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Back injuries and what to do. The truth!

September 11, 2017

I hurt my back. Again. The last thing I want to be is a young dad with a bad back! 


As you all know, this is a very common injury and can happen to anyone, at any time and for whatever stupid reason it decides to. We use our backs all day, every day and due to the amount of sitting we do, a simple error in the way we lift, or try to move something can cause us to get unwanted back pain or stiffness. 

What we need to understand is this does not mean the end of your life or your lean body! Yes, it hurts. Yes, it's sometimes very debilitating and limits what we can do whilst we're in the worst of it; but what is often isn't - and this is where we need to take a step back and realise - is it's not the worst case scenario your brain can conjure up (which it will). 


Believe it or not, we're pretty robust. Our spines support our whole body and are the protectors of the central neural network of our nervous systems; these guys are "designed" to be ridiculously strong, so whatever level of pain you're experiencing, it's not as serious as it feels (unless obviously you've been in an accident or had something literally smash into your back, then pleeeease  get medical attention!).


Supporting our spines are a crap-load of muscles which are too deep to be influenced by exercise or deep-tissue massage. These little dudes more-often-than-not will lock-up or go into spasm when you hurt or pull your back, triggering the other supporting muscles up your spine that assist your movement; this is actually one of the reasons for the immense pain you're in - they are all now super tight! These muscle spasms are your body's response to the injury and happens (ironically) in order to limit your movement and protect you from the pain by stopping you from feeling it; however, they are probably causing you more discomfort than the injury themselves! Chill. This is part of the process and again, feels worse than it is...


So, what do we do? The opposite of what our anxious brains are telling us. We Move. Seriously, keep moving. The last thing you should be doing is lying down and keeping those muscles tight. You will honestly find that once you're up and in motion (you may look a little like a robot malfunctioning for a while) the stiffness eases off starts to hurt a lot less. It sounds counterintuitive, but believe me, it works. Also, stretch. There are so many videos and articles out there on the net that can be helpful when you're suffering, so do check them out and see what works for you, because some will and some won't...


Anyway, BACK to me (I'm so funny). I threw my back out by doing Squats, but with the bar on my upper back; something I haven't done for years and now I remember why! I've had an on/off lumbar region pain thingy for years (since I had a bulging disc several years ago from doing heavy squats) and I've learned to manage it with different leg exercise variations and keeping a strong core. 

However, stupid me started a new training program called GVT (German Volume Training) and this called for Back Squats 10 reps x 10 sets, followed by deadlifts 10 reps x 10 sets, which thinking about it, is a recipe for disaster! 2 weeks into the program and I can't drag my ass out of bed the following morning after a session. I literally and figuratively could not stand up. I got half-way out of bed and that was it, I was the half-bent man. I managed to do a few slow stretches and this eased the spasms enough that I could mostly stand up and start moving around, albeit in a fair amount of pain...

I panicked (as you would) and thought I'd done my back in again. Great, now I can't train and I'm going to get fat. Here comes the dadbod! Woe is me.

Anyway, I was straight back to bed and started to research what I could do to get moving again and why I may be suffering this pain, finding that there is so much information available to help fix people who have lower back issues - videos included.


Dragging myself out of bed and onto the floor, I managed to find a few stretches and light exercises that didn't hurt as I performed them, which helped me to get up and mobile again. For the next couple of days I did my morning routine and whilst the pain was still there and very uncomfortable, it was getting slowly better. I'm a firm believer in natural remedies, so was taking curcumin (derived from Turmeric and a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic) capsules like they were going out of fashion, rather than pharmaceutical pain killers or NSAIDs which I don't really like taking (I'll save this story for another time).


Not wanting to go to the doctor's - who would probably only prescribe the things I won't take, or refer me to a physio - I sought expert advice from a chiropractor/physiotherapist directly. He confirmed that what I'd been doing was the right approach and that moving around and doing light exercise was the key to less pain, more mobility and promoted healing. He also said that the number of people nowadays who walk around with some form of bulging disc issue is quite high (due to all the sitting we do!) and that they don't notice as they're not in any pain! Therefore, I shouldn't be too worried about my lower back pain as I'm already taking the right steps to get it fixed. The take away from this experience was to stay mobile, stay active and listen to your body; if it hurts or causes discomfort, don't do it.


So what happens next? I got back into the gym on Friday last week and took it easy. Surprisingly I did feel much better, despite my fears of making it worse. I've chilled out on smashing the Curcumin capsules and I enjoyed a relatively pain-free weekend with my wife.

I'm back in the gym tomorrow and am actually looking forward to training this week. Although I think I may give the GVT a miss for a little while...


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