Kathryn Merrow on July 12th, 2016

Dear Reader,

I bet you are here because you have some kind of back pain.  I don’t post articles all the time lately but I’m still here to support you and to answer your questions about simple, natural methods of pain relief.

Thank you for stopping by!


Kathryn Merrow on December 17th, 2013

Doctors know a whole lot!  And naturally, patients believe their doctor because our doctors are smart.  That’s a good thing!

But sometimes they just don’t see the whole picture.  Why?

It wasn’t part of their training.  There is just too much to know.  And that’s also why some doctors or therapists specialize in getting down to the root causes of back pain.

So, if your doctor says your back pain is caused by a nerve, the next question is: “Why?”  What is the structure that is pressing on the nerve?

And, the next question is:  “How come?”

Let’s say Read the rest of this entry »


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Kathryn Merrow on February 6th, 2013

What kind of movement will help your back pain go away and stay away?

Well, here’s the deal.  We have several hundred muscles and most of us use only the same sixty or seventy all the time.  That gets us out of muscular balance.

So, mix things up!  Wake up the muscles that you haven’t been using.  Stretch the muscles in front.  Most of us have muscles in front that are way too tight and short.  That causes back pain.

Strengthen the back muscles.  Most of us have weak backs and we collapse forward.  Make those back muscles strong again.

If you take on a program of movement that is too far different from your usual activity, you will be sore tomorrow.

  • Start gradually.
  • Move thoughtfully.
  • Pay attention to what feels tight.
  • Look in the mirror to check your posture.

Even simple, subtle movement will help your back muscles feel better.


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Kathryn Merrow on October 11th, 2012

Does your back hurt more when you drive?  It’s not a surprise to me because I’ve sat in lots and lots of car seats and I don’t like ’em.

Some designers seem to think that car seats are for lounging.  C’mon now.  Drivers are supposed to be alert and able to see the road.  I’d like to be supported rather than reclining.

1.  But sometimes car seats don’t have anything to support your lower back while you are reclin…I mean, driving.  If you don’t have a lumbar support you can create one easily and cheaply.  Fold a hand towel into quarters or eighths or whatever thickness fits between you and your car seat.  It goes behind your waist.

If you have access to a small baby pillow or a batt of fiberfill they will work, too.  You might even find a nicely shaped lumbar support at the dollar store.  When I found a bin of them at a dollar store I bought several.  Those are some of the best dollars I have ever spent!

2.  Sometimes car seats recline so much that your head is forced to jut forward.  That strains upper back and neck muscles.  If you can put your seat into a more upright position that will help.

3.   Lots of headrests stick out too far.  All I can figure is that the designers are trying to support the heads of people who are really dysfunctional and are ignoring the folks with nice, neutral, straight posture.    It’s really annoying for someone with nice posture to sit in those cars; they cause head and neck pain in short order.  What can you do if your headrest sticks out too far?  Well, you could throw it out the window.  Or you could just pad up the seat back so your whole body will move forward.  And in some cars adding a lumbar pillow or support can move you forward just enough so the headrest won’t bug you as much.

So your back pain might not be your fault.  If you hurt when you drive it could well be your seat.  If your car seat isn’t comfortable for you, give yourself some props, cushions or supports.  Create your own custom seat so you can drive without back pain.

Here’s another idea:  Sometimes use the lumbar support and sometimes don’t.  Or use differently sized back supports.  Switch it up so you keep flexing your muscles and spine in different ways.  That will keep things flexible.

We like flexible, relaxed backs.  They don’t have pain.


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Kathryn Merrow on October 3rd, 2012

What causes bulging disks in your lower back?

And what are bulging disks, anyway?

Imagine this:

The bones of your spine are stacked one on top of another.  In between the bones are jelly donuts.  The donuts are tough on the outside and have jelly on the inside.  Those jelly donuts are your disks.

If the jelly squeezes through the tough outside of a disk it is called a rupture. The jelly can press on nerves and cause pain down your leg or hip.

If the jelly stays inside the disk but the disk shifts out of place it can also press on nerves.  That’s called a bulging disk.

What causes disks to rupture or bulge?

Well, it could be from a violent accident such as falling off a bridge.  But, more often (thankfully!) a disk is moved by your muscles.

Why do your muscles move disks?

That’s how bodies work.  Bones and disks cannot move on their own but when muscles get ‘too tight’  or ‘too weak’ or out-of-balance the muscles allow the bones and disks to slip or move out of place.

The disks don’t really ‘slip.’  It’s more like they are pulled or pushed out of place by muscles.  They actually are!

There are strong muscles on either side of your spine and along the length of your spine.  There are muscles that attach from your thighs to your spine.  If they get too strong or tight on one side or the other they pull on the disks and spine bones.

If those same muscles get weak or stretched, they cannot hold the spine bones and disks in place.

Too strong or too weak means out-of-balance.  So the goal is to keep all of your muscles in use and in balance.

Yoga is a very good way to use all of your muscles.  Yoga makes muscles long and strong all over your body.

Any type of balanced movement program can help you get rid of your bulging disks.

Wait!  Movement can help a slipped disk?

You bet!  Disks can move back into their natural location if you take the pressure off them.  If the too-tight muscles are stretched or relaxed, the pressure on the disk and spine gets less.

But can a ruptured disk heal naturally?

My understanding is that often after a period of time the Read the rest of this entry »


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Kathryn Merrow on September 25th, 2012

Can you get rid of your back pain forever?  Yes, says Norman J. Marcus, MD, in his 2012 book End Back Pain Forever –A Groundbreaking Approach to Eliminate Your Suffering.

