Back Pain Relief Wiki

Learn how to use specific stretching and relaxation exercises to address the underlying causes of your back pain, which will not only provide relief to your pain, but will help you feel younger, more agile and more in tune with your body than ever before.

Cat Like Back Pain

An Introduction to Stretching for Back Pain Relief

Almost everyone has suffered from neck or back pain.

Neck or back pain affects between 60 and 85 per cent of people. Probably you are one of these people. In one study, researchers reported that 21 per cent of patients experienced back pain in the fourteen days preceding the study. Another study reported that at least 5 per cent of all patient visits to the doctor are due to back pain.

Tremendous costs are involved.

Neck and back pain account for half the worker’s compensation payments in the United States and Australia: they are the single greatest cause of lost work time in both countries; and lower back pain alone costs over $85 billion annually in the United States (year 2000 figures), about one-third of this amount being the direct costs of medical care. The 10 per cent or so of patients who suffer from chronic back pain account for 75 per cent of Australia’s rehabilitation and compensation payments.

The social cost cannot be calculated—back pain is the most frequent cause of inactivity among people under forty-five years of age. In the US, Great Britain and Australia, the number of people disabled by these problems has increased exponentially since the 1970s, during a period of only modest population increase (Schwarzer, 1996; Rainville, 1996).

However, patients are not the only ones to suffer.

Back pain has been described as ‘a wilderness across whose inhospitable terrain orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, physiotherapists and, above all, general practitioners are doomed to travel’ (Littler, 1983). Most doctors believe ‘there is little doubt that most cases are due to derangement of the intervertebral joint in association with “degeneration” of the disc and arthrosis of the facet joints’ (Ganora, 1984), or, as put more simply, ‘more than 95% of patients with low back pain suffer from mechanical back pain’ (Schwarzer, 1996).

And yet an article in the New York Times about a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine raises serious doubts about these claims: nearly two-thirds of a group studied had ‘spinal abnormalities, including bulging or protruding discs, herniated discs, and degenerated discs’ and, the researchers said, what was identified in this study as ‘pathology’ would be judged to be the cause of any of these patients’ back problems.

The difficulty was that none of the subjects in the study had back pain, or ever had suffered from this problem (Kolata, 1994).

There have been at least eight studies since then with similar results.

What Causes Back Pain?

Most ordinary neck and back pain is caused by excessive tension experienced in the muscles associated with the spine.This tension results from a variety of causes, from structural imbalances to various aspects of lifestyle.These sorts of causes can be identified and treated. Except for a very small percentage of neck and back pain, which can be dealt with successfully by surgery or drug therapy, Stretch Therapy advocates a conservative, exercise-based approach.

From the Fit Executive in the Financial Times 
by Charles Wallace

Remedies for back pain that help avoid the surgeon's knife

Our unsymmetrical bodies are the issue, not disc deformity

Financial Times The Fit Executive

Yet, having gone ahead with the procedure, it has so far done little to relieve the pain. I was reminded of this when I spoke to Kit Laughlin, an Australian expert in physiology and the causes of back ache. He noted that a 1994 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that MRIs of 97 people with no back pain showed that a majority nonetheless had visible disc problems, such as a protrusion or a bulge, and 38 per cent had these problems in more than one disc.

The study concluded that “the discovery by MRI of bulges or protrusions in people with low back pain may frequently be coincidental”. In other words, it is often not the discs that are causing the pain, even though they may look terrible. To which Mr Laughlin adds: “Diagnostic technology can’t see soft structures like muscles, nerves or fascia and that’s why so many back operations are so spectacularly unsuccessful.”

To counter this, he has produced a new version of his book Overcome Neck and Back Pain, to which I have referred before in a column about joint flexibility. The book outlines a conservative approach to back pain management that sufferers could consider before trying a surgical solution, such as the fusion of vertebrae.

Mr Laughlin’s view is that only about 1 per cent of back pain sufferers have spinal deformities that require surgical intervention. One way to tell is if you have good days when back pain diminishes, alongside bad days when pain is relatively intense. Such situational pain often means the cause is something other than discs.

