Our muscles are what supports our spine and allow movement to occur when we contract them.  When we activate certain muscles, other muscles must release in unison.  Muscular pain occurs when there is lack of communication between the muscles that are supposed to work together.

Generally, I find that low back pain is associated with weakness (corresponds with under energy) or under facilitation in the abdominal muscles particularly transverse abdominus and the psoas muscles and over facilitation of the quadratus lumborum and the erector spinae muscles.   Over facilitation (corresponds with over energy) of both the psoas and quadratus lumborum will also cause pain in the lumbar region. 

These two muscles provide the major support and stability for the lumbar spine.  There are other muscles supporting the spine and these can be involved in low back pain.  They are the longitudinal muscles that extend up the spine known collectively as erector spinae muscles and those small muscles that give immediate stability and support to adjacent vertebrae namely; interspinalis, intertranversarii, multifidis, and rotatores.

What causes these imbalances?  To understand the answer to that question we need to look at the association between the muscles and the acupuncture meridians. 


Associated Meridian



Erector Spinae


Quadratus Lumborum

Large Intestine

Abdominal muscles

Small Intestine

Interspinalis, Intertranversarii, Multifidis, and Rotatores.



Each meridian has an associated psychology.

Kidney and Bladder meridians comprise the water element in Chinese five element theory.  This element is largely about control and our will.  Kidney as the yin aspect is largely about control of self.  The major emotions here are worry, anxiety and fear which limit our ability to be ourselves.  When the stress that elicits these emotions is acute then we often experience over facilitation or over energy in the kidney meridian.  Energy will travel to the meridian as an aid to us coping with the stressor. When the stress is chronic and ongoing and we are over-efforting in trying to continually do better, constantly pressing our will into action this will lead to exhaustion and under energy in the kidney meridian and a corresponding under facilitation (weakness) of the psoas muscle.


Bladder meridian being the yang aspect of the water element is about the control of our external environment.  This meridian is intimately connected with our survival.  When we feel that events in our world are out of our control then energy will go to this meridian to help us cope.  It does not however always translate into over facilitation of the associated back muscles.  Whilst other bladder muscles in the leg may always be over facilitated the reverse can be the case with back muscles.  You can see how worry, anxiety and fear about events that are shaping our lives or anticipating things going wrong can translate into under or over facilitation of the associated low back muscles.


Large intestine meridian is the yang (doing or action) aspect of the metal element and is about our sense of self worth and also about holding onto old perceptions of self and others; not letting go of the past. If we have been given the message that we are pretty useless or our performance is never quite good enough then this can lead to over energy in this meridian as we effort to perform and impress others to demonstrate our worth.  Making mistakes will not be allowed and perfection will be high on the have-to-have list.  If this translates into over facilitation of the quadratus lumborum and weakness of the psoas (worry, anxiety and fear) you have a recipe for low back pain.  Add to that the need to control everything and the pain just got a whole lot worse.


The small intestine meridian is paired in the fire element with the heart meridian.  The Heart meridian is essentially about our spirit as a person and the small intestine meridian is the yang aspect of our spirit.  Unsurprisingly then it is about expressing that spirit.  The more we feel constrained to express who we are out of fear or ridicule or worse, the weaker in general become the abdominal muscles.  Sometimes weakness is one sided as it can be and often is with any of the muscles in the table above.  This can lead to hip pain, sacral pain, leg length difference as well as low back pain.


To understand your low back pain read the article on why kinesiology and reflect on your survival patterns as these are what you will be using to cope with everyday stress.  Do not blame others for these patterns but understand how they arose and thereby give yourself choice about how you will respond to stress in the future.  Understand which areas of your life are out of balance by reference to the Venn diagram.   Pain can often resolve itself if we are aware of our responses to stressors in our world and make effort to change our perception of self and others.