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Back Pain Relief

Life can be busy any time of year, especially around the holidays.

The holidays often demand that we each deliberately make time for wellness and exercise.  Like any of our daily preventive habits for overall health like brushing our teeth, physical wellness works best when practiced regularly.

Maintaining strength and stability is essential for our health and best accomplished by including both endurance and circulation training for our bracing muscles, and dynamic workouts for our action muscles.  

Even if you only have 5 minutes to spare, science shows you can still reap multiple benefits from a quick workout

The New York Times recently published an article titled "Really, Really Short Workouts" by Tara Parker-Pope.

Pope outlines several short, high-intensity interval training [HIIT] workouts. Anyone with any experience, or none, and any amount of time can try different HIIT workouts, making adjustments as needed. These scientifically-proven workouts incorporate a warm-up, with peaks of high-intensity exercise separated by lower-intensity, and a cool-down

Pope enthusiastically insists:

"You can try it with any aerobic activity you like. The principles of H.I.I.T. can be applied to running, biking, stair climbing, swimming, jumping rope, rowing, even hopping or skipping. [Yes, skipping!]"

HIIT is a step-up from traditional advice that one should be able to maintain a conversation while running or working out: instead, one shouldn't be able to complete long-winded sentences. The focus is on increasing intensity to a point where chatting is difficult because the workout is challenging your body closer to its limits.

Pope recommends incorporating a HIIT workout three times a week.

Even the 4-minute workouts show an improvement in health benefits after 6 weeks. Benefits include increased endurance and lower glucose levels (even in diabetics, even in a single session). One study showed that even for those struggling with coronary artery disease, high-intensity interval training was not only safe—but better tolerated than a more moderate workout.

Additionally, HIIT burns more calories both before and after than continuous aerobic training. The intensity increases calorie consumption and your body continues burning calories for 2 hours after the workout.

The benefits of high-intensity interval training extend past mere increased calorie burn: people report more enjoyment from HIIT than moderate-intensity activity. This benefit has a two-fold effect: people stick to workouts that they enjoy. A short, consistent workout is better than sporadic exercise or no exercise at all.

HIIT also improves cardiovascular health by working out your blood vessels. Exercise physiologist and athletic trainer Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S. explains, “HIIT increases the flexibility and elasticity of arteries and veins better than continuous aerobic exercise. Because of the increased pressure demand of HIIT, the vessels actually get a workout as well.”

Arguably, the greatest gain of high-intensity interval training is in the shortened yet still highly effective workouts. Hectic schedules can incorporate HIIT into a lunch break or an early morning quiet time.

Your body craves both variety and stability - without stability, back pain can spoil a holiday; without variety, action muscles aren't challenged.    

All it takes is 5 minutes. Aim for variety, and most important, have fun.

[Image Source: Aurora Bootcamp]

From pain medical expert Dr. Sean Wheeler, 6 steps you must know to successfully navigate your journey from chronic low back pain to pain liberation:

    bracing muscles Back Pain Medical Authority Dr Sean Wheeler 1
  2. HOW TO ISOLATE THE BRACING MUSCLES OF YOUR GLUTEUSbracing muscles Back Pain Medical Authority Dr Sean Wheeler 2
  4. WHAT GOOD POSTURE LOOKS LIKE bracing muscles Back Pain Medical Authority Dr Sean Wheeler 4
  5. HOW TO STRETCH YOUR COMPENSATING ACTION MUSCLES PROPERLY bracing muscles Back Pain Medical Authority Dr Sean Wheeler 5
  6. HOW TO STRETCH YOUR JOINTS PROPERLY bracing muscles Back Pain Medical Authority Dr Sean Wheeler 6

With guidance from your doctor and physical therapist, and similar to how a beginning guitar student gains expertise by learning the fundamentals of their guitar and how to play it, your mastery of these 6 steps serves as the basis for achieving freedom from your chronic low back pain.

It all begins with fully understanding the role of Bracing Muscles in your low back, as diminished Bracing Muscle function is where your low back pain begins and, with restored function, ends.


The 6 physical therapy steps described above – including the principles of 180 in 180® and Living Tune Me – are described more fully in UPRISE: Back Pain Liberation, by Tuning Your Body Guitar, by Sean Wheeler, M.D.  Dr. Wheeler is board certified in both Pain Management and Sports Medicine.  He is a medical authority on back pain.  His recently published book UPRISE is changing the way the world thinks about the cause of chronic back pain.  With a new vocabulary to aid understanding of the cause of chronic back pain, and new medical approach, Dr. Wheeler puts patients back in charge of their health to achieve liberation from their chronic pain. 

[Image credit: Architect and amateur luthierRoberto Cipriano depicting guitar bracing,  the internal reinforcement of a guitar’s top and back.]

