**this blog was originally published on October 18, 2012 – There are more recent updates about back pain on my blog.
I was fighting against “irreversible” back pain…
When the thought of a workout went from motivating and exciting to making me think of “pain”, I knew I had a problem. It began taking me longer and longer to motivate myself to workout because I knew a hard workout meant horrible back pain. The pain was intense and in my normal black and white fashion, I was determined to “fix it”! I was determined to beat my irreversible back pain.
Everything hurt my back; sitting, standing, sleeping, and working out made the pain unbearable at times. My normal no excuse mentality was ringing louder than ever. Something is broken and I need to fix it…quickly!
Doctors, medical bills , surgery options and prescriptions…
I sought out orthopedic surgeons and had an MRI, which confirmed a reason for my back pain. I had severe arthritis in my lower back and two bulging discs. I guess all those years of constantly wearing high heels and skipping my workout warmups were starting to catch up to me 🙂
I began a series of doctors’ appointments and all of them prescribed arthritis meds, pain meds, coritsone shots, etc. No one believed I could fix the cause of the pain, so instead, they all wanted to “mask” it.
I saw 4 physical therapists, 3 orthopedic surgeons and 2 chiropractors. All resulting in false hopes, a lot of money spent on medical bills, and hearing the same information: the arthritis is permanent. Basically they said I had irreversible back pain.
The choices I was given were: STOP working out, take anti inflammatory medication, cut the nerve, and use medication when needed to manage pain.
The back pain just wouldn’t stop…
The options presented were not sitting right with me, but when pain takes over, you don’t always think rationally. The pain never stopped. It was constant and it was bad. I gave in to a cortisone shot that was done under anesthesia and inserted during an x-ray. This was supposed to take away the pain. It did for about a day, and then came back stronger then ever. The pain management doctor had an answer though: more pain medication and a more aggressive surgery. No thank you!
I remember thinking to myself, I’m 40, maybe this is just the way it is?
I never accepted that things had to be this way, but wow, when pain takes over you start to reconsider your options. I was determined to figure out what was going on and find a natural way to stop the pain. So, my mission began and now I will share with you what I learned.
You can’t get “rid of” arthritis” but you can stop what is causing the pain.
It is not actually the arthritis or disc causing the pain, it’s other imbalances around it causing you to FEEL pain where the issue is. You have to fix other areas of your body to get around the muscle imbalances, which is what typically causes the pain. For me, for instance, my current workouts, the way I was sitting, standing, etc… were aggravating muscle imbalances and creating terrible pain in my back.
My workouts were no longer working for me.
I was in a comfort zone of doing the same workouts I had always done. I was in denial that they were now wrong for me. I had to accept this fact and take on the challenge to re-learn the exercises and corrective circuits.
I am diligent about doing these now and there are some exercises, like weighted leg presses, that I can never do again or my back pain will instantly flair up.
I had abs but my CORE was not functional
I had abs so I THOUGHT I had a strong core… right? WRONG!
When I tried to do simple stability moves I had absolutely no core strength. It’s amazing how quickly this can change with practice.
I moved primarily to exercises utilizing my own body weight and REALLY worked to develop my core. No sit-ups (those only work the abdominal muscles), but TRUE core strength. I’m not suggesting you start at that point, but something to work towards.
You have to walk before you can run to TRULY rebuild your core. It might seem like you are going backwards at first, but if you stick with it, you WILL see amazing results!
Eat a clean anti-inflamatory diet
As a celiac and licensed sports nutritionist, I always ate healthy, and of course gluten-free (a must for a celiac). So I decided to take things up a notch and get diligent about adding key anti-inflammatory foods to my diet including the removal of grains and dairy.
I started doing corrective circuits
Doing the right corrective circuits will help to activate muscles you haven’t been using and help you calm down and release the muscles that are tight and over active. I worked very closely with two NASM certified Corrective Exercise Specialist to re-train myself.
As an example, my glutes were under active, which is common in women. My quads and lower back were picking up the slack for my glutes which were under-active and not firing. Now, I do a full corrective circuit to activate my glutes prior to my workouts so that my glutes pull their weight and take additional strain off my quads and lower back.
I realized I could still have “INTENSITY” while working out, but I had to CHANGE those “intense” moves
My old workouts put too much stress on my lower back. I don’t do things like weighted leg presses anymore, which used to be a staple in my workout. Instead, I do exercises that keep my core engaged, using all of my muscle fibers (a huge fan of ring and strap training now) and I don’t do stable moves anymore. No more machines for me, as I find they are too isolating and can lead to the creation of muscle imbalances.
Today, my back is no longer in constant pain. It is not 100% gone, but my days of pain are are now extremely limited to a few hours of pain a few days a month. It is no longer the constant nagging pain I used to deal with EVERY single day.
My workouts are back to being intense and I am once again changing and improving my body without the added fear and result of pain. With everything I have learned, I have developed my DVD’s as well as the more intense STRONGER which mimics the corrective circuits, workouts, and nutrition I currently do! These will BOTH teach you the exercises I did to stop my symptoms.
“Be Happy…Be Healthy…Be Fit!”
– Natalie Jill