hip region. We will develop a stronger connection and better working relationship between the legs and back, specifically a muscle group called the “posterior chain” consisting of the hamstrings and erector spinae muscles. Tom Meyers, in his book called “Anatomy Trains” has demonstrated that the muscles of the posterior chain are actually continuous with each other, in that they occupy a common fascial compartment. If our back muscles are receiving force from the hamstrings, then it is a smooth transition, and it is how the body is designed to function. If it receives the force from the quads and hip flexors, then there will be a number of complications resulting from this improper mode of operating.
In Tai Chi, there is the concept of “grounding”. This refers to the ability to connect your center of gravity to the ground and keep the connection firm.
Grounding is accomplished by using the muscles of the lower body efficiently.
On the posterior femur, there is a bony landmark called the linea aspera. A bony landmark is created by the muscles that are attached to it continuously and repeatedly pulling on the bone surface, causing the surface to bulge out over time. The more force that is pulling on the bone, the more prominent the bony protuberance will become. The linea aspera is the site of attachment for several large muscles of the leg including, the adductor magnus, biceps femoris (hamstring), vastus lateralis, and gluteus maximus. The linea aspera also splits in two at the top to form the gluteal tuberosity which is the site of attachment for the gluteus maximus and pectineus muscle. There is no other landmark on the femur that comes close to the size and prominence of the linea aspera. This indicates that the majority of force pulling on the femur does so at this location, on the posterior femur. That means that we should be consciously directing our force there in order to operate most efficiently. Otherwise, we will be causing our body to fight itself as it tries to reconcile conflicting vectors. Such conflicts are usually felt in the low back.
When looking at the flower of life grid (shown at the bottom of this article), we see that there is a pair of arcs which correspond to the linea aspera. They have a matching pair of arcs in the location of the lumbar spine. These two areas are designed to function in concert with each other. When force is directed down the linea aspera, it will cause an equal and opposite upward force to travel up the arcs of the lumbar region. The stress of our weight on the low back is neutralized by this force. When force is not directed into the linea aspera when walking, it finds its way there indirectly, and at an improper trajectory. Consequently, there will not be any neutralizing force to reduce the stress of our weight on the lumbar region. Instead our weight will be compounded by the downward momentum of our movement.
We access the linea aspera via our sit bones.
When we are sitting, we sit on our sit bones, hence the name. The scientific name for these is the ischial tuberosities. This is the site of attachment of the leg adductors, hamstrings, and some of the external hip rotators. When sitting, our weight is directed from the upper body into the sit bones. When standing and walking, this should not change. Using our hamstrings and adductors for walking keeps this relationship in tact. It also encourages the iliopsoas (hip flexor) to relax so that it will not become too tense from repeated lifting of the leg in walking. Instead, the leg will be more able to simply swing forward, requiring very little involvement of the hip flexor at all.
The iliopsoas should be operating in a different plane of motion all together. The fibers of the psoas major are oriented vertically, not horizontally. This muscle attaches to the front of each one of the lumbar vertebrae. A healthy functioning psoas will reduce the force of impact on the spinal discs and also keep them tucked in place between the vertebrae, reducing the likely hood of disc rupture. The force that we direct into the psoas should be in the vertical plane, rising up from the attachment on the femur (lesser trochanter), and into the diaphragm region. This rising up action is strongly suggested by the Uddhiyana bandha in yoga which means “flying up”. The psoas actually shares a facial compartment with the diaphragm, another revelation from Tom Meyer’s “Anatomy Trains”. The psoas is the primary muscle that we should think of as being our “core”. It is the most important low back stabilizer.
The flower of life arcs are kinetic energy meridians.
They show the ideal way for the body to operate. In order to align our kinetic energy vectors with the flower of life grid arcs, you have to develop your ability to think from a subtle energy perspective. Those who are familiar with meditation will easily understand this section. Those who are not will do well to become familiar with it. Imagine that there is a constant downward flow of energy moving down the arcs that lead from the sit bones to the linea aspera. Because this constant flow is present, any kinetic energy vectors that move into this area will be caught up in that current and move in alignment with it. Establishing this current is the way that we can control our kinetic energy vectors. This constant downward flow in this area is the driving force for your walking. It is the impetus for the movement. It is the place from which you bring the leg forward (not lifting the leg) in preparation to step, it is the place where the weight travels from the hip into the ground upon taking a step, it is the place that receives the ricochet of that force, and it is the area from which the muscles pull during the motion of the actual step. When we walk in this way, it causes an upward traveling force to move through the lumbar region, encouraging the muscles in that area to relax.
Over time, practicing this way of walking has the potential to radically change the condition of your hips, spine, and greatly reduce low back pain and dysfunction all by itself. There are other things that can be added to this to make the transformation even more dramatic. But this concept should be understood and mastered first of all, so that we do not sabotage any of our other efforts.
Sacred geometry yields many more such insights into body mechanics. These kinds of realizations may not be easily detectable simply through observing the flower of life grid and its anatomical correspondences. Some are more apparent than others. Yet the ability to apply such knowledge comes only through much hard work and practice, never through simply observing. Observing is a crucial first step, but next is required dedication to practice, and commitment to careful self observation, and honoring the needs of the body.
"Yoga And Sacred Geometry" Samuel Palmer's second book.
This book reveals the controlling geometry that underlies the structure of the human body and shows how we can use this knowledge to refine and perfect our yoga practice, gain insight into the true purpose of yoga and become a master of your body. Packed with marvelous full color illustrations.
e-book, 172 pages. 3D Computer generated illustrations.