Back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler answers questions for those who suffer from chronic low back pain based on his new book, UPRISE: Back Pain Liberation, by Tuning Your Body Guitar.


The time and effort dedicated to this goal will be different for each individual, but it is achievable.

Your first assignment is to read Chapters 1-5 of UPRISE, without skipping ahead. Take from these chapters how the body works and doesn’t work, and why so many have been unable to overcome their chronic back pain.

Next, read Chapter 6 to understand the Tune Me process, its four physical goals and seven principles in committing to treatment and achieving freedom from chronic back pain to resume a full live.


It is important to first understand the cause of the condition before deciding upon treatment.   

The need to understand why we are not making progress in back pain treatment can not be overstated, and is answered in UPRISE Chapters 1-5. The current pain treatment system is broken and failing patients. The author has narrowed WHY it is broken to three interrelated factors:

1. Back pain leads to instability in the back, which leads to disc breakdown, 

2. Back pain is not static — one kind of pain causes another, which makes back pain a progressive condition, and

3. Muscle weakness that develops following chronic pain is different than has ever before been described in back pain.

To break away from the broken healthcare treatment system, you must have a grasp of these three factors. It is by understanding these three factors you will stabilize your quest to be part of a new system that actually works for you and your pain.


Body Guitar™ is a new phrase that refers to something [your body] as being the same as another thing [a guitar]. Thinking about your body as your Body Guitar™ — with your spine the neck and strings of a guitar — creates a new conversation about chronic back pain leading to a new understanding — the concept of Bracing Muscles™ — to bring relief to those who suffer.

This body to guitar comparison offers a simple way to understand a complex medical topic, by helping to translate how our bodies work and must be kept in shape.

Guitars and your body — both of which are musical instruments as demonstrated, perhaps, by how many of us sing in showers — must be tuned, adjusted and cared for throughout the lives of each.

In addition, Dr. Wheeler, the author of UPRISE, who has committed his career to understanding and liberating sufferers from chronic back pain, loves music and plays the guitar.


As he explains the issue of muscle weakness, you will learn the muscles to which Dr. Wheeler refers are Bracing Muscles – a particular type of muscle that must provide a bracing function, through all day endurance for your low back to remain stabilized. 

Focus on the fact that bracing muscle performance is key to your stability and healthy back. When these muscles perform with all day endurance, other muscles [known as action muscles] can do their job. But when bracing muscles are unable to provide all-day endurance it can cause havoc with action muscles. Often, this involves action muscles doing work they were never meant to do. This "confusion" among muscles builds and causes the debilitating back pain many know quite well.


Integrate the four goals and seven principles of Tune Me into your daily life, again as discussed in Chapter 6 of UPRISE.

With you as your chief advocate, find your "people" — your healthcare team — to help you further understand your body. To treat your pain for the short term so that next, over a few short months though your own self-discipline and quality physical therapy, you can be liberated from chronic back pain.

Apply what you’ve learned, in a disciplined plan to restore your body's bracing function — achieving endurance and stability — by way of good posture, flexibility in your action muscles, and mobility of the joints surrounding your bracing muscles.


For most chronic sufferers, within 180 days.

While UPRISE does not claim all who suffer from chronic back pain will completely alleviate their longstanding back pain, Tune Me can provide significant, measurable improvement liberating the sufferer from the daily debilitating effects of their chronic pain.

The objective is to liberate the sufferer from their chronic pain to live a full life.

Tune Me has been developed to halt the progression of back pain and decrease pain significantly. This is no small achievement. It is revolutionary. And, as you will understand from Chapter 7 of UPRISE, a conversation worth continuing.


In Dr. Sean Wheeler’s book, UPRISE, he guides us through his journey — of understanding back anatomy, the progressive nature of back pain, and the cause of that progression.  How it gave him the tools to achieve back pain liberation for his patients. How failure in the medical community to understand this process has created a 40- to 50-year inertia in this field. And how — for sufferers and specialists alike — it’s time for a revolution in the way we treat chronic pain.


For chronic low back pain, there is no quick fix.

Which is good news.

Good news as the "quick fix" fantasy must be dispelled, to achieve long overdue medical progress in treating chronic back pain. 

For those who suffer from chronic back pain, the desire of a passive "fix me" quick fix, while not uncommon, ignores a component absolutely necessary to recovery:

Active participation by the patient in their healing. 

Projecting the fantasy of a quick fix expectation upon a back pain doctor or physical therapist achieves the opposite of both "quick" and "fix" if the back pain sufferer is not also committed to investing in themselves, by investing the time to improving their body.  

The powerful reality to achieve the "fix" is for the patient to be fully invested in their recovery.