One of the things I admire about Mr Laughlin is that at 63 he is not afraid to admit that he too suffers from aches and pains, including bouts of backache, such as when he recently threw his back into spasm stepping off an 8cm kerb in a car park. The trick is knowing how to fix the problem.

June 27, 2016

A member of my family came to me recently with the distressing news that they were about to undergo a surgical procedure to relieve back pain. The doctor, he assured me, had showed him the images of an MRI scan that clearly indicated degeneration of spinal discs and said that this was the cause of his discomfort.

His big insight is that people think their bodies are symmetrical, but frequently they are not. One side is usually tighter or more flexible than the other. This applies not just to the upper body, which might be expected from using one hand more than the other, but also to the lower body. In fact, he notes that almost 50 per cent of the population has one leg physically longer than the other, which can easily be fixed with a heel insert.

Mr Laughlin says golfers often suffer from back pains related to the fact that their sport requires them to swing their bodies around the axis of rotation in only one direction many times a year and they become unbalanced. Similarly, boat crews move one shoulder in a wider arc than the other when rowing.

The answer to many of these muscle problems, which he demonstrates in his book and videos, is to gently stretch muscles until they relax on the overly tight side and to build up with exercise muscles that are too loose on the correspondingly weak side.

He adds that you should only stretch when your body is warm, preferably before the evening meal, and only twice a week, to allow the body to heal.

Back Pain Relief Articles

Stretch Therapy began with a tight, occasionally competitive, athlete trying to find a way out of constant pain and tension, and over many years has become an efficient method for achieving grace, ease, and relaxation in the body. This section contains many articles that explore the context of where back pain is experienced, and a number of thought pieces that explore the very meaning of ‘rehabilitation’ in the current era, as well as the original paper “The Hidden Causes of Low Back Pain” which led to the book Overcome Neck & Back Pain. Please forward these to family and friends.

Stretch Therapy Overcome Back Pain
Course – Now Available Online!

Despite being a competitive athlete, I suffered from chronic back pain.

For months I had to crawl to the bathroom every morning because I just couldn't get on my feet. This personal experience and the desire to help others led to the creation of the Stretch Therapy Method.

It teaches you how to use specific stretching and relaxation exercises to address the underlying causes of your back pain, which will not only provide relief to your pain, but will help you feel younger, more agile and more in tune with your body than ever before.

How Stretch Therapy Addresses Chronic Back Pain

At Stretch Therapy we know that you want to live an agile, pain free life. In order to do that, you need a reliable way to relieve your back pain with as few side effects as possible. The problem is that frequent, debilitating back pain affects every aspect of your life. You are fed up with trying out so many "solutions" that just haven't worked.

The thought of risky, perhaps unnecessary, surgery produces anxiety but so does the possibility of having to live with never-ending pain. We believe that no one should have to suffer from unnecessary back pain, which is why we've spent over 35 years developing the Stretch Therapy Method that has alleviated the pain of tens of thousands of people just like you.

Here’s how we do it:

1. Sign up for the Stretch Therapy Overcome Back Pain course
2. Follow the instructions and do the online video lessons
3. You will gain a new understanding of your own body and will feel younger and more pain free than you have in years.

Kit Laughlin literally wrote the best-selling book Overcome Neck & Back Pain, which is widely considered to be the definitive book on using stretching to alleviate back pain. It is the result of years of investigation and based on the process that helped him overcome his own chronic back pain.

So, click here to sign up for our Overcome Back Pain Course. And in the meantime, download a free copy of Kit's ebook The Hidden Causes of Back Pain.

This way you can stop being captive to your back pain and instead feel younger, more agile and pain free than you have in years.

Discover the Book That Started a Back Pain Revolution

Overcome Neck & Back Pain

4th Edition

Considered by many to be the world's definitive resource on how to best utilise stretching and relaxation exercises to relieve chronic back pain.

The book Overcome Neck & Back Pain, now in its 4th edition, presents a comprehensive self-help exercise-based approach to treating these problems.

This is the book that started a revolution in treating neck, middle and lower back problems—and a method that explicitly recognises the necessity of the patient being actively involved in the treatment.

