Healing Back Pain Through Human ConnectionAug 30, 2021
Note: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.
Oh, hello there, it’s Amanda again...popping up in your blog for my monthly takeover!
As we approach the end of a close-to-normal summer, our global community continues to grapple with this pandemic, and we find ourselves knocking on the door of an uncertain fall as we tread cautiously into a season normally filled with community events, family gatherings and ugly sweaters.
This past year and half has been different for everyone and for myself- well- I live alone and I am a self identified “extroverted introvert.” I LOVE being alone. I enjoy solitude and my own company. I don’t necessarily crave the companionship of others while I am just simply existing. When plans fall through for events...well...I secretly expel a sigh of relief and scuttle into my closet to find my pjs and house slippers.
This past year though - I went a little loopy. I found myself catastrophizing the future and staring into a long stretch of emptiness and a new kind of aloneness. Loneliness. Among the emotional distress, I also developed a weird pain in my back that made sitting through client sessions unbearable.
So - let’s take a pause here and talk about what this has to do with relieving back pain through human connection.
STUDY SHOWS HUMAN CONNECTION LEADS TO LONGEVITY
Psychologist Susan Pinker held a Ted Talk about a community in Italy with 10 times more centenarians than in North America. Like any good scientist, she wanted to understand why this might be.
What she found was surprising. Genetics, diet and exercise were NOT the major determining factors that set the community apart. Nope - It was the community itself.
The physical space of the small Italian town is close and very compact. This ensures a great amount of social interaction and not just with close friends, family and spouses. The layout of the town encourages the friendly nod and brief hellos among occasional passersby and those with the most distant connections.
“Personal Space,” is not a familiar concept for the townsfolk. Pinker describes daily ‘kitchen parties,’ where neighbors, family and friends would gather unannounced in one another’s homes, existing and just being together.
The talk goes on to further explore the way our brains react to this in-person social connectedness in contrast to the virtual connectedness of the global online community. From the biological data of other scientists Pinker goes on to share the data - face-to-face connection correlates to “a biological force field against disease and decline.” Wow!
THE POWER OF HUMAN CONNECTION IS HARD-WIRED IN OUR BRAINS
The true power of human connection is, indeed, biological. Scientists are still researching certain neurons, named “Mirror Neurons,” that have been described simply as neurons that fire when you perform a task and you observe that task in another. The bare bones of connection, hard wired into our brains. (If you feel like reading up on mirror neurons, check out these papers)
And doesn’t this make sense? How often have you been able to better understand and perform a task simply by watching someone else? Or perhaps by performing an action, or doing something for yourself you feel a connection to someone else doing that same thing?
Remember a few weeks ago, reading our blog post HOW EMOTIONS CREATE AND EFFECT BACK PAIN? Our feelings can, quite literally, create a physical response in our bodies. The increased production of cortisol has the ability to compromise your immune system thus decreasing your bodies’ ability to protect you from outside stressors. If your brain cannot fight for you in your current state, pain is a really good tool to ask you to change your behavior.
Human connection, whether that is as simple as a friendly wave to a neighbor or staring contests with your nephew is one of the answers to back pain. How fascinating that human connection has such a profound effect on the biological health of our immune system.
We know that face-to-face interaction, human connection and being with other humans is not only good for our emotional health, but also has protective properties in terms of our immune system and our reaction to physical stressors, back pain among them. So...the question is….how do we navigate this second winter of the pandemic without compromising both our immediate and long term health?
THREE WAYS TO GAIN HUMAN CONNECTION, EVEN IN A PANDEMIC
- Write a list of 3 people you can call and talk to about anything and everything and absolutely nothing. Use facetime, zoom or even just the phone. Funny enough - hearing another’s voice is also a protective form of human connection. When you call them, have no agenda, just ask them about their day, what they're thinking and perhaps share an observation from your day. I spoke earlier about my own spiral downward last year. I found that calling someone, well...my mom or my friend Lisa specifically… and just yapping at them or having them yap at me went a long way in making sure I didn’t feel alone.
- Any interactions you have with cashiers, servers, service representatives - Smile. (Yes, even with a mask.) Remember those mirror neurons and their connection to creating safety? Safety=less negative outputs from brain=less pain outputs…… Kind interactions, no matter how brief, can have the power of changing your own stress levels, not to mention what it means to the other person.
- Take a live virtual class or workshop. Though the science is not there yet, we can still be socially connected without being physically present. I asked a friend in California to help me with my back pain. We met via zoom, she shared her expertise in pilates and I helped her with breathwork. I am not convinced the movement practice she shared was the balm, I was doing those moves anyways. I can tell you that every time I met with her I would get a little surge of happiness and a little less stabbing in my spine. (For virtual classes, check out our class schedule)
Being able to relieve back pain can take various paths such as nerve glides, core work or relaxing breathwork. Those are good! But…. It may also be that supporting our innate human need for community will also be vital in managing and relieving both back pain, disease, decline and loneliness.
Human connection is at the core of our coaching at Forest Studios and we would love for you to connect with our community of humans. At no cost to you, take our FOREST Cornerstones Course and get access to the facebook group - sign-up here.
Until next week,
Forest Coaching Breathwork and Running Expert
Follow her @amanda_willrun4cookies
Did you find this read valuable? Here are a few other blogs you might enjoy in this series:
- How Emotions Lead to Back Pain
- The Chronic Pain Cycle (and how to end it for good!)
- Envisioning Life After Back Pain
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