Hidden Barrier To Your Low Back Pain Recovery (3 months plus)

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Lower back pain is a leading cause of time off work, of pain and of disability, and all too often, what should be a relatively simple case of lower back pain can be mismanaged into a chronic case that lasts months if not years. Especially if you’ve had more than one episode of lower back pain, or your back pain has lasted past the 3-4 month mark, this hidden barrier is going to be holding you back.

Most back pain recovers within a week or so, doesn’t it?

If you’ve been to the doctor for your back pain, then chances are they’ve told you that it’s likely just muscle spasm and that most back pain goes away on its own in a week or so and you’ll be fine. Perhaps there is some credibility to that and that often a little lower back aching will recover nicely in the healthy individual, however, that individual is not going to ever look at information like this online. 

In our experience, practically all the people we’ve come across as patients or members of the program have had low back pain that was originally put into the above bucket. But what went wrong? Why did it persist? And what can you do to better understand this so you don’t allow something that can be remedied in a couple of weeks to months, go on longer than need be? 

Your back is unique: take stock of your physical condition

The lower back is very different to many other areas of the body that are commonly injured, the knees, ankles, shoulders and wrists all come with a back up supplied, so we can take some time relying on the other one, while the injured one heals. The muscle wasting therefore that occurs during the periods of inactivity is often not something that is as easily exploited in daily life, causing relapses. That is to say, if your left leg is weak from being in cast for 6 weeks, you have a right leg and perhaps some crutches to help you compensate. In addition to this, it is very clear to see a stark difference in muscle mass of the inactive limb compared to the active one. 

Too many with lower back pain do not have adequate physical condition, this partly plays into the injury in the first place, but on top of this, they cannot afford to lose much more muscle mass & strength – which happens remarkably quickly, within a matter of days to weeks of considerable inactivity in the early days of an injury. 

For example, If you were not able to correctly get out of a chair without pushing on the arms every time BEFORE you injured your low back, a short period of back pain related inactivity, will completely eliminate the prospects of doing that properly for the foreseeable future.

Too many with back pain simply are not honest with themselves about the physical condition they are in when the back has become injured. Unfortunately there is a second cohort who are particularly unlucky and that’s those who were in a reasonable condition prior to injury, however mismanagement and poor advice in the early days of the back injury, lead to longer than necessary suffering and a significant loss in strength and muscle mass further down the line. The good news for you if you fit into this group is, as frustrating as it can be, your prior conditioning will work to your favour when you start with the proper rehab again. 

Relapses: the hidden block

Having set the scene above, we understand one vital thing about your body: if you’ve had back pain for longer than 3-4 months, it is not well-conditioned. As such, you have significant room for improvement!

Provided you’re doing the right sort of exercises and rehabilitation which is based on rebuilding strength to your spine, you will make mistakes along the way, Because quite frankly if you could do all these things correctly, without pain or aggravation, you would not have the problem or be in pain!

If you appreciate this and understand there is only one way to learn these vital skills that protect and support your spine, then you will know you are going to make mistakes, and that this might result in a little pain along the way. You’ll also need to acknowledge that your daily life will frequently be a source of hidden strain on your back with opportunities to do things in ways that  aggravate your back. 

Put simply, if you cannot get onto the floor, or get onto the floor and wiggle a leg, without aggravating your lower back, why on earth would you expect to be able to go through your daily life without risk of aggravation of the pain? 

This is not put to discourage you, but to make you aware that your conditioning is such that it allows for relapses to occur regularly. 

The hidden block is: How you respond to these relapses

Too many get worried and back off shying away from the exercises, the only time in the day you’re 100% focussed on the task at hand and how you’re moving your body. And continue to do “stuff” around the house, until the back calms down so that you can try the exercises again.

This needs to change, you have to learn to understand and honestly evaluate yourself more effectively, understanding what contributes to your recovery and what does not.  

Doing the exercises incorrectly, learning from this, doing easier variations, and then building up with a “pain free” version, is the way to safely start to turn the tide on your lower back pain progress. It requires discipline and dedication and focus. 

But it works.

An example of two exercises that everyone can do

The squat and the dead bug are two exercises that we teach members to do safely immediately, no matter where they are in their recovery process or how long or bad the back pain has been. This is because these two activities are done in all lower back pain sufferers. Yes you, even if it is “really bad” you’re still going to be doing squats many times a day. And you’re still going to be moving your legs. You may as well do it in an organised and focussed manner to get a benefit from it!

In the example of the squat and the dead bug, too many times people try it a couple of times, feel sore and get despondent. This is why within the Back In Shape Program membership we have about 10 to 15 videos and growing on these exercises, variations, coaching points and more, not to mention the recent tutorials we’ve released (linked below). 

You need to commit to learning to do these things right, because with diligence, and an intelligent approach you can cease being biset by this hidden block, letting relapses throw you off course. Instead use them as a learning experience and practice in a more focussed manner to get the thing right. Because if you couldn’t do it, and then you learn to do it, you’ve transformed your body, you’ve learned a new skill. You can then build strength in your back, and from there, start to change your body, to allow for the lower back to start to recover effectively. 

Resources: 

A strategy for long term recovery from low back pain

It takes some humility to identify our own flaws, and know that we have room for improvement, it takes determination to persist in the face of difficulty and setbacks. If you have the confidence in the plan, and are prepared to work through the challenges, because you know you need to, then you’ll find success is inevitable. Remember if you do not give up, you cannot fail. This kind of approach to your low back pain recovery will lead you to success and a lasting recovery. It will give you the confidence back, and it will make you feel empowered to continue the journey in short order. There is something about seeing those short term results as you learn to do things you could not do before, even though the pain may still be there in the short term. 

Going from being able to do less than 3 dead bugs without pain, to being able to do 10, or 3 sets of 10 and beyond starts to give you tangible proof that you’re moving in the right direction, the journey may be longer than you’d like but the further you go, the more things start to work in your favour and the more reasons you’ll see to continue on! 

You can do it!

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