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Misunderstanding the pain

Updated: May 3

One of my good friends in Intel approached me to get some Yoga tips for his back pain. He was undergoing severe back pain on the left side of his body and as always I asked him to practice Yoga without focusing just on his back. He was looking for just a point solution for his back and Yoga which I asked him to practice for his entire body did not sound like a solution for him. I have seen that most people don’t understand the anatomy and bio mechanics of our body well and end up in looking for point solutions without much success. So why should we practice Yoga for whole body to get relief from back pain? Let me explain in laymen terms.

To understand this let’s go to some basic physics. Imagine the scene of a train accident (Photo graph of which you normally see in newspaper). When two trains collide head on you might have noticed that sometimes the bogies in the front will be intact whereas bogies at the back will be ripped off from the chain.  The force produced will move among all the bogies of the train and the weakest link will be ripped off. This same law of nature will hold good even in our body. So everything in our body is connected and always the weakest link is affected most. This whole science of applying mechanical physics concepts to our body movements is called Bio-Mechanics.

Does it mean that our back is the weakest? Can we just make this weakest link strong? How did it become weak? What are the forces we are talking about here? Gravity is the main force. Our whole body is supported and works within the field of gravity. At any point of time there is a force and counterforce acting on any body part. Even when you stand straight there are different parts in your body which will work against the gravity to make to stay in the position. Think of it as a mechanical device made of shafts, levers, nuts, bolts etc. and is working in a field of gravity. Any mechanical device to work smoothly should be in a good condition. Any device which is not used or not well used for a long time will cease to work after sometime. Similarly our body has to be used and used well to work properly. Any form of exercise is built around the basic concept of using our body well.

Am I not simplifying too much by comparing such a complex living being to a mechanical device? In fact, I am. Our body is intelligent enough to remodel itself constantly depending on the usage. Body will even spend time and energy to strengthen any part which is not used well. Why spend energy on something useless?

This is an automatic process and is called body intelligence. For example if you are slouching on your desk at an angle to read this blog, only one side of your body is bearing all the weight and is getting worked. That means only some muscles (main building block which causes movement by controlling the joints. They will be on the bone connecting two joints) are getting compressed and stressed to balance your weight in the field of gravity. When any muscle is constantly compressed your body is intelligent enough to make it short as there is no need to keep it long. Compressed muscle means restricted range of motion and less flexibility. So our habit will influence our body parts which will change constantly and can potentially restrict the range of motion.

Remember our body is a chain and is always in motion. When a compressed muscle during motion receives the load which it cannot handle it will transfer the load to the next muscle in next locomotive chain. For example/- when muscles in your hips become stiff to accommodate the range of motion it will transfer the weight to muscle controlling knee joint which will take some load and rest is transferred to the muscle in next joint. So our body is taking a different form to accommodate the range of motion required for an activity.

How so? Let us understand this with the help of lego blocks. In the pictures below, let us assume Red blocks is your trunk, Blue blocks is your thigh bone and yellow blocks is your lower leg bone, Red joins blue at hip joint, blue joins yellow at knee joint. Muscles are not shown here but imagine them to be present at every joint connected to bones on either side. If all the muscles are in full range of motion when you stand straight, then each muscle will move to take a position which will not stress any joints. That means your joins will exactly overlap on each other as show in first diagram. Let us assume muscle on your hip joint is compressed or tight and cannot move to its full range. So it will pull thigh bone to an angle. This in turn will make your lower leg bone to move in opposite direction to balance you on the center of gravity (as shown in second diagram). This mechanism as I mentioned will be controlled by your body intelligence. This will put undue stress on your joints which are not designed to take extra load constantly. Although body intelligence will make you feel comfortable through some correction but the undue stress will degenerate your body quickly and they give up one day. First indication of this is through pain.

That means when you have pain in your back, you have disturbed somewhere in the chain. Similarly any pain in any part of the body doesn’t mean that only that part of the body is disturbed. You are just getting indication from the weakest link. This is where Yoga comes in to picture. Yoga, through various asana will give you the range of motion required for your body and gradually you will be aware of postural disturbances that you can correct Posture detection and correction is one of the main benefits of Yoga. With this explanation I was able to convince my friend. I hope I was able to convince you as well :).

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