Back problems (2)

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9. Stiff muscles

People who go to the gym promote massive tension in their shoulders. The shoulders are pulled up towards their ears by the unnecessary shortening of the muscles.
This is the outcome of failing to relax. The shoulder joint is pulled up out of its natural position and the skeleton is distorted.

Shoulders & neck

Shoulder and neck tension can occur from stooping, leaning the head forward/craning the neck and from exerting with the arms. (There are no doubt other reasons too).
Computers and TVs have flickering, hypnotic screens. Craning forward forces your shoulders to compensate for the weight of your head.

The risk of heart failure was more than double for men who sat for at least five hours a day outside of work and didn't exercise very much, compared with men who were physically active and sat for less than two hours a day.

(Dr. Deborah Rohm)

Fatty deposits

People who don't use their scapula in a healthy manner can develop extensive fatty deposits between the shoulder blades. This is essentially a large slab of fat located on the upper back.

Hollow back

An alternative to upper back fat can be a serious lack of muscular development between the shoulder blades. This is the outcome of neglect. The back looks hollow and sunken. 

Buffalo hump

Many adults develop 'nerd neck' - a pronounced forward leaning of the head - akin to a turtle. It comes from watching too much TV, use of mobile phones, video games, driving and the internet.
The bones are misaligned by this habit, eventually resulting in an unwanted fatty lump forming on both sides of the 7th vertebrae.
The lump acts as a counterweight for the head and actively prevents the spine from aligning correctly (and naturally). This is very unhealthy indeed. It is a lifestyle habit induced deformity.

Lower back

Lower back problems can be caused by various things but the main problem is sitting too much. Sitting causes the muscles to shorten. It is then harder for them to relax and lengthen.
Pelvis problems occur because the spine has lost its natural curvature and the muscles pull the pelvis out of alignment.

Posterior pelvic tilt

One common back problem many students exhibit is called a 'posterior pelvic tilt'. It is caused by standing badly and sitting badly.
As such it's a 'lifestyle problem' and not something we can address in class. We're not therapists. Students are responsible for remedying the problem themselves.

Sacroiliac - the lost joint?

Many people have no idea what the sacroiliac is or what it does. Often the joint is frozen and other joints are required to compensate for the lack of movement.
Frequently the knees are tasked to do the work of the lower back.

Rushing causes poor usage

Rushing is like juggling: if you focus on one ball, the others will fall from the air. To juggle, you must spread your energy between multiple concerns, and keep them all from falling.
This is not very healthy. In terms of your back it means that you are not being careful. You are thinking of something else instead of paying attention to your alignment and body use.


To remedy rushing, to break the habit, you must be aware of the immediate moment. Rushing is merely something you are used to doing.
It is familiar. Do something else now. Choose again. A habit that was formed can also be lost or replaced.

Front & back

Humans get wrapped up in ideas and concepts. They miss reality; what is right in front of them. Front and back are part of the same unit, the same whole.
People with back problems fixate on their back, seldom considering that the source of the back problems is potentially the front.


Look at a skeleton. The head balances precariously. The rib cage grew out of the spine and requires the strength of healthy torso muscles to support its weight.

Take responsibility

If the muscles of the lower torso are poorly toned and you are flabby, the body is not likely to be working optimally.
If you slouch, do not engage in daily exercise and sit all day, what did you think would happen? Is it any surprise that back problems ensue?
Are you not the cause of the problem, and also perhaps the solution?

Strengthening the front

When people hear about strengthening the front of the body they often think immediately of sit-ups, the plank and core stability... The problem with many methods is that they do not always work.
If you work muscles the wrong way or too hard, they do not strengthen and lengthen. They do the opposite: they contract and shorten.
If you shorten the muscles of the lower torso they will effectively pull the rib cage forward and down; creating a hunched appearance.

Lengthening the front

Instead of forcing the muscles to strengthen, lengthen them by thinking upright. To aid this process, undertake constructive rest, meditation, qigong, tai chi for health, Taoist Yoga.
When your body is used mindfully, the muscles of the torso will lengthen naturally. You will develop a 'corset' of muscles below the rib cage and this will help to support the weight of your upper body.

Avoid forcing

Forcing your spine upright, seeking a shortcut or adopting a military posture will probably not help your back. Remain moderate, relaxed and patient. Your body will take time to improve; to re-grow.

Invest the time

Most back problems are the outcome of neglect. The only solution is regular on-going, careful attention. Exercise little and often. Develop a regular, logical, systematic routine.
Pay close attention to how you use your body throughout the day, especially if you typically sit down a lot. Cultivate the habit of getting up and moving around a lot more. Do not be lazy.

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Page created 18 March 1997
Last updated 12 July 2021