Back pain… and the multifidus

Lower back pain and the multifidus

Lower back pain is a hot topic. It’s been a hot topic for too long. It is probably because it is so widespread. A number of techniques have been developed to manage the condition over the years.

We stretch, we activate, and we strengthen… Overall, the vast majority of these methods that have been developed target the muscular-skeletal system.

A recent study published in 2016 stipulates that the brain might be involved in cases where there is back pain and a loss of control of the multifidus muscle, a stabilizer of the spine.

11 individuals in pain and 13 that showed no symptoms were studied.

We asked of these individuals to contract their lumbar multifidus muscle. What was shown is that the individuals that suffered from chronic back pain would exhibit weaker contractions of the muscle in question.
In order to contract a muscle, the sensory system of the individual needs to function well. This is where Posturology can help. By calibrating an individual’s posture, from head to toe, the sensation that muscle receptors send to the brain is improved, which can help in developing motor control. What this study demonstrates is that if we contract our lumbar multifidus more efficiently, we risk less back pain. Along the same thought, it would make sense to think that if you can contract any muscle more efficiently, you will function optimally. Somehow, it’s always about control!

Stress and chronic pain

Are some individuals more prone to feeling the secondary effects of stress than others? This is the question that Dr. Pierre Rainville, P.h.D. in neuropsychology, asked himself. His research points to the fact that a small hippocampus is linked to a higher level of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Dr. Rainville suggests that consulting with a psychologist, relaxation or meditation can help.

Joseph Ledoux, in his book, The Emotional Brain, also speaks of the hippocampus as being at the heart of the reaction to stress. For him, it is clear that stress actually leads to a decrease in the size of the organ. It’s a bit of the chicken or the egg!

That being said, it is the frontal lobes that are responsible for making us move forward in life, literally! The frontal lobes are both responsible for movement and cognitive strategies to resolve situations.

Posturology activates the frontal lobes permanently since they are very sensitive to the quality of the sensory information being sent from the parietal lobes. The parietal lobes vehicles input from both the feet and the eyes. It is the feet and the eyes that are stimulated in Posturology to create balance on both a motor and psychological level.

Language and the brain

Recently, researchers from California University have studied the brain of many individuals in order to map out the way our brain responds to language.

It was a sort of semantic atlas that the researchers were able to define. The purpose of this atlas is to define the areas of the brain that respond to words that have similar meanings.

What’s interesting is that different individuals posses a similar atlas. Researchers were even surprised as to how similar the maps were in the various subjects that were studied.

With Posturology, we respect differences but the more calibrated individuals are, the more we realize that similarities are not rare. As such, it has to be mentioned that Posturology contributes to the activation of the language areas.

In the brain, you find Broca and Wernicke areas, both in the left hemisphere. As a child is developing on a motor standpoint between the ages of 0 to 6 years old, his brain gets activated just about equally. As of age 7, there is supposed to be one hemisphere that becomes dominant. In 97% of the cases, that is the left hemisphere and it makes you right handed.

One has to remember that it is by integrating key primitive reflexes and motor patterns that this development is assured. In Posturology, if we see that certain of those key movements are not mastered, we train them. We train these movements until they are mastered. As we do so, it is the entire brain that we light up. That is the Posturology advantage!

Of impulsions and emotions

If it’s not always easy to control or more so to manage our emotions, it’s because it is a recent function of the human brain, so to speak.

It is only fairly recently that we, humans, have been able to somewhat manage our emotions.

An interesting experience was conducted at the Institute of Sciences and Behavior, in the Netherlands. Researchers temporarily deactivated the prefrontal cortex in healthy volunteers. We then studied how they were able to control their impulsions.

What we did know, even before this experimentation, was that the prefrontal cortex was the part of the brain that appeared most recently, in terms of human evolution. It was already recognized that this part of the brain was responsible for management of our impulsions.

Via transcranial magnetic stimulation, we were able to deactivate the prefrontal cortex. When asked to perform a specific task, the subjects whose prefrontal cortex was deactivated were not able to control their impulsions as well as the ones that had access to it.

