** Please note this is a two-part series. Part two will be posted to our blog on Monday, February 12th!
To put it bluntly, back pain is practically a fact of life. As many as 75 to 85 percent of the population will experience a back problem sometime in their lifetime. Yikes... that isn't good! There is some good news though. Typically this pain is routine in nature rather than a result of a serious medical condition or fracture. While it might not sound great, it means that there is the option to heal it with a few lifestyle changes.
If you haven't experienced back pain, consider yourself lucky. It is one of the most common health issues today, plaguing millions of Americans (over 31 million report suffering from lower back pain). Read on... this isn't all gloom and doom here!
It's Not all Bad News- Solving Back IssuesIf you are currently dealing with any kind of back pain, or if you have in the past, not to worry. I am going to offer two solutions to help alleviate any back pain that you may be experiencing now or in the future. Disclaimer: like anything else, it will require effort and discipline on your part. Also, it is important to note that everyone is different so what works for some won't always work for others. Also, if you have severe or debilitating injuries, they should be looked at by a doctor before engaging in any physical activity. There is hope, however. First, we are going to look at some cold hard facts about back pain and then I will tell you my own personal story with it. Keep reading, you're gonna want to hear this!
Some Cold Hard Facts About Back PainPer the American Chiropractic Association:
- Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
- One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
- Back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office (next to upper-respiratory infections).
- Americans spend at least 86 billion dollars each year on back pain—and that’s just an estimate.
Personal Testimony With Back Pain
Let me tell you my story and tell you two things that I have done that have pretty much solved my back problems altogether (ok, three if you include massages, but that was just a bonus!)
For me, the problem started with gymnastics many, many years ago (or at least that was my educated guess). I was young. I got into competitive gymnastics and from there eventually moved into competitive cheerleading. "That's a sport?" you might be saying to yourself. To that I would say, "When you can do a standing back tuck or a complete tumbling pass on a wooden gym floor, come talk to me."
I also played club soccer for seven years. This was taxing on my body, as well, as it involved lots of distance running, physical contact and intense training. For this reason, I think any former athlete can probably relate to some sort of body pain as a result. Perhaps it was the combination of both gymnastics, cheerleading, and soccer that was causing the pain for me. I certainly know I was guilty of having injuries and playing through them day in and day out for months or even years on end. One thing was for certain, the pain was there from a young age and it was almost constant.
But let's back up for a minute and refocus on gymnastics for a minute. For me, I knew that gymnastics was likely the root of my back issues and so I wanted to do more research. As expected, I found the following. Gymnasts place tremendous stress on their bodies as a normal part of training and competition. The complexity of formations and routines can leave them exposed to many injuries and, even with a strong core, a gymnast’s training, stance and landings make them vulnerable to improper movements which can result in injuries. According to Dr. Meredith Langhorst, a spinal diagnostics and therapeutics specialist, acute and chronic low back pain is one of the most common ailments of a gymnast. Gymnasts are statistically disposed towards a high risk for spinal injury and accelerated structural degeneration.
Well, there it was... staring me right in the face. Gymnastics likely was the root cause of my back issues. So that being said, take a closer look at the things in your life and identify what might have been the initial cause of your pain, if it has been an ongoing thing for you. It just might help to clear things up for you and give you some basis as to what you may want to discuss with your doctor or even a trainer or instructor you might have further questions for.
The many other causes of lower back pain....
- Extreme physical exertion
- Bending or crouching repeatedly
- Lifting heavy objects
- Poor Posture
- Inactivity or poor physical condition
- Psychological/emotional stress
- Internal disease
The list goes on, but let me get back to the story....So there I was, an injured teenager playing with a bad back and likely only making matters worse. My senior year of high school came along and my body was spent. I knew that physically I probably wouldn't be able to handle many more years of playing competitive sports of any kind with the shape I was in. I decided against pursuing college athletics. It was a good move. My body was finally getting some rest and experiencing some healing. But that wouldn't last forever.
After college, I began working in a restaurant. Between being on my feet all day and carrying heavy trays while running food, the back pain crept up on me, once again. From there I went right into a 9-5 office job in the corporate world. I sat hunched over a computer staring at the screen all day, every day. That is no exaggeration. Even when I wasn't at work I would sit at home on the couch (in a spot that offered up absolutely no lumbar support). I sat in the same spot every night where there is literally a permanent indentation in the couch- you totally know what I'm talking about! I would sit there with the TV on and the computer in my lap, scouring other jobs, Facebook, Pinterest, catching up on emails, you name it.
After that, I would go to sleep in my bed (a hand-me-down from my parent's house- who knows how old this thing was?!). At that point, this thing literally felt like a water bed. There was absolutely no support and it practically folded in half anytime I would crawl into bed. I would start sleeping on one side and wake up in the center as if being swallowed up by a giant sinkhole. It was horrifying.
Needless to say, I wasn't getting much sleep at night- certainly not quality sleep, anyway. I would wake up in excruciating pain and go to work and be in more pain. The larger the workload at the office, the more hunched over I would become in an effort to focus better on the screen. The closer my face would get to the computer, the greater the tension headaches would become.
The back pain was becoming intolerable. I was constantly cracking my neck and back in an effort to alleviate some of the pain. Coworkers would take notice or gasp at the loud sound of my cracking back. I was a mess. The back pain was becoming so severe it was affecting other areas of my life. I was miserable. I had no solutions because I most definitely didn't want to take painkillers simply to mask the pain and I could hardly afford my apartment, let alone going to see a chiropractor or physical therapist.
Step 1 to Help Alleviate Back PainThe first step toward curing my back pain was investing in a new mattress. Seriously, that simple. I mean really investing in something good, though. I love this quote because it is so true. It says, "You are either in your bed or in your shoes, so it pays to invest in both." by John Wildsmith. Purchase a mattress that is specifically proven to help people who experience back pain on a regular basis. For me, that was a Tempurpedic mattress but do your research and test out different mattresses to find what works for you!
I spent an arm and a leg- money that, at the time, I didn't have (I financed it and though I don't encourage credit cards, that's a whole different story). But I found a way and, guess what? It changed my life.... or began to, anyway.
I was certainly sleeping better at night. I was experiencing pretty drastic changes as a result. My mood was better, I was more productive, less stressed and ultimately beginning to feel improvements in my back. But things weren't perfect. I definitely still had an aching back. But it was a start.
Stay tuned for our next post and find out what the second solution was that ultimately made my back pain go away. This was done without seeing any doctors or chiropractors, without using painkillers or cold and heat therapy, without performing acupuncture or crazy voodoo, etc. etc. One simple (and rather enjoyable) tweak in my life and it changed both my physical and mental state for good.
On a whim, and not even as a result of my back pain, I decided to try.... _ _ _ _. Any guesses what it might be? Hint.... you'll need your Pogamat!