Did you know it takes over 200 muscles to take one step?
A healthy respect for the role that soft tissue, specifically muscles, plays in our everyday life is essential, says Taum Sayers, a Truckee resident and certified massage therapist with 40 years of experience.
“There’s not much that goes on that doesn’t have a muscular component,” he said. “When someone presents a headache, there’s probably some neck muscles that are out of balance, that are too tight or holding tension. Someone has a knee problem, then there’s a good chance the medial collateral ligament is not happy [and] is drifted back … Your digestive system, our visceral muscles, they are muscles too. And it’s often not unusual for someone to have lower back pain and constipation going at the same time.”
Sayers, who has lived in the Truckee/North Tahoe area for nearly 50 years, is a practitioner of a technique described in structural engineering terms by its founder, Lauren Berry. According to a quote on the Berry Method website, “If you understand the force of intelligence in the body, its mechanical operation, and structure, you can help any part of the body you can reach with your hands.”
“The tradition that I bought into, invested in, we look at the body as a structural moving machine,” Sayers said. “We have an ongoing relationship with maintaining balance and where the muscles are controlling that, the biggest ones are in the lower back. And so the focus of my therapy is to get those out of their shocked tension and bring them back to relax. Because when those muscles are tight, your body thinks it’s falling all the time. It’s like, ‘oh, I’m falling, I gotta tighten up.’ So, it remembers that pattern.”
After this winter when we’ve all been snow-removal machines and our backs have been vocal, one wonders what dysfunctional patterns have been established. Sayers believes we can help our worn-out backs, and thereby our entire body, with simple techniques that take less than a minute, thus can easily be built into daily habits for great impact. Here, he answers a few questions about his work and shares a daily habit exercise to start today.
Nearly 3 in 10 adults (28%) are currently experiencing chronic low back pain, according to a 2022 Harris Poll. You just hosted a natural hip and back pain relief class at Namaste in Truckee on April 8. Tell us how you ended up focusing on this trouble spot for many of us.
I’ve had back problems off and on since I was 3. Most of the time, I can get out of pain. Most of the time, it’s a muscular component that can be addressed. I had a back problem last year that was starting to get my attention. All the indications were that I had bulged a disc and it was pushing on nerves and I couldn’t sit comfortably. Out of desperation, I started doing some movements, some of what you saw in the first class to help. And it got better, like, within hours. And so, I was like, okay, what am I onto here?
Success with a desperate personal need led me to experiment and I felt immediate relief. I apply the same principles in my therapy. I attempted to show clients how to sprinkle their day with healthy habits and came to realize they could be better served with the presentation in a class form.
In the class I took with you, I remember you speaking about a piece of cartilage that lay between the sacrum and pelvis that you said plays a part in lower back pain but is rarely even shown in anatomy books. Could you talk about this wedge of connective tissue and its importance?
First thought is that when something makes it into an anatomy book, it’s usually been drawn from cadavers. And soft tissue is not the same within hours [of death].
If you think about any joint in the body, there’s a cushion because bones do not rub against each other, otherwise you start having problems. Bone on bone is something no one wants to hear. Imagine the sacrum, then you have the ilium and the hips — you can touch your hips, right? Where they meet in that little “v,” there’s a cushion there and reality and gravity and stress and tension can kind of pooch it out. Like if you squish an Oreo cookie and it goes out one side. Okay. So, [Berry Method founder] Lauren had a technique for putting it back in.
Also, around every joint there is a joint capsule that holds moisture. When there is tension in a joint, the ability of the body to deliver moisture and nutrients, and then flush it out and replace, recycle, and rinse, it gets compromised when the tissue is too tight. So, when you are working back there, when you’re just massaging back on your sacrum, that helps the circulation in the joint.
Your workshop focuses on “healthy habits,” small things done consistently that help the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Please describe an exercise that you feel every human should know about, to support their lower back.
The healthy habits, they’re meant to just sprinkle your day with … you know, you’re waiting for the water to boil for your coffee. We like drive-through healing. Our culture is not invested for the most part. Even doing an hour of stretching every day, which is really good, I think it’s better to sprinkle your day with stuff and that’s kind of the formula behind this. I wish I would’ve learned this when I was 10. I wish they would teach us this kind of stuff in grade school.
Okay, so, your lower back, that area in there is like a shock absorber and it has a tendency to tighten up and shorten. Most of us get shorter as time goes on. And what you can do is basically reach around your hips and pelvis, push in, and lift up. Yes. I mean, it is so simple. When this first started working, I go, that’s too easy. That’s too simple. This can’t possibly be doing that.
But yeah, pushing in and lifting up works — around your belly, scooping and lifting, then around your hips and then especially around your lower back. It starts to work better when you walk while you’re doing that.
Find more healthy habit exercises at musclemanagement.com/healthy-habits.
Slightly Biased Testimonial from Taum’s Sister
It has been a long time since I’ve been able to sleep on my right side without pain keeping me awake. I had surgery on my lower back four months ago (November 2022). The side sleeping pain has worsened.
I just spent this last week with my brother Taum near Yuma, Arizona. He has been giving me tips for managing that pain. He calls them remedial movements. They were as simple as 10 seconds of pushing my thumb or knuckles into specific places near my lower back several times a day while walking, sitting, or even lying in bed.
I really didn’t think that this would help, but I put up with him, listened, and did what he guided me to do. These remedial movements are helping!!! I have slept on my right side these last three nights without pain.
At times, I have also had numbness in my feet with shooting nerve pain. The nerve/shooting pain has calmed down a lot since I started doing these remedial movements … only four days ago.
Thank you, brother,
Cyndi in Newport, Washington