Like that of an athlete with their coach, the patient's relationship with their medical team remains important:

Overall, the coach–athlete relationship is…at the heart of achievement and the mastery of personal qualities such as leadership, determination, confidence and self-reliance. – Sophia Jowet for The British Psychological Society

Just as athletes training for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics work hard to win a place on their teams, the chronic back pain sufferer must also actively invest time in improving their body to relieve chronic back pain.

[My coach] basically said that there is no shortcut to success. If you want to be good enough to be on the team you’ve got to work hard. That mentality has kept me going through my whole career. –Michael McKillop, Irish middle distance runner and Paralympic athlete

If a back pain sufferer, owning your power to return to and maintain good health means you are bringing a halt to the spiraling fear and worry that come from backache and potential disability.

When you no longer wait for the hope of someone to "fix me," you take the all important first step to healing.

As McKillop says, there are no shortcuts to success and the work is time consuming. But the good news is the reality of pain freedom is achievable by most any sufferer committed to improving themselves with knowledgable "coaching" from their medical team over a period of 180 days.  

As back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler encourages chronic back pain sufferers in Chapter 2 of his new book, UPRISE:

Don’t let [the reality that only you can do the strengthening] scare you, though – it should be empowering.  Let’s not wait on the medical establishment to catch up. Let’s each and every one of us start the revolution now… More than a new plan for treating back pain…Tune Me is a revolution in how we think about, care for, and maintain our bodies.

While the medical establishment is in need of its own revolution in back pain treatment, for you a “revolution of one” can begin any time, with you taking control of your own back pain treatment with direction and support from knowledgeable medical assistance.

The revolution and your healing begins by embracing pain freedom reality with your active participation.

And banishing the passive quick fix fantasy.


invitationAwareness of good posture is important for standing, both physical and social, as discussed by Jane E. Brody in a column for The New York Times Well blog.

While the topic is important in addressing the world's most disabling disease, the author's endorsement of core strengthening exercises recommended by British physiotherapist Nick Sinfield, serve as an example of precisely the outdated back pain thinking and vernacular today relied upon by many in health care.

Sports medicine and pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler aims to build awareness to jettison these obsolete practices. One review of his new book, UPRISE, offers a glimpse of the future in treating chronic back pain:  

...Dr. Sean Wheeler changes the way we look at back pain... As a result, the diagnosis has changed, the prognosis has changed, the vocabulary we use with our patients has changed. [For example,] there is no more “core,” instead speaking of Bracing Muscles in need of Circulation Training.

One need look no further than examples provided by high-performance athletes to understand the importance of moving past the idea of strengthening one's "core" to embracing the importance of Bracing Muscles® in everyday life.

What is often referred to as your core is generally your torso. The major muscles in your torso are often described as core muscles. Respected medical authority, such as the Mayo Clinic, speak to the need to strengthen your core muscles. And yet by doing so, this over 40 years of traditional understanding confuses the treatment and relief of chronic back pain.

The muscles of your core, as well as throughout your body, consist of two different types: Bracing Muscles and Action Muscles. To think of exercises for your core as one-size-fits-all ignores this difference, too often keeping you locked into back pain that becomes chronic and incurable.

At peak capability and as the label implies, bracing muscles brace, providing stability by remaining static - by not moving - and providing spontaneous all day endurance. Think of the muscles of your body that do not grow in size no matter how much you exercise, such as those in your ankles, feet and neck. Bracing muscles are also positioned in your low back, shoulders and hips.

In contrast, and again as the name implies, action muscles are dynamic, they move, yet they move intermittently only when we act to move, such as to flex or walk or climb. Action muscles grow in mass as you exercise, which is why many engage in activity such as lifting weights and strength training.

Yet strength training accomplishes nothing in maintaining bracing muscle function. It's why emphasis on core strengthening is misplaced. 

One investment you can make in maintaining your bracing muscle function is by maintaining good posture. We agree with the author when she writes: "Improving posture requires a conscious effort..."

2016 New Year’s resolutions surround us. For your good health resolve to embrace the revolution of one, the revolution of you. Leave behind the old thinking of core. Instead, reclaim your birthright: the gift of life without chronic back pain. 

And this year, listen to Auld Lang Syne with meaning.


You are invited to UPRISE, to become informed of the cause of chronic back pain and how to overcome the disease through mindful tuning of your Body Guitar®, by reading UPRISE: Back Pain Liberation, by Tuning Your Body Guitar. Then share your copy with a friend or loved one.

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Your body is a finely tuned instrument. Like all finely tuned instruments, it must be properly cared for in order to play the beautiful music it was intended to play. Care for your body and use it correctly, and it will play music that is unique to you – your life song.

– Sean M. Wheeler, M.D.

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