There is no getting around it, back pain sucks. I have been dealing with back problems for most of my adult life. It’s not really one of those things you think about until it happens to you. Even when it happens to people you know, you really don’t appreciate the gravity of it, until it affects you personally. In this post I want to walk through a typical day for me and how I make sure it is a good day and not a bad one.
To give you some background, I have been suffering (I don’t like that word, but it gets the point across), from back pain since I was 26. I never had any problems as a kid, or in my early to mid-20’s, then pretty much out of nowhere, I had shooting pain down my leg.
I have always been a very active person. When I was a kid, I played just about every sport under the sun. I was partial to soccer growing up, but I wanted to try everything. In high school, I played tennis, golf, basketball, ran cross country and played soccer.
In college, and even after college, I continued playing sports, not at a competitive level, but intermural sports, and with my friends. I never had even a hint of back pain. Then, in the spring of 1999, as I mentioned at 26 years old, the pain started.
The first doctor I saw wrote my pain off as getting “older.” For crying out loud, I was 26 years old! Don’t talk to me about getting “older.” He told me I probably pulled something and just be careful going forward.
After a few weeks of not getting any better, actually getting worse, I went back to see the same doctor, and I am not really sure why given the previous experience. This time he recommended physical therapy.
So off to PT I went. After a few sessions and performing the exercises regularly at home, like I was instructed, I was a mess. I was hobbling around, and the pain down my leg was very intense. Time for an MRI.
The MRI revealed a herniated disc, and I was experiencing sciatica, which is pain the travels along the sciatic nerve. I had never felt pain like this before, and honestly, I had never really been injured previously. This was uncharted territory.
After months of trying different treatments, the last option I was given was surgery. So, in October 1999 I went under the knife.
Surgery was a success
Or so I thought. I immediately was free from the pain that had a grip on my life. I felt great. It wasn’t long before I was back to doing pretty much everything I had been doing before my surgery. Back to playing basketball, running, playing golf. There was not really any follow up to speak of, except for when the doctor released me to go back to work.
Anyway, over the years, I have had more problems with my back, mostly because I didn’t know how to care for my back. In 2009, I had another blowout (my disc that is) and again in 2011.
When I blew my disc in 2011, I hobbled around for 16 months! I worked with a back pain clinic, but nothing worked for me. They recommended surgery, but I was determined not to have surgery again. Then I literally woke up one day and the pain was gone.
December 2015, the big one
I thought I was over all my back problems, and I was lifting weights like I had nothing to worry about. Then it hit me. I blew a disc and sprained my SI joint. That was it for me. I was bound and determined to avoid surgery. The problem was I was now dealing with spinal stenosis, and I was bent over at the waist about 30 degrees. This was a very rough time in my life.
I went to see a highly recommended chiropractor, and he set me straight (ha, no pun intended). I was in for a long haul of getting my body right. What I learned was that I had never healed correctly from any of my previous injuries, and I should never have had surgery. You live, and you learn I guess.
So, after about six months of chiropractic adjustments, I was finally fully upright. Now, I needed to get on a program that would help maintain a healthy back.
I tell you all of this so that I can share with you my insight and what my day looks like as a guy who has dealt with a lot of back problems. I hope that anyone out there with back problems can benefit from my experience, that’s the goal.
I start my day, every single day, with an activity, I have dubbed “swimmer.” This exercise mimics swimming on land. It is an excellent exercise for the entire back side of your body really. I do this for 5 minutes straight. This might sound easy, but I encourage you to try!
Then I move on to side planks with a twist. Now twisting isn’t for everyone, especially those with back pain, but I am cautious, and I have built up to this over the years. BUT you should always check with your doctor before you start doing something like this.
At work, I use a sit-stand desk, and I can’t tell you how beneficial this has been for me. I probably stand about half the day. Not only does this help to wake me up from the mundane tasks I perform at work, but it also helps me stretch out tight muscles from sitting.
As soon as I get to work, after my hour commute, the last thing I want to do is sit some more, so I raise the desktop, and that is a great way to start my day. The sit-stand workstation is adjustable, so I can set it to just the right height for me.
Seat cushion for back pain
My office chairs at work and at home are lacking in the comfort department, and that is an understatement. So, I bought myself a seat cushion for each. The great thing about the seat cushions is that they have a cutout for my tailbone, and that really helps to provide a comfortable seating experience. The coccyx cutout as it is called is designed to help disperse weight, so your tailbone doesn’t take the brunt of it.
I have been dealing with a sore tailbone lately, so it’s not only time to see the chiro, but I find a seat cushion really helps in that department.
Walks during the day
I get up and walk around more than most people do. I don’t know how people can sit at the desk ALL day long and never move. First of all, I have to use the restroom occasionally and second, it is just a good idea to move your body now and then.
I find that if I don’t get up and walk around the building a few times per day, I get stiff and tight, especially in my bad spots which are my hips. Anyway, if you see me walking around the building a few times per day, I am not avoiding work, but trying to be more productive.
Stretching for back pain
I perform some light stretching while I am at work and when I get home. I will sit in a chair with one ankle on the opposite knee. I will push gently on my elevated leg, and that helps to stretch out my hips. I also draw my leg into my chest and stretch the piriformis really well.
Stretching has become a big part of my day. With so much sitting, stretching is a nice break and a necessary step in my battle against back pain.
When I get home from work, exercise is a considerable part of my life. I have to either go to the gym and workout or do some stuff at home. If I stay home, I will do some core exercises, go for a walk, that kind of thing. Core exercises will include Swiss ball crunches, planks, ab roller exercises to name a few.
I do hit the gym at least 4 days per week, and this is a necessary evil for me. If I don’t, I notice it, my hips, butt and lower back start to stiffen up. It’s amazing how a few days off can kind of start to wreak havoc on my body. So exercise is a big part of my life and is a great way to fend off back pain.
Inversion tables for back pain
I love my inversion table, and I use it several times per week. After a long day of work, and probably a workout, I will hop on the inversion table, and it feels great. I have used inversion tables off and on over the years, and it has become one of my staples over the past couple of years.
As a guy who has a history of back problems, I have learned a lot about how to care for my back. I have learned a lot from my chiropractor and have tailored my day to what works for me. There is not a one-size-fits-all remedy to back pain. For me, exercise is a huge part of this process. Other things like the sit-stand desk and seat cushions help me along the way.
I hope you enjoyed this post, I certainly enjoyed writing it. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks for taking some time out of your day to stop by.