My Aching Back!

My Aching Back!

It seems as if each day presents more and more frequent stories (horror stories ) of low back injuries and whiplash-effect incidents for people I know, or encounter. From my own perspective, I had to reluctantly and immediately scale back all productive training applications after experiencing extreme low back pain. I initially sought relief through chiropractic care, contrast therapy (hot/cold shower application), accupressure, massage therapy, etc........ All to no avail. As for my condition, subsequent MRI findings then revealed my fear-- multiple disc herniations at L-4/ L-5 and S-1.

My ultimate relief came from utilizing spinal decompression therapy, along with effective stretching and physical therapy. The stretching, PT and slow, safe re-introduction to an alternative training/workout approach continues. I can empathize with anyone wanting to continue on with an intense workout approach, but I also understand the need for some "down time" to allow the body to offset the enormous direct and indirect stress effect(s) that have been suffered.

For each of you with low back concerns, your physician or therapist should be able to help guide you back safely, but ultimately you will be faced with constructing a plan that will allow you to get back in step with more intense training applications. Focus on what you CAN do currently, rather than what you CANNOT do, and accompany that with a sane dietary approach (if your activity has diminished, then obviously the total calorie concerns are to be addressed).

Swimming and walking are 2 activity choices to be done safely for now....Avoid those movements in the gym which cause a "loading" effect on the spine (back squats, overhead presses or any overhead movements) , along with avoiding forward bending -flexion- such as deadlifts, bent rows, etc. That leaves us a few choices- standing lateral raise (do not sit upright with a load---this causes even further stress/compression) , standing dumbell curl with knees slightlty flexed, flat bench press ( keep your feet elevated and on the bench), flat flies (again, feet elevated and on the bench), bodyweight squat and it's variants-(avoid the excesive forward lean that may occur, particularly if you have tight, less flexible Achille's tendons and/or tight leg biceps/hamstrings). Add to the mix standing, controlled leg curl, modified push-up (from the knees) focusing on maintaining a tight core and flat back. If you have access to an assisted pull-up and dip combo machine, that is ideal (you are then in a state of semi-suspension). Throw some graduated core-strengthening movements and controlled, static stretching into the mix as well. Finally, perform all movement with precise form and function, rather than focusing on the amount of resistance that is being used.

Judicious use of NSAIDS, adequate water intake, and relying on a supportive sleeping surface all help as well.

Once again, do not dwell on your potential future limitations--rather, excel at what you will attempt TODAY while confidently looking forward to improving TOMORROW.

-Eric Shrieves