To make matters worse, it was examined that subjects whose prefrontal cortex was deactivated showed an increase in activation of the amygdala. The amygdala manages fear, for example. This allows us to think that one of the roles of the prefrontal cortex is attenuation of the fear response.

Posturology can help in the sense whereby it promotes muscle balance. It is information from the muscle sense that turns on the prefrontal cortex. It goes without saying that to be physically balanced helps in being balanced… in your head!

Posturology and systemic health

The nervous system is a rather complex entity governing all of our functions. It has been divided into two parts, I believe, for pedagogical reasons.

The somatic nervous system manages how we move.

The autonomic nervous system manages how we live. It’s responsible for our vital functions. Classically, we are taught these systems operate rather independently. We know now this is not the case. Everything truly is connected.

Researchers in 2016 published an article entitled Functional Imaging of Autonomic Regulation: Methods and Key Findings. They key findings add a layer of understanding as to how the brain manages how we move as it manages how we live, not only simultaneously, but in symbiosis.

Here are a few gems from this study:

1) The ventro-medial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) contributes to autonomic regulation.

What does this mean, you ask? The VMPFC is an area located in the front of the brain (frontal lobes). Classically, it is implicated in the processing of risk and fear. It plays a role in inhibition of emotional responses, and in the process of decision-making.

This study demonstrates that it’s also responsible for regulating the autonomic nervous system, thus decreasing the stress response.

What you need to know is that the cerebellum activates the VMPRC as well as the entire prefrontal cortex (PFC). The cerebellum a brain within the brain! It is responsible for transferring information from all of the body’s muscles to turn on the brain. If these muscles are imbalanced, the brain stimulation is, as well. The resultant: a PFC that is not fully lit up. Then, the VMPFC cannot as easily tame down the stress response.

2) The cerebellum contributes to autonomic regulation

Not only does the cerebellum transfer information from the body’s muscles to the brain, it also is responsible for taming down the stress response. It is because it is responsible for coordinated movements that is can do so.

The cerebellum is the hub in the brain that compares the difference between what we can do and what is possible. As it does so, it is connected with the centers responsible for regulating blood pressure so that the cells of the organism are nourished. If the body can move more efficiently and with less hesitation, less adjustments are needed, diminishing the contribution of the cardiovascular and circulatory systems to allow us to move.

By calibrating posture with Posturology, we optimize muscle balance. By default, we improve the activation of the VMPFC. As well, we diminish the need for adjustment of blood pressure due to inefficiency in movement. For those two reasons, it seems logical to assume that Posturology is for a bit more than misaligned joints. Could it be that it’s good for your health?

Good eye… good feet?

A small percentage of my clientele is older adults. Not so much because they can’t be helped, but most likely because, in some cases, they figure they cannot be helped! Too often, they have been told that if they are dealing with pain or balance issues, it’s because they are old…

While it’s true that the performance of our systems for balance decreases with age, it’s also true that they can be trained and optimized. The goal is not to make a 70 year old a 20 year old. The goal is to make a 70 year old feel strong, confident and stable.

Researchers published in 2016 Active ocular vergence improve postural control in elderly as close viewing distance with or without a single cognitive task.

They wanted to measure the effects of vision and different eye movement patterns on postural control when standing upright. 23 elderly subjects were studied.

Results showed that fixation of a target that is closer to the body versus further increased postural control. In essence, this study demonstrated that there was a beneficial contribution of active vergence eye movements for better postural stability.

Posturology can help in the sense where its purpose is to make the body more resilient to resist gravity. A contribution of Posturology was to include eye movement training in the context where the entire sensory system is assessed and optimized. Feet work with eyes. Eyes work with feet. Posturology covers both of these bodily sensors for optimal results.

Nature versus nurture

It’s not rare that patients walk into my office thinking that genetics play an important role in their existing condition. If anything, sometimes, they consider the role of genetics to be absolute rather than relative. A recent study sheds some light on this nature versus nurture issue.

November 16th, 2015, researchers published Relaxed genetic control of cortical organization in human brains compared to chimpanzees. 218 human brains and 206 chimpanzee brains were studied. Two characteristics were compared: brain size and organization as related to genetic similarity.

