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Stiff, Fragile, Aching Low Back: Pain Patterns, Causes, Self-Care

Stiffness in the low back can come from a number of larger muscles like spinal erectors, latissimus dorsi, and psoas. Fragility in the low back usually comes from a joint problem in the vertebrae. The two patterns play in concert to create a pain pattern that is a combination of the two. This post is a collection of trigger points that produce either type of low back pain.

There are a number of these combinations. Here is an example:

This post shows a pattern that is a combination of two patterns:

  • The fragile sharp pain around L3 is created by the multifidi that cross those interspinous joints. This is usually the source of the feeling that your back is about to “go out.”
  • The aching pain in the SI joint comes from the quadratus lumborum, which is also impacted by the joint problem at L3. In each of these combinations, another muscle refers into the hip or down the leg, creating the feeling of “sciatica.”

The sharp pain at the spine and the pain at the SI joint will usually resolve at the same time when the joints of L3 vertebrae are released. Work in the muscle may be needed when the problem is in chronic spasm.

These posts include:

  • Trigger point patterns and how people describe the pain
  • How you activate and intensify the pain pattern
  • Self-care to show you how to get quick relief on your own
  • Stretches and exercises that provide longer-lasting relief
  • Brief anatomy review of the involved muscle
  • Yoga poses that open this muscle
  • Treatment notes for therapists

Note that we are in the process of converting these posts into a more informative and accessible format. Thank you for your patience.


This website is being revised and some posts have not yet been converted to the newer images and formats.

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This patient had recovered from a frozen shoulder but developed shoulder pain at the end of his golf swing. More traditional neuromuscular techniques weren’t working. Chiropractic wasn’t working. Integrative Craniosacral was the right solution for lasting relief.

Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.