Back Aches I

It is very possible that at least 50% of backaches are mentally induced, the wages of the sin of nervous tension. The spinal column houses the spinal cord, a main pipeline of the nervous system. Nerves continually on edge constantly nudge at the muscles surrounding them. Tension pinches blood vessels like a vise. Thus dammed up, the circulation cannot carry off the body poisons as fast as it should. The poisons back up and flood the muscles.

Strong muscles can fight back longer; weak ones haven’t a chance of withstanding this nerve irritation. But teach a nervously tense person to perform his tasks in the easy way, to give his muscles strengthening and relaxing exercise, and more often than not it’s good-bye to aches.

You can blame most physically induced back aches on faulty habits… in basic posture or in the attitudes we assume in daily occupations. We overuse our back muscles or we pamper them. Almost never do we use them just enough. Some overuse can’t be helped; it’s part of the weekly pay envelope. Knowing that the latissimus dorsi and trapezius must work with the upper arm and shoulder in addition to covering the back, you can see why any job requiring constant use of upper arm and shoulder may pay off in back pains.

Generally back aches strike in one or more of three places:

1. At the base of the skull, extending along the neck about two inches each side of the spine.

2. Between the shoulder blades.

3. Across the lower back.


Sometimes the base-of-skull ache shoots clear to the shoulder joint. Sometimes it penetrates to the seventh cervical vertebra. If it does, you’ll know it when you angle your head forward sharply. Place your fingers on these spots and press. Did you say “Ouch?” Lots of people say worse than that.

Aches in this area are mean. They are red-hot needles that pierce deeper and deeper into your hide… an electric current probing among your bones. Lying flat on your back helps … until you get up again.

Nothing will permanently poultice your aches except perfecting your posture. You might lessen them by a change of occupation or by learning to relax your nerves. But what you want is to get rid of them, isn’t it? So pull in that head that protrudes like a turtle’s, it’s wrenching and straining at the muscles. And get those shoulders away from your ears. Take your elbows off the table or desk and your chin out of your hands; let your arms hang straight down for a change. Your muscles get awfully sick and tired of holding your shoulders up in the air that way.

Not-So-Gay Blades

If you suffer from a shoulder blade ache, perhaps you find it odd that it so often hits you at the right of the spine and just at the edge of the right scapula. It’s not odd, if you are right-handed. Were you left-handed, you’d point to the left of the spine to locate this ache. But southpaws suffer less from this ache than the right-hander. Ordinarily, the left handed person makes more use of his right hand and arm than a right-hander do with his left. And there’s one of the clues to that ache: overuse of the arm. When the arm works overtime, so do the trapezius and other muscles that are connected with your shoulder and shoulder blades.

A woman lawyer complained constantly of this ache. She worked at a desk all day handling heavy law books and eternally wielding a pen or pencil. Usually she labored under extreme pressure and tension. She was given exercises to strengthen muscles in that area, taught to maintain a correct sitting position and instructed in relaxation methods. In a month’s time her aches vanished. But later, under extreme pressure, she allowed herself to slump into her old occupational posture habits. The aches returned. There was noting more to be done for her. She knew what to do. But only she herself could make her do it.

Has this ache ever accompanied you on a weekend or vacation road trip? You packed your suit case too heavily for your unused muscles. Lugging any heavy objects by hand may have the same effect. And what about that blustery winter day you spent before the open fire, nose in a book all day? Didn’t you have a shoulder blade ache that night? Next time, hold the book up to your nose instead of your nose down to the book. Which of course brings us right back again to the matter of posture and holding head up and shoulders back. There’s a limit to what the trapezius can stand.

Shoulder blade aches have a particular affinity for men and women who sit most of the day. They dote on the typist, the switchboard operator and anyone else who constantly sits and uses arms and shoulders.

To be continued…