Getting Old Is Not As Bad As I Thought:
At the age of 26, I had always fought some type of back pain. It had become a normal way of life for me. I still was able to do most of anything I wanted until “The Day”. We were trying to get our garage door replaced for a heavy, old school wood one that would swell in the winter and not open. When trying to lift the door it happened, a big pop in my back. I had an idea that this was a bad thing and four hours later, I was unable to even get out of bed due to the pain. I was experiencing what we learn is a “Classic Disc Protrusion”. For the next two weeks, I was bed ridden. After that, I went back to work using a cane for about a month to get the weight off my left leg.
At that moment, my life flashed in front of my eyes. I am not able to walk without a cane, I can barely work, all the things I found joy in were now not a reality. It was a grim reality that I would not be able to work in the next ten years due to the progression of “spinal degeneration”. A comment from a radiologist said it all, “you got a back of a 60-year-old”.
I was not willing to accept that story. I enjoyed my job. I wanted to be able to play with my kids. I no longer wanted to leave my wife to handle all of the luggage when traveling because I could not help her and I did not want the guilt of walking by her when she is carrying all the load.
The next ten years have been filled with self-experiments, good and bad, trying to find ways to overcome the inevitable outcome of being crippled by forty. I had back surgery, lots of physical therapy, prolotherapy, cortisone injections, huge amounts of naproxen and ibuprofen, and a lot of frustrations. I would find treatments that would work wonders for patients and then try to apply them to myself and there would not be that same amazing response.
Jumping ahead to the present, I just volunteered to do some trail work involving a lot of shoveling and heavy lifting of pavers. I was excited to participate due to my immense love for mountain biking and wanting to give back to the trails. We worked the trails for about 4 hours digging and placing 60# pavers to make some sweet trail. Afterward, in the parking lot getting ready to ride the trail we just worked on, I became aware of some amazing things. I was not hurting. There was no increase of pain, no stiffness, and I was ready to ride with no fear of what I was going to feel like the next day. The next day by the way was great. Just some muscle soreness here and there but I feel that I could go out and do it again. What has changed? How am I getting stronger in time rather than “getting older”?
I feel there are a few key concepts that I have embraced:
Body maintenance: Most feel as long as they go and run or lift weights that is enough to maintain the body. I use the analogy of a car. Running and lifting weights or any other modality of fitness is like driving the sports car you love, driving it hard. There is nothing wrong with that, it is what it is made for but if you do not do any maintenance on the car, how do you expect it to perform as time goes on. It is predictable that it will break down a lot quicker than a car that had standard care. The same goes for your body. General body maintenance including foam rolling, stretching and mobility work are some ways to keep the body healthy.
Mindfulness: being aware of your body and function is a great start to figuring out what you need to work on. Physical Therapy is helpful in guiding you to developing a functional movement list that needs your attention. Don’t just pick something off the ground if you know you typically get pain from it. Be mindful of your body and try to correct the faults that are present rather than fight through it.
Nutritional Health: Nutrition can be a huge roadblock when it comes to healing. Getting the proper nutrients can be difficult for a patient that is fighting pain. Also, avoiding foods that can be detrimental to your health and healing. Nutrition seems to be overlooked by most medical professionals and seems to be one of the most powerful adjustments a patient could make in their healing.
If this article speaks to you and you would like to explore your potential to live life with less pain and dysfunction, please do not hesitate to contact us for an individualized assessment of your function. We will help you develop a Body Maintenance Schedule to help to keep you operating at your best.
About the author,
Rajesh is a Physical Therapist, who is passionate about health and wellness. He is interested in all aspects of general well being including fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness. He continues to learn and grow from the profession he loves.
If this article is helpful to you or you would like to get more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org