You may or may not have heard this new buzz term in the world of physical medicine and rehabilitation. It is certainly gaining traction in my industry thanks to a couple of brilliant minds in the world of functional movement and kinesiology: Stuart McGill Ph.D.,and Craig Liebenson D.C. for starters.
I see how very helpful it can be, to the average person in pain, to be able to identify and label their condition. The term “Flexion Intolerance” has come to serve that very purpose in my own practice. In particular I’ve found it very helpful to point people to this internet resource developed by a fellow chiropractor: Fix Your Own Back dot com. Dr. Snell provides an easy to use guide to help people in pain figure out if their back pain situation might be one that can respond very well to some basic changes to just a few everyday things. We often take for granted these everyday activities until we’re in pain.
Pain is the primary and most effective motivation for most of us to want to investigate and learn more about our bodies. I believe it’s important that everyone realize before they are in pain, that “flexion” is not something our lower backs are very well designed to put up with in the first place, but especially not in the way that our modern lives demand. We are all actually, by design, flexion-intolerant. In particular, we are intolerant of the kind of flexion and the amount of flexion our modern day backs are exposed to.
What is Flexion?
It’s the technical term used to describe a forward bending motion (in the spine) which in the extreme looks like rounding. Imagine the fetal position – the ultimate example – full body flexion. It’s no secret that bending to pick up something heavy can be “dicey” for the back and most of us know that this could result in pain if we’re not careful.
The unfortunate thing is that flexion in the lumbar spine / lower back can be happening without the outward appearance of rounding – for example while sitting many of us are actually putting the lower back into flexion without meaning to – even if we’re not necessarily slouching. The brain is pre-programmed with what can be considered our “safe” amount of flexion both in degree and frequency. This pre-programmed set point is different for every single body, but it’s what determines when and under which conditions we suddenly experience our flexion intolerance as full blown pain.
You’ll find much more about this idea of our individual mechanical set point or blueprint for safe movement at Stop Everyday Pain dot com. This is where my blog to book project is taking shape. Check it out, become part of the process or just follow along to find out why things hurt that didn’t used to hurt and figure out what you can do about it.
[photo credit: wikimedia commons]