I hyperextended my back when I was about 8 years old while plunging head first into a pool from a diving board. The pain was excruciating, and all these years later, I still remember my first chiropractic adjustment because of this injury. Several years after that, I hurt my back again in Jr. High while attempting some sort of Parkour move over a large trash can in the gym locker room. Needless to say, I limped through the rest of my school day and received helpful back pain relief tips from my 6th period shop teacher.
Last summer, while hastily running through a workout without properly warming up, I Deadlifted 135 LBS. (which is relatively light weight for me), and SERIOUSLY injured my back, putting me in rehab mode for the next several months. I don’t have health insurance, so if I had to guess- I’d say I herniated a disc or two at L4-L5. Ice, heat, rest, massage, chiropractic and moderate exercise to keep my back strong were just about all I could manage without insurance, although I’m not entirely sure what a Doc could’ve done since I wouldn’t have messed with Cortizone shots, drug therapy or surgery.
I figured that I would have to baby my back in order to give it time to heal properly, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the psychological impact that the whole process would have on me. Not only did my usual intense back and leg workouts suffer, but the rest of my body was neglected due to the fact that simply bending down to pick up a weight from the floor, whether it was to work biceps or shoulders, had an impact on my back. If I wasn’t paying attention, I could easily tweak something.
The psychology of an injury is something that is often overlooked immediately after an injury. Most people take their bodies and their health for granted, especially when you’re young and think you are invincible. I soon realized after several straight months of chronic pain and the inability to perform my usual tasks with ease, that getting hurt sucks! I went through several stages that I really only think I realized upon reflection at this point.
First was annoyance, then came frustration, sadness, mild depression, anger- then acceptance. Working out is a huge part of my life and losing this important outlet for stress meant that I no longer had a healthy release. There is nothing like a good workout to get that endorphin rush and I felt like my livelihood was stolen from me. Throughout the darkest moments of my recovery, I often wondered if I would ever feel better. Sometimes I felt claustrophobic, trapped inside of my pain and immobility and that’s when the mild depression and confusion seemed to set in the most.
After months of this mental game playing, my back has started to recover quite well. I accredit my wonderful chiropractor and massage therapist for much of the pain relief, as well as my own workouts and stretches I’ve had to consistently implement into daily life. I had a minor setback last week when I pulled a muscle in the right side of my lower back, then suffered a pretty painful muscle spasm a few days later. Now that was PAIN! Lots of ice and a huge piece of humble pie later, and I’m feeling alright again.
In many ways, I’m glad that I’ve experienced these injuries as it’s helped me learn first hand how to help others during their training and recovery. I am more empathic than I believe I otherwise would be to someone with chronic low back pain. It has helped me understand and appreciate my body more than ever, and realize the gift of the ability to move and live pain free.