Hey everybody, this is Mike Uhrlaub and this is another episode of Power Your Life by Flex PT. I want to share a little story with you. Frequently, when we’re taking care of back problems, we tend to make a lot of mistakes, and I’m no exception. I’ve made so many mistakes in the care of my back and things that have happened, and I just wanted to share a little background with everybody about that. When I was in college, I became a competitive power lifter. Power lifting is a sport where you see how much you can squat, bench press and deadlift. Eventually, I got good at it and I put on a lot of weight.
I got strong; however, without fail, I would always injure the right side of my lower back while working on my deadlift routine. I did a lot of different things in my training and I would always try to avoid it, but it seemed like it always happened. Eventually, I would have to take some time off and it would interrupt my training cycle to get ready for the meet. It got to the point where there were times when I couldn’t even bend over and put my own socks and shoes on, let alone get in and out of the car. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that kind of an injury where you pull your back and you have this intense pain back there, but even just bending your head forward can set it off and it can be absolutely excruciating.
So, I would do what everybody else did. I would rest and take some inflammatory medication. I would also wear some support like a belt when I could go back to the gym to train. I managed to get back in the training routine and I was able to compete at the meet. This would happen about once or twice a year, and it seemed like it always got worse. Every injury got a little worse than the one before. When I finally couldn’t power lift anymore and compete, the pain started bothering me in my day to day life also. It came to a head when I was standing on the sideline, covering a football game for local high school football team and I was doing the sideline athletic training coverage.
My right thigh started going numb and I had to get off my feet. I went down on one knee, trying to do anything to alleviate the pain. Then, it eventually started to spill over into my limit. My ability to stand started to get in the way of me being able to work and sleep. Eventually, I was able to get of this taken care of. I went to the doctor, got x-rays, and did all the testing, but they would do the same thing that I would do for me.
They would say, “Mike, just take time off. Let it rest, use some ice, and take some ibuprofen. If it’s bad, we’ll give you a muscle relaxer. If it doesn’t get any better, we might look at doing an MRI.” That was just how it was managed, but things never fully got better, which created some problems for me down the road. The same thing happened with my wife. My wife has had problems with her back too, over the years. Several years ago, if she stood upright, her back would go out. It got so bad that she had to use a walker and she wasn’t even 30 years old at that time.
She couldn’t even stand up and I had to bring a walker home from work, and she used that to get around for several days. The pain was so bad, she ended up in the emergency room to try to get some relief. She went to a back specialist and they all said the same thing; rest and take ibuprofen or a muscle relaxer. She would wear a back brace to hold everything in tight and all she could go was wait. She had to wait until that pain got better enough to where she could get upright and move. Eventually, she was able to get back to walking and doing her normal day to day stuff.
There were three big mistakes made by both of us at that time. These mistakes can keep you from getting better, or they’ll prolong the recovery, which can even make you worse. The first mistake that we made was that we rested. If you have back problems and you think that the best way to fix this problem is for you to rest, you’re very mistaken. Our bodies are designed to move. I believe that movement is life. Our bodies are a machine and we’re designed to get up and move around. That movement is key because it does a lot of things.
Movement strengthens the muscles and it increases your circulation and the blood flow into specific areas of your back. If you’re just lying flat on your back on the couch or in bed, you’re not going to get that circulation. You’re not going to get that blood flow to keep that tissue and the structures in your back healthy. The only time that rest is appropriate is if it’s a traumatic injury, like if you were involved in a car accident or if you had a sudden muscle strain from lifting something heavy and felt the muscle pull. If that is the case, then you do need 3-4 days of rest, but after that, you need to get moving.
That is the mistake that many doctors will tell you to do; that you need to take it easy or even find another job. If your job involves you standing, moving, and twisting, don’t be mistaken that rest is going to be counterproductive. I like to recommend something called “relative rest.” Relative rest is when you keep yourself active, but you avoid the things or the activities that will cause harm to your back. You shouldn’t rest, but at the same time, you should not do the things that reproduce the injury as well.
The second mistake that we made was that we started to rely on pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication. This is a big mistake that a lot of people make because pain is your body’s check engine light. It is the signal that your body is telling your brain when there is something wrong. Because you started taking the medication, you mask over the pain. You’re running the risk of creating more damage and harm because you do not have this signal. This can make your situation worse and keep you from getting better. There is also a tremendous amount of health risks with taking those medications for a long period of time.
The third mistake that we made was relying on back supports, like lumbar corsets and back braces. I would use different lifting belts, and that was one of the things that I stopped using during my training. When I stopped using them, I was able to strengthen my core and those weak muscles, and I was able to get through some of these training cycles without having injuries. I did have problems later in life, but that had a lot to do with the damage that had already been done.
In my wife’s situation, she was using a lot of back braces. When you put that compression around your midsection, it feels good because it holds everything in tight and it takes pressure off. The problem with that is you’re not activating those core muscles that you need to gain that stabilization. Although the back supports are well-meaning and they feel good at the time, they’re going to do you more harm than good in the long run, and that’s going to keep you from getting better. I don’t want you to make these same mistakes because they will make you worse. I wanted to share this information with you because I hope that it helps. Albert Einstein said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be a value.”
So, I hope that you found some value out of this information and that you can avoid these three big mistakes when you are dealing with a back related issue. I want to remind everybody that next Thursday, we’re going to be live at 1:00 PM. If you would like my new report, “The Five Best Kept Secrets to Fast Back Pain Relief”, just message me through Facebook messenger and we’ll shoot you a copy of the free report. It’s got a lot of great information and a lot of good things that can help you out. Until next week, stay healthy and keep moving forward.