The study did find that human and chimpanzee brain size were both greatly influenced by genetics. In contrast, the findings related to brain organization were different for chimpanzees and humans. Researchers found that chimpanzee brains were more strongly controlled by genes than that of human brains. This suggests that its environment extensively shapes the human brain, the researchers say.

This is good news for posturologists and their patients. This means that, even if you inherited from a brain that isn’t as powerful as you would care for, a lot can be done to power it up! Leave it to us, posturologists, to do just that!

Is the brain a muscle?

What about if we compared the brain to a muscle? It is at Concordia University in Montreal that researchers found that the brain could actually be compared to a muscle!

What this study demonstrated was that the more someone climbed stairs and the more they studied, the younger their brain was.

331 individuals aged 19 to 79 years old were studied.

To actually measure the age of the brain, researchers analyzed the volume of grey matter and the total volume of the brains. Grey matter is where we store information. The volume of this area of the brain is a great index to measure the age of the brain. Typically, with age, we tend to lose grey matter.

To study and to go up the stairs, a good connection between the brain and muscles is necessary. The very first task our bodies must manage before any other is to resist gravity. Once that’s done, we can study… or climb stairs!

If you suffer from concentration difficulties or if you have a hard time going upstairs, these issues are not so isolated. In both cases, the frontal lobe of your brain needs to be turned on. It is Posturology’s specialty to do just that!

Posture and your heart

Heart disease is so common nowadays that the USA has dedicated an entire month to it, the month of February.

Heart disease is so common nowadays that the USA has dedicated an entire month to it, the month of February. The aim of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes in the US by 2017.
Commonly, medication is prescribed to lower blood pressure. In some cases, patients report side effects. In the worst of cases, these side effects are so bad that patients discontinue treatment.

If in 10% of the cases, patients that have high blood pressure suffer because it is secondary to another health issue, in 90% of the cases, people suffer from what is called primary hypertension. In these cases, it is the hypertension that causes health ailments.

Classically, the usual suspects of primary hypertension have been lifestyle factors, such as too much salt, lack of exercise, obesity or heavy alcohol consumption.

What about the brain?

According to the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgeons (AANOS), hypertension “is not only a problem of the heart, kidneys or blood vessels but also of the central nervous system”.

Professor Paton speaks of neurogenic hypertension, that is, it is brought on by stress that revs up the nervous system as a whole. If stress becomes chronic, it can have consequences on blood pressure, long term.

If it’s true that the kidneys regulate the balance of salts and fluids, which has a direct effect on blood pressure, if they lack blood, it is the brain that is called upon for provisions. Hypertension can then paradoxically occur because, at this point, it is the brain that will be short of blood.

When blood flow to the brain decreases, the brain sends out instructions to the body to constrict blood vessels, boosting the blood supply to the brain. Sadly, this results in high blood pressure.

If it’s possible to increase brain activity and, therefore, contribute to its irrigation via stimulation, the brain can be better equipped for all demands and, therefore, it is fair to think that creating this type of leverage for improved brain function can have an impact on blood pressure, per se.

Posturology, by improving sensory input to the brain, from morning to night, day after day, can be a great way to stimulate the brain and keep it active and high performing!

Moral of the story: when imbalanced structurally, brain activity is not optimal and, therefore, the brain can potentially be less efficient at managing issues such as blood pressure.

Posturology can help!

Posture and osteoporosis

Classically, when women are diagnosed with osteoporosis, modifications to their lifestyle are discussed.

Classically, when women are diagnosed with osteoporosis, modifications to their lifestyle are discussed. Nutritional changes are often made and specific physical activities can be suggested.

How often is posture discussed? I have personally never heard of it. Should it be brought up?

Researchers in 2015 studied the relationship between spinal alignment and the incidence of vertebral fracture in menopausal women with osteoporosis. A total of 1044 postmenopausal women were observed for the incidence of lumbar spine fracture.

What was shown in the study is that the risk for fractures in women with osteoporosis increases with the severity of the postural imbalances in the sagittal plane (when assessing posture in a side view).

Moral of the story: if it’s true that osteoporosis is disorder of the metabolic kind, it is also true that its’ consequences can be worse if posture is misaligned. As such, its likelihood to lead to fractures is greater.

Posturology can help!