So, “bad backs” are very common. They are probably 50% of the reason for new visits into chiropractic offices. It is actually the reason why I am a chiropractor. 17 years old, back was going bad, hurting during hockey practice, and built up to a point when (three months post auto accident), I was put on the floor for about four days without moving besides crawling. I saw a chiropractor shortly after that episode, and my life was changed. I was 24 at the time.
I am now, acutely aware of what it takes to make a back strong, and keep it strong, though at times, simple rest is the answer. Certain injuries require a time of rest, and that time of rest varies based on MANY factors. But the thing that I want to write about (because I am sitting here in pain right now, more in a bit), is when the very thing that insures your backs future, ends up being the cause of short term pain. What to do next?
So today I head off to the gym after church. I had the girls with me all weekend, so the plan was get in quick, do a few heavy lifts (squat, shoulder press, dead-lift), and get out. I went in and worked up with four warm-up lifts on the dead-lift. The weight will seem heavy if you aren’t in this world, but the last succesful lift I did was 405#. Then I jumped up to what would have been a 30# PR (personal record) and attempted 495#. I missed the lift. No back pain. 475#, near miss. Waited and tried it again, missed it worse. Then dropped back to a very safe and “easy” 455#. On the pull my back said “NO”!
So I stopped there, abandoned all other lifts, and cleaned up. Now the question, what do you do when you hurt your back doing something that strengthens the back? My answer, is you do more. But when, how, and how do you know to do more? If you hurt your back doing abdominal crunches on a machine at the gym with a weight bar across your chest, I would tell you to stay away from that ridiculous machine for the rest of your life. So it is obviously not going to be that easy at times.
Dead-lifts are good for marriages too.
The key to understanding this, is to understanding the goal. Quick rewind, your spine is the vine. Your brain reaches everything through it, so there is a relationship that is based on the ability of your spine to first carry messages to your muscles, and to organize their coordinated contraction, their tone, and their responsiveness to stress. This is an amazing component of the healing process, intricate and beyond full understanding. Many things have to come together to truly be OVER the problem of a bad back.
Currently I live episode free for about five years. I have had bad pain, but nothing that was a true episodic acute meltdown (several days of non-functional living). Even though the pain I feel right now is pretty significant, I know that I will be adjusting tomorrow without too much issue, and by Wednesday will feel comfortable going right back after that heavy lift. Healing is a combination of strengthening the back, while insuring that it is in the right position (adjustments). I have met many people with extremely strong backs, and really bad back pain (need adjusting). And I have met people with really well adjusted spines, but little neuro-muscular connection (need strengthening).
My recommendation for all of you, is to consider starting a program that will strengthen your whole body functionally. I hate machines, I think that moving within the confines of a machine make no sense. It takes skewing reality to “buy into” the idea that isolation exercises somehow best builds strength for compound movements… when the compound movements are available for you to do! So if you are a patient, try Max T3 in our office for $50 a month, it is well worth it. Otherwise consider buying the DVD’s on the Maximized Living website or looking up our CrossFit gym.
Second, stay adjusted. It only takes one poor movement on a subluxated spine to set you back a year or more. We all want health, your spine is your health because of the nervous system; then it is a significant component of your health because it is the physical point of stress for all movement and muscular action. It is HUGE.
So, go out and get it strong! Be well, have a great week! – Dr. E