Is There A Key To Banishing Lower Back Pain And Sciatica?

Thrive-JeffBell_Close_Cropped_Headshot_10-29-2013Yes, I believe there is.  At we eat our own cooking.  Let me share my story with you.  It is how I found a way to resolve my own severe lower back pain and sciatica many years ago.  The solution I found is one I have not seen described elsewhere.  However, it has worked for everyone to whom I have shown it.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I was working in a boat yard, building a good-sized wooden barge.  I was in awesome physical shape, (running to work and home again every day – 9 miles each way), and thought I was Superman.  I picked up a couple of 20′ soaking wet Douglas Fir 2 by 12 planks and carried them up a ramp.  Just as I got to the top of the ramp I felt a little stab in my right buttock.  It did not hurt much and I paid it little attention.

Over the course of the next 9 months my right leg became weaker and weaker and I began to experience more or less constant pain radiating down the back of my right leg.  By 4 months I had to stop running to and from work.  By 9 months I could barely walk.

I tried all kinds of exercises – stretching, situps, crunches, you-name-it.  I steadily got worse and worse.  I finally realized I needed help and went to see an orthopedic surgeon.  He diagnosed a smashed the disc in my lower spine.  X-rays and neurological probe testing confirmed that the spacing between vertebra at L5 was about a 10th of what it should have been.

He told me I was not a good candidate for back surgery.  Thank God!  Back surgery in those days, around 1975, was so primitive I shudder think what the outcome most likely would have been.  He suggested I see a good chiropractor that he knew.

I did see the chiropractor, who helped me quite a bit.  He managed to take a good deal of the pressure off of my sciatic nerve, where it branched out from my lower spine at L5.  He also showed me some ways to maintain his adjustments better than any other chiropractor I had ever consulted.  (I had seen a few for various sports injuries by then.)  I liked his methods so well that I went on to become one of his students a bit down the road.

After about a month, the chiropractor had taken me as far as he could.  So my next step was to learn to deal with the ongoing pain and to rehab and rebuild the muscle I had lost for the time that I had such limited use of my right leg.

For the next year or so I made a few gradual improvements but nothing very dramatic.  I reluctantly resigned myself to living with more or less constant pain, and lowering my athletic aspirations for the rest of my life.

But in the back of my mind I kept alive the hope that I would figure out a way to attain a better outcome.

And I did.  It’s actually not even very complicated.  The best news is that I think most people who have lower back and/or sciatica pain can do what I did and live pain-free.

If you are reading this, it is likely because you or someone you know currently suffers from lower back pain and/or sciatica.  Sciatica is the name given to the pain that generally radiates down the back of one or both legs due to compromised lower back disc or discs.  To encourage you I will share with you that my recovery was so complete that I went from constant pain to pain-free living.  29 years later I am still living 100% free of back pain.  You can too!

Here’s the secret I stumbled upon:  First let me share with you  a little background on the primary cause of lower back pain and sciatica.  Each of the vertebra  in your spine is separated by a cushioning structure, called a disc.  These discs are like donut-shaped, jell-filled cushions.  Besides absorbing the shock from doing things like jumping, the discs maintain the spacing between the vertebra.  The spacing is very important because nerves that branch out from your spinal column and go to various parts of the body go through the spaces between the vertebra.  If the spacing is compromised then the nerves are squeezed by the vertebra above and below them.  This causes pain and interferes with the proper neural function, leading to muscle weakness and other sensory problems.

To further stabilize your spinal column, and to protect the nerves and keep the vertebra properly aligned, there a number of muscles attached to the spinal column.  Primarily, these muscles are on your back, as well as attached to the front of your spine.

In most people, even those who do not exercise, the muscles in the back that are attached to the spine are adequately strong to provide the support that is needed.  It’s in front that the problem occurs.  In front there are two major sets of muscles that are involved.  The abdominis rectus muscles are the ones just below the skin on your belly.  These are the ones that are primarily involved in dong situps and similar movements.  However, these muscles play only a minor role in spinal alignment.  The fact that the internal organs in your abdomen are between these muscles and the spine means that they are too far from your spine to exert much leverage on your spine.  So they can only play a minor role in the spinal support and stability that is needed.

