Fixing Back pain!
A Little History
Back pain of some sort is going to plague just about all of us at some point during our lives. I first encountered a client with a terrible back injury in the early 2000’s. To say I tried my hardest not to make her condition any worse, with minimal knowledge, is an understatement. I was quietly shitting myself during every PT session we did!
How I ended up in that position was a fortunate accident. I was a staff member at a small gym in Northcote, Melbourne. The boss approached me one day to explain that we had a high-risk client coming in that evening. They would need continuous personal training. “For what?", I asked. He explained that she had a bad back and wanted some guidance. So began my back pain journey.
Now, up to this point I had only a general interest in the topic. The good news is that the client did get better all those years ago. What all those tense sessions together taught me was that there was so much that I hadn't been taught. There was so much more to learn within this industry of ‘exercise science’. Our sessions together lead to a great friendship, and for trust to form and grow. I enjoyed training her for many years whilst she got stronger, and ultimately, pain free. That experience did a few things for me:
It turned the spotlight on how to go about helping a client rehabilitate.
It highlighted how the methods for dealing with back pain are vastly misunderstood.
It showed how treatment is, more often than not, poorly delivered.
A chance experience lead in the long term to what we now called The Back Pain Solution.
So how do we fix a bad back here at PVH&F?
Posture, work, lifestyle!
First there is no silver bullet! If you’re looking for a quick fix, sorry! Over the last 15 years I have been able to successfully deliver this program to over 500 clients. The system we have, from our perspective is a great solution, but it takes work!
For the vast majority, back pain doesn't come from a direct impact or trauma to the spine. Most clients wake up one day with pain, or they bend over to pick something up and feel something happen. Not very dramatic when you think about it. In most cases it's a mixture of posture and lifestyle.
A few Facts about the back
First, let's start with some facts about the back. Your lower back isn’t designed to develop movement or motion! It also isn’t designed to be soft and supple, but rather stiff and secure.
It’s important to understanding this when you're about to get your next back massage! You've probably complained at some point of the lower back stiffness and tightness. Your first impulse is most likely to ease the pressure with stretching or a massage.
Wait! Take a moment to consider this. Your brilliant self-healing body is creating stiffness with benefit in mind. Your body is trying to reduce excessive amounts of unwanted movement. It's trying to stop you borrowing from your spine. It's trying to get you to fix the real cause not the obvious symptom.
So, what is it going to take?
The answer to this is determined by a combination of things, eg:
how bad your back injury is
how long you have suffered with it
what activity and how much have you been able to perform or take part in over X period
what movement and phycological limitations exist that are going to prevent you from moving forward.
It’s going to take is a thorough examination and time. How much time? It need not be years, and I think this is really important to understand. It’s what I have been teaching for nearly 20 years now. It's seen PVH&F become renowned for this type of work.
This is how we start:
We assess your posture!
We establish what misalignments and asymmetries exist.
We formulate a treatment plan.
We factor in other health professionals and how they fit in. Eg, what skillsets they have and how they complement your individual training routine.
We forecast and monitor realistic training timeframes for results and progress. For most people, 12 weeks is all they need.
To find the real cause we need to assess your posture with a fine-tooth comb. You can't hide bad posture and alignment. Your body will display it in plain view, regardless of fitness level.
What I am looking for in an assessment is misalignments. Misalignments that lead to borrowing from other joints. More importantly, from joints being required to supply movement they cannot deliver. Joint mechanics and posture are the key to understanding what to do next!
Most back pain sufferers have never had a realistic treatment plan. One with realistic, achievable goals. Goals that are set as milestones for them to work towards. Usually it is the symptoms, rather than the cause being treated. The methods vary, but treating symptoms will not fix the problem. Often it makes the problem worse!
Fixing back pain isn’t rocket science. The answer lies in understanding movement and posture. Getting these right can lead to dramatc improvements in a client’s health. This in turn affects how they approach and feel about:
The list goes on! Training smarter, not harder, is the key!
So as long as you are wanting to become pain free and are willing to put in the work, you can do it. Let's just get that assessment done right from the very beginning!