The Spiritual Meaning of Lower Back Pain
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Seeking and acknowledging the spiritual meaning of lower back pain can set you on a course for recovery.
Lower back pain can be debilitating. When this part of your body is in crisis, it creates a sense of desperation. Along with physical issues, many people only find relief when they tend to the emotional and spiritual meaning of lower back pain.
The lower back, including the lumbar spine and sacrum, is a storehouse for emotion. Unless you are exploring the deeper emotional and psychological roots of back pain, you are missing an opportunity to heal.
In the maze of treatments for chronic back pain, the spiritual meaning of lower back pain is one that is often overlooked. Jeana Naluai, Director of Ho’omana Spa on the island of Maui and kumu (teacher) of indigenous Hawaiian wisdom and practices, explains that back pain is the most common complaint from people who, “having tried everything else,” show up on her table desperate for relief.
The Sacrum and L5: The Spiritual Source of Lower Back Pain
“Low back pain, at the area of the lumbar spine,” explains Naluai, “has to do with genealogy. Each vertebra of the lumbar spine has a different focus.” In the lineage teachings Naluai received, it is important to consider pain at the level of each vertebra and the one above and below it and to consider where the back meets the hips as well.
The sacrum, that triangular bone that sits at the base of your spine, represents your roots and where you are on the planet. The spine articulates with the pelvis at the sacroiliac joints. The pelvis has to do with drive and power and the ability to move towards choices and directions. “It's how we move through our time here,” explains Naluai. “People who are not grounded, not rooted energetically or spiritually, typically have pain in the sacrum or pelvis.”
L5 is the lowest vertebrae. It articulates with your sacrum and involves flexibility in your relationship to your time on Earth. In Naluai’s lineage teachings, “It has a lot to do with genetic history and ancestral lineage. How you walk forward in life with, or without, the support of family or ancestors.”
A great deal of emotional upset can occur for people who are living somewhere they don’t feel that they belong. Pain in this area is often associated with not feeling that you are “planted where you are supposed to be.” That might show up as not feeling that you belong in your family, that your family doesn’t relate to you on some level, or that you just can’t find your tribe, the people who understand and accept you on a deep level.
L4: Emotions, Acceptance, and Ancestral Support as a Spiritual Source of Lower Back Pain
Moving up the spine, L4 is the seat of emotion, especially grief. It's also your center for creativity, how you hold joy with your family, community, and world around you.
For people who grew up with the belief that it was not okay to express strong emotion, specifically around loss and tragedy, pain will often show up here. Likewise, if celebrations were not honored, or there was not a true outlet for expressing joy and connection, this part of the lower back can cause problems.
L3 is about acceptance from our family. People who don’t feel accepted for their choice of a partner or for their sexual orientation may develop pain in this area of the low back. According to Naluai, pain here also represents “not having familial support towards the decisions that you make and how that lineage conversation affects your attitudes towards communities. It's about interrelationships that can be from the past, present, and future in your understanding.”
L3: The Spiritual Meaning of Low Back Pain and Digesting Life Experience
L3 is about digestion on all levels: digesting beliefs, digesting choices. The spiritual roots of back pain here wrap around to the front side. Naluai explains, “If you were raised with a certain belief system that had been passed down for generations and then you veered off in your decision towards another system of beliefs, such as religion or career choice that created a break or separation with what your ancestors were doing or what are the rest of your family is doing, you might find a challenge in this area until you heal that break within yourself.”
“This part of the spine,” she says, “has to do with the digestion of these kinds of life choices. It is possible to heal the spiritual root of back pain in this area. There is a great deal of healing when they stand in their truth and power with regards to their own beliefs and choices. Sometimes that's what ends up motivating a shift for the whole family. You can make a change with a choice for yourself that heals not just you, but something in your family line that needed to shift because that was a limited belief system or limiting pattern.”
L2: Finding Spiritual Stability and Flexibility in the Lower Back
L2 has to do with your physical capability to support yourself and how you flex backward and forward. This relates to movement within your work and your capacity to support yourself physically.
Naluai shares: “I notice that men end up having more issues with their lower back. I think that has to do with the role of men being the financial support for the family in a traditional sense, even though a lot of us are shifting outside of that traditional sense at this point.”
Naluai sees pain in this area in “men who start a family very quickly and don’t excel in the education that they wanted for themselves or in the direction that they wanted. Instead they had to hunker down and do what they need to do to support the family, and maybe weren't able to follow their true dream.”
The top lumbar vertebra, L1, has to do with stability. Pain here is often associated with changes in financial, relationship, or career stability. Naluai says this is a result of one of the “foundational aspects of a person’s life being rocked.” It is connected to L2 and often involves having aspirations for what you want to do that are different from your family or ancestral obligations.
Healing the Spiritual Roots of Lower Back Pain
Many people show up on Naluai’s table after having tried a whole host of therapeutic and pharmaceutical remedies. Her first step is having a conversation about what was going on in the person’s life when the pain started.
She describes the process she witnesses of people who get stuck in chronic pain cycles: They go on medication to numb out because it’s too painful to explore sensitive issues with family. “These are often not easy conversations to have, especially when there are issues that are deeply rooted in your genealogy. People think they have to just live with it because it’s how it’s always been. But then, explains Naluai, “You realize that your dad had the same thing that your grandfather had that his grandfather had; that it’s been going on for generations. Ultimately it has to do with this one belief system that's severely limiting.”
Naluai says: “What you find is that when you take care of the emotional roots or spiritual meaning of lower back pain, through practices like ho’oponopono, counseling, self-reflection or meditation or through some kind of ceremony of release, the pain will begin to ease. When you align spiritually and emotionally, the physical body falls back into alignment. You could go to 10,000 massage therapists and just barely scratch the surface if you're not willing to look at the full picture.”
While looking at these types of ancestral wounds can be painful and difficult emotionally, ultimately it is by addressing the spiritual meaning of lower back pain that you can begin to find true relief.
For more on the spiritual meaning of lower back pain, read: “Releasing the Emotional Roots of Back Pain.”