Today’s episode is entitled “What I learnt hurting my back” and it covers:

  • I learnt the importance of understanding
  • Gentle movement is key for a hurting back
  • Luck plays a role in hurting your back
  • My back is stronger now than in my 20’s
  • It’s never too late to learn from mistakes

What I learnt hurting my back

I have not hurt my lower back for many years, but it’s amazing how that wash of pain transported me back to some grim days back in my 20’s. I’d about seven years of recurring lower back pain and sciatica, all on the left side, so what happened that weekend took me back. My lower back is very robust and strong and has been for many years, because I follow my own advice, I have a good plan and I stick to it. However, that weekend I didn’t stick to the plan. I was shifting a ceramic pot with a small tree in it from one bank garden to the adjacent neighboring back garden. The person I was doing this for suggested I could break the pot and move the plant into a big bag and carry it around.

But I was reluctant, so I picked the pot up, which didn’t seem too heavy, and thought I’d have a go at it. My technique was to reach my arm drained and hug it. I got the pot up onto my legs. I retrained, I hugged it and I stood up. It was probably about 50 kilos. I work out with weights since I was 15, so it was perfectly manageable for me. However, it’s an awkward lift. As I was walking along waddling through the house, I could sense it was slowly slipping through my grip. When I got out the front door, I thought I’d readjust. In that moment, a flash of pain shot across my lower back. It was reminiscent of those old flashes of pain I used to get at my 20’s. I managed to get the pot as far as a stand up bin lid and put it on it and sort of shuffled around and thought I had definitely strained my back.

I learnt the importance of understanding

Because I’m an osteopath, I knew what I had done to my lower back, so I wasn’t massively concerned. I was a bit cheesed off that my next few days were going to be compromised. The next day I wasn’t able to go swimming. That was my fault, I misjudged the situation. However, I learnt how important understanding is. Because I understood what I had done to my lower back, I wasn’t fearful. Fear is one of the worst things, as it massively impacts how much pain you’re going to experience. I wasn’t fearful, I accepted I had hurt my back. It’s going to be a bit sore for a few days, but I’ll get better. There’s no real fear attached to that. Another thing you can attach to pain through lack of understanding is anger. Anger that you’ve hurt your back, anger at the situation that you are in. Pain and anger together is a lethal combination, as is pain and fear. Understanding exactly what you’ve done lessens the impact.

Gentle movement is key for a hurting back

As soon as I put the pot down I just gently moved from side to side. If you go into immediate defensive mode, your central nervous system goes on high alert and that in turn will magnify your pain. When you hurt your back, don’t just lie down and do nothing. Do some very gentle, easy movement. If that is too painful to do, just lie down in whichever position is least uncomfortable. But once you leaned down, try and do some gentle movements in that position. Any movement you can do that doesn’t hurt in the short term is good. It calms everything down and reassures your nervous system that this is going to be okay. The longer you wait before you move again, the more alarmed your nervous system will be, and that’s going to give you another flush of pain.

Luck plays a role in hurting your back

I might have been able to do that maneuver 9 times out of 10 and get away with it, but on this particular occasion, I didn’t. I strained my back. The second piece of bad luck was that last night -two nights after I did it- I was okay. I was able to sleep reasonably well. But about three in the morning, kind of semi conscious, I turned over quite vigorously and I caught another of those flashes of pain. It wasn’t as bad as the first one, which was an 8 out of 10 on a pain scale. Last night’s was 6.5/7, but bad enough that it really jolted me awake. That was just bad luck, the way I moved, and it has definitely set me back a little bit. On the bright side, I was able to cycle 13 miles to work this morning and when I got off the bike after 45 minutes, I was certainly no worse. It turns out that the position I’m in on the bike, doesn’t give me pain, as long as I don’t get jolted. So luck plays a part.

My back is stronger now than in my 20’s

This is confirmation that the plan that I’ve been following for 20/25 years works. If this has happened to me back in my 20’s, I’d been looking at many days, possibly weeks of really irritable, achy, lower back. But I can tell already that things are easing and I’m able to do things today, two days later, that I wouldn’t have done on Saturday. So my back is definitely stronger. That’s because I have a plan and I stick to it largely. I’m definitely feeling better as a result of having a stronger back now than I had all those years ago.

It’s never too late to learn from mistakes

There’s no point in blaming somebody else or getting angry at the situation. I hurt my back, I can’t blame anyone other than myself, it was my choice. I could have been sensible and follow the advice for the pot, and I wouldn’t have strained my back. But instead I went for the mature man solution, thought I could do it, lifted it up and strained my back. The lesson here is we’re never too old to learn.