3 Myths About Back and Neck Pain


#1 My Mom/Dad Had That Condition, So I Probably Will

Truth: There is no genetic predisposition for most back and neck conditions.


Nature vs. Nurture

Here’s an interesting scientific nugget: there’s a place where nature and nurture meet, and it's called epigenetics. Our individual genetic codes and their expression can be influenced - strengthened, weakened, turned on/ off - depending on environment.This is dynamic and we have some say about it through lifestyle and outlook and such.  


History is Fuel

We all have pain, but for some of us it’s a sticky subject. Having a Mother with debilitating chronic pain, and my own gripping pain for years, I carried the worry in my back pocket that I would “end up like that.” I was at Spirit Rock Meditation Center once in California for a day-long lecture on practicing with physical pain. Looking around the room, I saw a hundred other people with enough pain experience that they would spend their whole Sunday, and pay nonetheless, for information about handling pain. Not normal people, right?


Being one of these people, I can say that it’s because of exposure to my Mom’s debilitating back pain, that I am driven to choose something different for myself. I decided I would do, or not do, everything to maximize my own health. It’s because of this ingrained determination that I'm taking my pain story down a different road and developing tools other than surgery and medication.


Hardships are Power

Our struggles become our passions and ultimately cause us to make that decision to live differently. A decision to develop our super powers to the max influences the actual outcome. We have control over our perspective. Our perspective becomes the actions that land us on top of the pain, or underneath it.


#2 I Can’t Figure out What’s Actually Wrong, So The Pain Must Be All In My Head

Truth: If we experience pain, we’re in pain. It’s always real.


Pain is Illusive

Why would pain exist even when there’s no clear anatomical cause? After the age of 20, all our our spines show signs of degeneration. If we did an MRI on everyone, it'd be shocking. While disc degeneration and herniation is a natural part of the aging process, it is not always accompanied by pain. {MRI studies} At the same time, some people have nothing come up from imaging, but devastating pain. So what’s going on?

Persistent pain (3 months or more) is a phenomenon, that has a lot to do with the brain, though it’s not “in the head” by any means. {Read article about pain and the brain} When pain persists, it’s less about the structural damage and more about the sensitivity of the nervous system. A hyper sensitive nervous system means it’s taking less and less to stimulate the pain response from the brain. The body is producing way too many neurotransmitters in a particular area of focus, way too many.


Reduce Stress and Wind Down

In a pain sensitized person, it’s like there is a jackhammer outside the house all the time hrdrhrrrrr… it never stops and it’s so annoying! Imagine suddenly turning off the jack hammer and… ahh....wide open space. May we all get to that open space.


#3 Resting or Medications Will Heal My Back

Truth: Laying out for a day or two can help for acute situations, but no more.


Use it or Lose it.

The body is a really smart place and everything in it will conspire to help us do what we’re trying to make it do, from inactivity to literal structural changes to support bad posture at a computer all day. It’s important to seek some help to break free from patterns. Getting support from an understanding and experienced Yoga Therapist to CONTINUE TO MOVE WITHOUT FEAR will be healing.


Take Action Through Education

Take a broad, systematic look at things that affect your nervous system and could be unknowingly contributing to pain. First, accompanying thoughts. Next, lifestyle, body mechanics and ergonomics. We aggravate our situation in daily life all the time without realizing it. Insights here go into the “Pain Plan.”

Also of tremendous value is to do a deeper assessment of what was going on around the time when the pain developed and when it worsened. Curiosity about the overarching themes can help to untie the link between a worrying period of life and a worsening pain story.