Dr. Marcus has Pain Centers and medical experts from all over the world praising his work.

Here’s one review:

“The Treatment of back pain in American has suffered from weaknesses of diagnosis and a poverty of effective treatments.  This volume…brings intelligence and clarity to an area that profoundly needs such an activity.” – Robert Cancro, MD, Lucius N. Littanuer Professor of Psychiatry and chairman emeritus

Here’s another:

“Your back pain can be cured.  Read this book.  Dr. Norman Marcus eliminates low back pain by focusing on the major problem–muscle pain.  His treatment and prescribed exercises work–I know because he treated and cured me.” – Thomas J.J. Blanck, MD, PhD; Dorothy Reaves Spatz, MD Professor of Anesthesiology, Physiology, and Neuroscience chairman, Department of Anesthesiology, NYU Langone Medical Center

Wow!  This book is regarded as breakthrough treatment for back pain by highly regarded authorities and pain clinic experts.

There’s just one funny thing…

Here are some things from the book:

1.  Dr. Marcus says muscles are the primary source of 75 percent or more of all back pain, not the spine.  (But you knew that if you read here much.  I would have estimated 90 percent.)

2.  He says medical tests make you more likely to have surgery because they show such things as herniated disks but they may–or more likely may not–be the cause of your back pain.  (And this is true, too.  Most of us have abnormalities in our spines and disks but no pain.  Just because something is seen on a test does NOT mean it is the cause of your back pain.)

3.  He treats Read the rest of this entry »


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Kathryn Merrow on September 18th, 2012

Do you have pain or discomfort on one side of your spine?  It’s probably muscles that are tight.

There are several layers of muscle next to each side of your spine.  The largest, longest muscles are closest to the outside of your body.  The smaller, shorter ones are closest to your spine bones.

And any of them can go into spasm or contraction.

Your muscles all belong to the same union.  When one of them becomes unhappy they invite their brothers to join them in complaining.  What does this mean?  You might not have only one muscle causing your pain.

When one muscle is ‘tight’ it pulls on bones and other muscles.  One muscle in contraction can cause other muscles to also go into contraction.

Sometimes it’s a more serious problem but most often back pain is muscle-related.  (And remember:  I’m not a doctor and I’m not giving you a diagnosis.)  (But if I were and I did, I’d probably say, “It’s just muscles!”)

What helps get rid of muscle pain next to your spine?

1.  Professional Read the rest of this entry »


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Kathryn Merrow on September 11th, 2012

Do you really mean it when you say that someone gives you ‘a pain in the back’?   If they cause a lot of stress for you, that could be exactly what’s happening.

We tend to use words that describe how we feel.  Getting a pain in the back, the neck, the rear–those are all real feelings that can turn into real honest-to-goodness pain.

Stressful emotions can cause back pain.  Here’s how:

Think of a stressful situation or person for a moment.

What happens to your body when you feel stressed?  Some part gets tight.  Muscles get tense.

Is it your jaw?  Your upper shoulders?  Or, do the muscles in your lower back tighten up?

How can you get rid of the pain in your back naturally?

  1. Meditation can help.  When you learn to meditate you become an observer.  Things are not so stressful because you just let them happen without emotional involvement.
  2. Breathing can help.  Deep, even breathing settles down bodies.
  3. Exercise helps.  We were born to move!  When we stop moving, stress builds up.  You need active movement!  Choose something you enjoy and JUST DO IT!

This may seem very simplistic.  In fact, way too simple especially if you have a lot of pain.  But here’s the deal:

Bodies heal all the time.

The more help you, yourself, can give your body the quicker Read the rest of this entry »


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Kathryn Merrow on September 4th, 2012

If you have pain in the left side of your upper shoulder and neck, right about where they meet, guess what the cause might be?

Sure it’s muscles, most likely.  But why are they complaining?

1.  Do you type?  Do you sit facing the right while you are at the computer?  The best way is to face the monitor or your material squarely in front of your nose.

2.  Do you always watch the television from an angle?  Or sit in the same corner of the same couch with your head tilted?  How about changing position so you look directly and straight at the television or book?

3.  Do you sleep on your side with your head tilted either up or down?   You can prop your neck and head in a more neutral position to avoid neck muscle strain.

4.  Do you tuck the phone Read the rest of this entry »


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Kathryn Merrow on August 30th, 2012

What is the most common cause of back pain that you wouldn’t normally think of?  We expect to have back pain when we work our muscles too hard but what else could make your back hurt?  Here are three causes you might not have thought about:

The most common cause of back pain is under-use of muscles!

This happens when you spend too much time sitting.  We were built to move–to walk, swing from trees and all the things we don’t do much anymore.  We are supposed to use ALL of our muscles but we mostly use just SOME of them.

That makes muscles unhappy so they get knots and they complain.  Weak muscles are easily overstretched and that is a common reason for muscle pain in your back.

Poor nutrition causes muscle pain in your back.  Muscles need minerals to function well and a lot of the things we eat don’t supply all of the nutrients that used to be in (real) food.  (<–click to article.)  Worse yet, some of the things we eat actually deplete our bodies of necessary vitamins.  Yikes!

Poor posture causes back pain, too.   Poor posture is often caused by poor habits–slouching, leaning to one side, sitting with your head way forward, ‘forgetting’ to stretch.  If you have the feeling that you are curling forward it’s time to stretch.  Get your arms up and back, (<– click to article.)  squeeze your shoulder blades to your spine, lift your chin.

You may have noticed that all of the most common causes of back pain are things that can easily be fixed.  But you have to take action!

Take control of your posture and nutrition, get moving and USE your body and you can get rid of the most common causes of pain in your back.  🙂




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