Back Pain: From Non-specific Back Pain or Sciatica, DDD… to a Ruptured Disc- How can it be fixed ?

Non-specific back pain is a common diagnosis given to lots of back pain patients.

First off, there is actually no such thing. All back pain has a specific cause or causes… but they don’t quite know what it is – usually because they have not spotted anything major in the MRI or X-ray so they call it: “Non specific back pain” and give you pain killers and/or an anti- inflammatory drug.

Lots of back pain self-resolves quite quickly and so a pain killer and/or an anti-inflammatory drug can sometimes speed this process up, but… pain killers and anti-inflammatories can often make the situation worse as you will not be getting the pain signal you need to restrain your movement until your back is better, so if you do take them, bare this in mind when you move and lift things.

The first good thing about being diagnosed with non specific back pain is that it’s a flip-of-the-coin diagnosis: When your doctor failed to see anything major on your visuals his mental coin-flip might have landed on the “It’s all in your head” side you might now be marked down as an idiot time waster having decided that “it’s all in your head”. The second good thing is, whatever the specific cause is, it’s not some dramatic damage that can be seen visibly, so it’s usually very easy to fix. (Backs with dramatic visible damage like herniated discs can also be fixed… but it takes a little longer – a few weeks rather than a few days).

Backs are very electrical – there are lots of nerve signals flying around and when there is any problem these nerves fire and request protective muscle spasms from the back muscles to protect the spine. In Physiotherapy circles, they have these fashion cycles that feel almost like “the muscle of the week” . A few years ago it was the psoas. “It’s your psoas, lets give you lots of exercises to relax/ strengthen , stretch your psoas…” . At the moment the piriformis is ‘hot’ and is top of the fashion charts. The thing is, when a nerve in the back is trapped, it sends off signals to get the muscles to spasm over a reasonably large area range and so it’s… “all of them” and the fascia, the whole area becomes a bit of a twisted congested mess. So “the back muscles are in spasm” (and for the lower back this includes all the way down to the glutes – your bum) is the best way to describe and approach the treatment of the situation. 

These muscle spasms  (a muscle spasm is not painful in itself like a cramp) do two things that can contribute to a back problem:

i) The back muscles are very very powerful, the back muscles of a frail granny are more powerful than the biceps of Eddie Hall – they can carry her to the shops and back and keep her upright all day long.

So when they are in permanent long term contraction, they put huge extra pressure on the spine and the facet joints that connect one vertebrae to the next. When the facet joints are stressed by this they send out a nerve signal to request a protective muscle spasm – so a feedback loop is set up that can last for years, even decades – your entire life.

ii) They tell you that your heart pumps the blood around the body – it doesn’t – it pumps the blood away to the tissues through the arteries. But to get back again, there is very little pump power left in the veins and so one of the techniques that your body uses is called “the muscle pump” – every time your muscles move, they squash the veins and this pumps the blood back towards the heart as the veins have one way values. The human body has another system, just like the blood system that has no heart at all – the lymph system. There is twice as much lymph as there is blood – so it’s quite important.

Your back muscles are some of the largest and most powerful muscles in your body so, in a way, they are your second heart; pumping blood & lymph around the body.

As your lymph system has no heart pump it relies a lot more on the muscle pump than your blood system does. So when your back muscles are in spasm, not only are your facet joints getting squashed, your lymph system is impeded.

So how do you fix a painful back – anything from Non specific back pain to ruptured discs ?

The answer: “You can’t… but your white blood cells can” . So your job, and the job of your therapist, is to take the pressure off the facet joints by reducing the muscle spams and then getting the muscle pump to work to clear out the stale old stagnant lymph allowing fresh white blood cells in to fix the damage. White blood cells can fix anything, but they need to get to the damaged area and afterwards the waste junk needs to be able to be removed. These things can’t happen if the area is stagnant and congested : A little video showing these organic mini-killer bots at work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbptpDSHQEM.

The two main techniques used at The GoodBack Back Pain Clinic to achieve this are:

a) Ultrasound at a certain setting to reduce the muscle spasm: https://goodback.co.uk/2018/12/15/ultrasound/

b) EMS Electro Muscular Stimulation to get the muscle pump working: https://goodback.co.uk/2018/12/15/ems-therapy/

No Back Cracking ! At GoodBack Back-Cracking is never used.

For Non-Specific Back Pain – where there is no serious physical damage – the ASMI can also be used.

For high-end cases – like herniated discs – the ASMI is not used over the herniated discs but can be used on the other parts of the spine. Why this is effective is the spine has some long ligaments that run most of the it’s length and a small tightness high up can exert  huge pressure on the lower spine – a lot of the spine works on a lever like effect; and so removing this tension with the ASMI can help a lot.

How long does it take ?:

Non specific back pain commonly takes about 3 sessions. Some easy fixes can take just one session, difficult cases can take 5.

Here are a couple of patients, in both cases, these patients are Sciatica patients, but the same general approach is used in all cases: Herniated discs, bulging discs, Degenerative Disc Disease …

Herniated discs, etc: High end bad backs need to be treated once every two days with the Ultrasound & EMS for a couple of weeks to get the healing started by getting the lymph flowing so that fresh white blood cells can get to work on the damaged area so waste material can be removed. After that it takes about 3 months or more for the white blood cells to heal the damaged area properly, during this time the treatment can be less frequent – twice a week. The worse the disc looks on the mri, the more your body notices it and reacts to it: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25009200/  So don’t be frightened by a scary mri – the worse it looks, the easier it fixes.

As what ultimately fixes a herniated disc are the white blood cells, to assist them, then, as well as all the usual suspects: not smoking, vitamins, minerals, a reasonable amount of short walks to get the lymph moving and also sleeping on an inclined bed, it looks like having a teaspoon a day of creatine can also have a very beneficial effect: “Our comparative analysis results suggest a possible positive effect of creatine supplement on peripheral nerve regeneration as statistical analysis revealed significant differences between group 2 and group 3. Though our finding does not represent a miracle of regenerative support, beneficial usage of creatine is documented in the present study.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27858383/

Sleeping on an Inclined Bed ? A call in patient to this radio show explains (at 22 mins) that after 2 days of inclined bed, 8 years of pain has gone: