Overcoming lower back pain 💪
My latest episode of chronic lower back pain had the swiftest recovery ever.
I first experienced lower back pain 10 years ago when I was 18.
For those first two years of adulthood, I had horrendously debilitating and unescapable lower back pain paired with sciatica. There was never enough ibuprofen to make it go away for long enough.
Physical therapy and electrical accupuncture over the course of a month is was solved it for me back then.
Since then, I've only had a few more episodes but each shorter than the last.
In 2020, I moved homes and threw out my back lifting furniture. I hadn't been doing any exercise doing those first few months of covid, so my lower back was weak.
I spent the next 3 weeks rehabilitating my back with egoscue exercises for lower back and walking. I had to walk slowly, carefully, and for very short periods of time in the beginning.
This latest bout was the shortest yet at 4 days, and with 0 medication.
I realized that I threw out my back at the end of a 5km run with some sprinting. Though to be fair, I also just had a vigorous leg day lifting weights.
For the first 24 hours, I was crawling. I couldn't sit, stand up, or even lie down in most positions comfortably.
This time I did the following:
- reduced inflammation with diet (minimized sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine) and intermittent fasting
- green tea after meals
- stayed well hydrated
- prioritized standing up and lying down over sitting
- sleeping early, sleeping well, and sleeping a lot
- avoided movements that would further irritate my back. you should instantly reverse course when you feel pain coming on
- walked ASAP, as much as I could as soon as I could stand up straight
- 1-2x massages from my partner per day, focusing on the lower back and glutes followed up with a mechnical massager
- hot showers
- I used a hot tub towards the end - felt amazing
- If you have a bath tub, epsom salt baths are also great
Each day was a lock-step upgrade in mobility and strength.
But the most important component of the process? Mindset.
If you can be patient, present, and resilient, and listen to what your body is telling you, you'll learn a few things. A previous iteration of myself would've taken medication, but I wanted to understand where the pain was coming from to better understand what I can do in the future.
Another crucial difference with this time is that my body is stronger -- I have more lean muscle mass than I've ever had in my life. Neighboring muscles were able to compensate greatly for the nonexistent lower back strength I had in the first 48 hours.
Which is part of what took me by surprise.. I lift weights 3x/week, run 2x/week, and play soccer once a week. I was previously convinced that simply being active prevented my back pain. After all, I made it from 19 to 25 without any episodes by simply being a runner/cycler.
But I was wrong. I was missing a crucial component of my fitness routine given all of the intensity nowadays: mobility. My flexibility has been poor.
Additionally, in this instance, I overtrained my lower back. While my running that day wasn't unusual, I did have an intense leg day the previous day.
So now yoga is going to become a nonnegotiable, 5x per week for 10 mins. With hip thrusts, butterflies, and egoscue exercises in conjunction.
The biggest takeaeway from this whole ordeal is that life is fragile, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Last Updated: Thu Sept 28 2023
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