The book has been glowingly reviewed in all the peak medical journals as well as massage, shiatsu, chiropractic and complementary medical journals.

Back Pain Relief Videos

The Stretch Therapy Method teaches you how to use specific stretching and relaxation exercises to address the underlying causes of your back pain.

Back Pain Relief Audios

For over 35 years Kit Laughlin and Olivia Allnutt have been researching, investigating, teaching and perfecting the world's most complete stretching methodology.

Back Pain Relief FAQs

How do I know if my back pain is serious?

In back pain diagnosis, doctors use a term, "neurological deficits"; this term refers to any of the following serious symptoms:

  • unrelenting sciatic pain (pain in hip, thigh, outer calf muscle, or foot);
  • numbness around the buttocks, or thigh, calf muscle, or foot (sometimes only toes); or weakness in the legs
  • back pain that does not change, morning to night, and day to day. 

These symptoms can be caused by a prolapsed disc, pressing on a segmental nerve. Alternatively, with respect to the symptoms related to sciatica, piriformis syndrome may be the cause. It is also possible that two causal mechanisms can be present at the same time, their effects 'aggregating' as the technical term has it—this means that some causes can add to one another, making the first one more active. The latest research suggests that these serious causes account only for a few per cent of the cases that present to doctors, chiropractors, and osteopaths; more below.

Does your back pain come and go; in other words, are there good days and bad days?

If so, other causes (than disc prolapse or piriformis syndrome) may be active. Such causes include tight hip flexors (one or both), an actual skeletal leg-length difference (about half the population have a cumulative leg-length difference of 5mm, or more; and one's lifestyle can make this a cause of recurring back pain) and uneven strength and flexibility patterns, again reinforced by (for example) prolonged driving, or even one's sport, like golf. If your back pain comes on after doing a day's work in the garden where this is not your usual occupation, and typically two or three days after the new activity, then your back pain is more likely of the muscular sort.

What is the fastest way to relieve back pain?

Bed rest was once the universal recommendation of the practitioners who work with these problems, but that is now out of favour.

Instead, 'active rest' is recommended; this means avoiding the activity thought to have been the cause and keeping on moving—daily walking is recommended. If this causes pain in the back, however, substitute swimming—in this activity, the body's weight is supported and, assuming you can already swim, the exercise can be made as gentle as you need. Use a float if you are not a good swimmer.

Movement hastens all the recovery mechanisms. 

The long-term research shows that in half of any population surveyed, back pain is gone after a week in 50% of the sufferers; 65% after two weeks; 85% after a month; and a small (2–3% of the same population) left with on-going problems after two months. Keep moving and see what happens in your case. If you have on-going problems after a month or so, consider seeing a doctor.

What organs can cause lower back pain?

The kidneys, uterus, and liver are located low in the abdomen, and close to the lumbar spine. It is possible for problems in these organs to manifest as back pain. Cancer can cause back pain, too.

How can I tell if my back pain is kidney related?

Pain on urination or blood in the urine; these are more serious symptoms of possible kidney involvement.

When should I worry about back pain?

"Unrelenting and unchanging" are the key words here—if these describe your back pain, whether the neurological deficits described above are present or not, consider seeing a doctor. If you can still move around though, keep the statistics mentioned above in mind, keep moving, and be patient. See the point below, too.

How do I know if my back pain is from muscle or spine problems?

If your pain changes (either day to night or from day to day, or over time) then it is more likely that the softer tissues of the body are the cause (muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia). Time and movement usually helps this kind of back pain.

If your back pain does not change, though, the harder structures of the body may be involved (the vertebrae themselves, the spinal canal, or the discs in between the vertebrae).

What if my back pain is the result of a fall, or an accident?

The neurological deficits mentioned in the first section above are important to consider here. If you find yourself lying on the floor, unable to move, following a fall or an accident, call for help. You may have been unconscious for a while, too. The body experiences shock following a fall, and you may find that waiting for five minutes or so, the symptoms diminish—if they do, move carefully into a comfortable position and see what happens. If the pain is severe, and does not seem to diminish, get help.

If you are an older person, consider getting a safety alarm; if you fall, and find you can't move, having one of these alarms will be a great comfort.