You’ve fought the big battle, been through all the treatment, and even though you didn’t know where you’d find the energy, you’ve been pushing forward toward a more active lifestyle.
It’s been tough, but you’re seeing the results and even starting to do some of your ‘regular’ activities.
But wait! Ouch! What’s that pain?
Yep, it’s low back pain. How the heck did this happen after breast cancer? I’ve heard it loud and clear from my patients, “You’ve got to be kidding me! I finally found some energy to move and now this?”
If it helps at all to know you’re not alone then I’ll tell you – you’re not alone.
If not, maybe it’ll help to know why.
Our body has an amazing way to ‘get the job done’. It figures out a way to hold us up, to move us, to get us to the bathroom, or the kitchen, or the bed.
And against all odds.
Even when we don’t know how we’re going to make it, somehow our head stays on, our legs move, and we complete the task at hand. But there’s a cost. If we’re not moving well, we may be putting things, like our low back, at risk.
Let me explain.
**Before I discuss back pain from my area of care – movement therapy – it’s important to note that back pain can be a sign of breast cancer metasteses. It’s vitally important to let your Oncologist know about your back pain so we’re sure your dealing with muscular issues. Then read on…**
Often times, when there’s a part of our body that’s not moving well, sore, in pain, or not able to function well, other areas of the body will pick up the slack. Case in point for many breast cancer patients who have trouble with moving their shoulder(s) or standing up straight and tall after surgery. What happens is that we learn to compensate by adjusting our posture, changing how we do things. Whatever we need to do to get the job done.
And one of the biggest, strongest, most suitable places to take on the extra load is our back.
If you’ve been involved in any type of rehab program after surgery, you probably had the goal of being able to reach overhead. It can be a a tough one to accomplish. But it’s important. There are so many of our activities and day to day tasks that require good shoulder movement and the ability to reach above head level.
Let’s look at the pictures below of two people reaching overhead.
It looks like they’ve met their goal.
But let’s look again. This time a little more closely (check out the red arrows).
The red arrows are giving you an idea of how the body is working to get that arm up there.
Take a look at the red arrow in the picture on the left. That’s a straight line from the bottom of the spine and it should end up at the bottom of the head – if the spine is straight. But we can see that there’s a big lean to the left that’s helping to get that right arm in the air. And it’s the back that’s adjusted and worked to create that lean.
With the picture on the right, the red arrow shows the ‘big arch’ in the back when this young lady is reaching overhead. That position is created with the back muscles in order to help adjust the body position and get that reach she’s after.
So next time you’re reaching for something, stop. Take a look. And see where you body’s at compared to when you’re at rest. This will help you learn what muscles and what body parts are compensating – or can we say assisting – with our activities.
So if you’ve noticed some aches and pains in the low back, let’s check out your posture and see if you’re using more muscles and more movement than you should.
Try this simple trick to keep you in line.
When you complete your shoulder stretches, do them against a wall or lying on your back on the floor. The straight positioning of the wall, for example, will keep you aligned and in check. By letting the wall be the guide for straight posture, you’ll know right away, as you move through your shoulder stretches, if you’re compensating with back movement.
Make sure you’re close enough to the wall (buttocks and head touching) so you know you’re straight. As you move your arm through shoulder flexion, see if you’re moving as far as you do when you’re not against the wall.
The next move…
See if you can keep your arm straight (no elbow bend) and directly in front of your shoulder joint as you move through shoulder flexion.
I’m working on a little mini training video for this but it’s not quite ready (technology has not been my friend). Stay tuned.
Or, if you want me to send you the video link when it’s ready, just click the button below.
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