Flat Upper Spine
Loss of the Curve of the Upper Spine
Therapists contact me to find out how to reduce this in one or two sessions.
This is a major cause of pain throughout the body.
It can cause problems in almost any system in the body.
Unfortunately it is rarely treated because it does not hurt in the area of the problem.
A good example of this is to be seen here, you can see the straight line of the wall corner is carried on through her upper back. This is the reason why so many manipulative treatments have to be repeated ad infinitum, because the local identifiable cause of the pain can not stay right until this remote painless problem is corrected.
It is behind back, neck and shoulder pain; it is often the true cause of problems like low back pain and sciatica in the legs, but it makes the patient taller and to an untrained eye looks ‘better’ than a correctly rounded spine.
Because it is longer than it should be the tissues internally are stretched and this slows the flow of fluids through the stretched tissues, especially the lymph duct, producing among other things Chronic Fatigue, [ for how to resolve some of the symptoms see “Lymphatic Pump Therapy” ] also this squashes and stretches the lungs. Further the effects of this on the endocrine organs are unimaginably complex. The heart is in here too. Just in case all this was not sufficient passing through the stretched tissues [the mediastinum] is the vegas nerve and who can guess what the effects of stretching that might be. It is a major part of the autonomic nervous system, the fight and flight reaction is turned off by it. Will it function perfectly when stretched?
The spine should be a beautiful curving structure with a quadruple bend that supports the rest of the tissues. What is truly surprising is that it is precisely these bends that take and distribute the weight in such a way that the whole structure is capable of the most terrific load bearing whilst also being incredibly flexible. If for any reason we lose some of the correct curvature we inevitably lose flexibility or load bearing capability or more commonly both.
This describes loss of the outward curve of the upper back and what to do about it. This is commonly caused by landing on it from a height, typically coming off a bicycle, a motorbike or a horse, or a heavy direct blow as with a chap who had his shoulder tipped by a passing bus this spun him round and the flat of his back hit the side of the moving bus.
Whatever the cause of the loss of the upper curve there are two common results that become painful. The flattening of the curve itself is rarely painful except in the initial stages which is more due to bruising than anything else.
The most common result that becomes painful is that without the upper curve the spine can not function as a spine but could become a pole to take the weight of the head so the lower back straightens and the lower curve is also lost. This is also nearly always painless in itself but leaves the low back vulnerable to other inappropriate movement as you can see here the centre of balance is shifted and the angle of the sacro iliac joint is changed so when the problems this create become painful they are almost impossible to correct because, even when they are alleviated, they remain vulnerable and highly likely to move inappropriately again. This is the typical recurring low back pain that however often it is corrected always returns because it cannot heal. Clearly whilst it is so vulnerable it is probable that at some point a nagging low back pain and sciatica (very painful to tolerable) will become a prolapsed (slipped) disc (Intolerably painful).
The other common problem that becomes noticeable from this is neck stiffness and pain. The muscles that cover this area transfer the problems from one to the other very easily and again no matter how many times the neck is corrected the problem will recur because in time the flattened upper curve will cause the neck to go wrong again.
Another logical but as yet unproven, effect of this is that the spine will be stretched behind the mediastinum, stretching that tissue which will in turn stretch anything that passes through it using it as a three dimensional path, the lymph duct does just that and were it stretched it would reduce the flow of fluid through it. This logically would have the effect of increasing the likelihood of that blocking producing Blocked Lymphatic System Syndrome. [B.Ly.S.S.] B.Ly.S.S.
It would also stretch the vagus nerve, I often wonder about that and what the effects on the body might be. Complex? For sure; variable from patient to patient? Probably; wide spread? Definitely; and unpleasant to live with? Absolutely certainly. M.E. / C.F.S. they’d fit the bill. From my own experience do many people with one of these conditions have a flattening of the upper spine? Oh Yes.
So what to do about it? .
EXERCISE TO RE-INTRODUCE THE CURVE IN THE UPPER SPINE
Muscles just contract so in fact they pull both ends to the middle. Normally this is not apparent because one end is much heavier than the other and so the lighter end moves toward the heavier.
A good example of this would be if you hold an arm above and in front of your head then contract the Bicep, your hand will come down and touch your shoulder. Your body is far heavier than your hand so the hand comes to the body.
If however you catch hold of a beam that is supported by walls then your body is lighter than the beam, contract the Bicep while holding the beam and you will lift your shoulder to your hand. Exactly the same muscle doing exactly the same thing but producing a totally opposite movement. This is something we can use to help re-introduce the upper curve in the spine.
The Rhomboid muscles are attached along the edges of the shoulder blades and then along exactly that part of the spine that we are interested in. so if you bring your shoulder blades together you are using them to do this movement.
It follows then that if you could fix the shoulder blades the pull would transfer into the spine and pull it out.
Something called Isometric muscle contraction will help you do this.
Imagine picking up a heavy weight. The Bicep contracts lifting the weight and you can feel the weight. Try it I’ll wait….
What happened was that the weight was provided by the opposite muscle down the back of the arm. Just hold the weight still above the ground for a moment, now feel the Bicep, rock hard, feel the muscle down the back of the arm equally firm. This is called Isometrics using one muscle to counter another.
To use this method on the Rhomboids try to bring the shoulder blades together against an equally heavy weight at the front. The shoulder blades should not move.
Since the shoulder blades do not move the spine is pulled outwards.
The problem with this movement is that it is very easy to fall into the habit of using the arm muscles to press backwards and also to stop the movement so you are isometrically working the arm muscles and not the Rhomboids so check yourself regularly to ensure that you are using the correct muscles.
Of course it would help enormously if you opened the joints of the vertebrae through the upper curve before you start this pull. To open the joints curl your head forward and down. Now if you bring your shoulders rounding down into your chest as well you are in position to isometrically straighten both shoulders and head, pulling those vertebrae up and out.
To make this really work it is a good idea to fill your lungs and push at a specific vertebrae with the air from the inside while you isometrically pull at it with the muscles of the shoulders and by dropping your head forward also isometrically pulling at it from above with the neck muscles.
If this all sounds a bit complex well it is but despite this we are so versatile physically that we actually learn this technique in minutes!
Isometric techniques should not be practised regularly by anyone with a heart condition as it is immensely hard work for the heart to be working two muscles at once in opposition.