Lumbar Supports Don’t Prevent Back Pain

Many clients who come to me with back pain ask about lumbar supports; do they have the right one? Should they use it or not? Science Daily cites studies reporting that lumbar supports don’t actually help those with back pain.

I agree. And here’s why…

Back pain is a result of chronically contracted back muscles.

Your back doesn’t need “support” to “fix” your pain; it needs those chronically contracted muscles to be addressed! Every time we are called to action (the phone rings, our children call us for help, running to catch the train, checking our email, standing at our job) our back muscles contract to enable us to move forward and “get the job done.” This is called the Landau Response. Thomas Hanna called it the Green Light Reflex.

The Landau Response is a primitive brain stem reflex hardwired into our nervous system that instantly contracts our back muscles in walking, running, reaching, bending, etc. However, when that reflex is triggered hundreds of times a day it can become habituated and cause the back to arch like a bow while the shoulders tighten back and the neck straightens. It can contribute to sciatica, hip, shoulder, neck and joint pain. It’s a useful reflex, but we don’t want to get stuck in it. When muscles tighten even when we are at rest, this is called Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). The photo at left shows what an habituated Green Light Reflex looks like.

When we use a lumbar support, our lower back is actually back-support-pillow-for-chair1being encouraged to STAY arched, as in the photo on the right. Perhaps this is why the studies cited in the Science Daily article found that lumbar supports didn’t actually relieve people’s back pain.

Back pain comes from contracted muscles, therefore it is important to learn to RELAX those muscles through gentle Somatic Movements. Then you can learn to sit balanced and straight, rather than with a supported curve. Try this easy seated movement in order to improve your sitting. You can save yourself some money (and pain) by not having to buy that lumbar support.

2 thoughts on “Lumbar Supports Don’t Prevent Back Pain

  1. Martha I was desperate I ran a job that was so stressful it was like my whole body locked up especially my hips lower back and ham strings. I tried some of lawrence golds standing ham string pandiculations and my body was not taking to it. I tried your simplified version. It was like my hamstrings dropped to the floor . I couldn’t believe it. Thank the lord I found your stuff. But here is something I noticed. It’s just a guess . Could it be that more simplepandiculations are easier for your brain to react to. Maybe just maybe that your so focused on a 15 step pandiculation That you can’t center your focus on it. Is simple better? Just a thought.

    • Sometimes it’s a personal thing. I find that the fewer “moving parts” in a pandiculation, the better. Address the pattern involved in the hamstrings (tight back and abdominals often translates to tight hamstrings) and see how it feels.

      I would also highly recommend, if you haven’t already, beginning at the beginning with the most basic Somatic Exerices: arch and flatten, back lift, cross lateral arch and curl….all of these should come before trying to release the hamstrings. You may find that you don’t have tight hamstrings anymore once you address the real problem: involuntary tightness (Sensory Motor Amnesia) in the center of the body!

      You can purchase any of my DVDs directly from my website and learn those exercises.

      Thanks for your comment!
      Best to you,

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