Treating back pain
Chronic or intermittent pain, often located in the back, neck, and/or buttocks, is a major driver of personal suffering and reduced productivity in the US and other affluent nations. While pain can obviously have a variety of structural causes, such as sprained ankles or bruising, garden-variety back pain usually doesn’t. I’ve come to believe that such pain is usually psychosomatic in nature– in other words, caused by the brain but resulting in physical signs and symptoms in the body. It’s widely accepted that a person’s mental state can affect pain perception, but this idea goes further. Pain isn’t just exacerbated by a person’s mental state; it’s often entirely caused by it.
Believe it or not, there are a few cultures in the world where back pain hardly exists. One indigenous tribe in central India reported essentially none. And the discs in their backs showed little signs of degeneration as people aged.
Close to the ground
My suspicion is that, in our convenient society, we don’t need to be acutely aware of our balance and body positions vis a vis the ground because many of us don’t do much physical labor anymore, or play freely as kids outdoors now that we have so many enticing computer games to entertain us. Athletes and those with a gifted physical ability may not be so cursed, but a lot of people who come through my dojo doors have a significantly hard time working from seiza, or walking in the particular way that our ryu calls for. It all goes back to having weak legs, a weak foundation. And any amount of running or jogging won’t help all that much. It has more to do with the leg flexibility and body mass/positioning awareness in relationship to the ground than sheer muscle mass.