The muscles that do the real work are a group of muscles called the Psoas Major Muscle Group.  These attach directly to the front of your spine at all of the lower vertebra.  The other ends of the psoas major muscle group, (think of it as a bundle of long muscles), go down through  the pelvic girdle and attach to the inner, upper thigh, (femur), on each leg.

Think of the combination of the lower back muscles and the psoas major group as functioning similarly to the 3 guy wires, typically spaced in a triangle to hold a TV antenna mast straight and to keep it stable even in high winds.

The bad news is that this psoas major muscle group does not get very much exercise in most “normal” human activity.  It is often relatively weak in most people, even people who are otherwise quite fit.  It is usually so weak, in fact, that it cannot take over for a damaged disc and maintain healthy alignment to get the pressure off the nerve branches and to keep it off.

The great news is that there are ways to strengthen this muscle.  And if you are a sufferer from lower back pain and/or sciatica as I once was, the chances are very good that if you strengthen this muscle group to optimum tone, you can kiss lower back pain and sciatica goodbye.

There is still one challenge:  As you might have suspected, if it were easy to exercise the psoas major muscle group into a condition of good muscle tone, everyone would do it naturally and there would be no need for this post.  If you understand the basics of musculoskeletal anatomy and the principles of physical training you can take it from here.  For the rest of you I recommend working with a qualified trainer to build up good muscle tone in the psoas major muscle group.  Along with that, work carefully and safely to stretch the muscles in your lower back so that they are not exerting a constant counter-pull against the psoas major group.

If you do not have enough knowledge to use what I have shared here to fix up your back, and if you do not have a trainer to work with, I am available to consult and help you.  As I mentioned, I have used this information to restore my back to excellent health and pain-free function.  I have helped a number of others to do the same.  There is no reason why you can’t be next.

Feel free to e-mail me at:

P.S.  Of course there are nutritional supplements and strategies that can improve  your overall  health, as well as making back recovery easier.  However, in my experience, while important they will not be sufficient by themselves in most cases to restore a painful back to health.  The psoas major muscle group is the key and these other factors are the helpers.

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  1. Bill Sanders
    Posted February 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article Jeff, as always. Simple, to the point and free! Thank you for the valuable advice.

    • Jeff Bell
      Posted February 13, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your kind words. This article contains only recommendations that I have personally tried and shared with lots of folks. I can’t say that the meausres are 100% effective, but they are close. That’s what we are here to do – share what we learn that can be of help to those around us.

  2. Jeff Bell
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry if your comment got lost. I have had that happen when trying to post my comments on other sites. It is very frustrating. So I apologize. Sometimes, since I have been burned too many times by loosing what I have spent time writing, I write my comment in Word or some other word processing software on my local workstation. When I am satisfied with it, I copy and paste it into the comment space oon the site. Often it is actually the browser that causes the loss. I have found that MS Internet Explorer 9.x is especially guilty of that. Arg! Anyway, I am sorry. Also, I honestly have no idea what the length limit is for comments on my site. I think it is pretty long because there are some comments that are a number of pages long.

    Thanks for your very kind words about my site. I appreciate that. I wish I could give you some really sage advice about how to write for a blog. I really do not consider myself an expert. My real focus is alternative health research and practice. I have lots of advice there. I guess it depends on the purpose of your blog. If your purpose is to attract a large audience and potentially make lots of money, then I have no advice. I have no idea how to do that. My purpose is really twofold, although both of my purposes overlap: I want to share what I have learned over many years and what I am still learning more about every day. This is my life’s work and my passion. My second purpose is simply to express my truth, from my heart, as honestly and clearly as I can. If you find my blog and articles to be worthwhile, then I am assuming yhou have something to say, and that it is heartfelt. So the only advice I have is to write from your heart. I think if you do that, writing about what you are passionate about, and if you stick with it, all else will follow. I hope that helps!

    To your great health!

    Jeff Bell

  3. Jeff Bell
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your kind words. I do my best to provide the most accurate and useful information that I can. I am surely not in this to make money! I am in this to help as many people as I can by promoting good, sensible health practices and helping people to learn what they need to know so that they can best take care of themsevles and maintain a state of good health.

    You asked about other sites that I think have good quality informtaion. I’m sure there are many, and I certainly do not know them all. Here is one that I can recommend: I think there is an amazing amount of terrific and mostly uncommon information on that site. I hope that helps.

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