Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bad backs: not necessarily hopeless

I set a Crossfit deadlift "PR" (personal record) today.

My best is not a big deal for anyone else. I'm among the weakest of the men; many of the non-competitive women are in a similar range (the competitive women are in a different universe).

The interesting bit, and the reason I put this in a blog post, is that six years ago I was rigging up a back support so I could be driven home on the bottom of a van. I'd had a pretty bad back since a body surfing accident in 1980 [1], but after 30 years it was getting worse. I definitely wasn't doing any deadlifts.

Until then, based on what I'd read and seen in my own patients, I was a therapeutic nihilist. Manage the acute pain, get back to work and activity asap. Nothing much to be done otherwise. By 2008 though, nihilism wasn't looking so good. I could see a bad future.

So I saw a doctor, a burned out dude with an attitude who'd helped create an aggressive evidence-based back therapy program in the Twin Cities. He wasn't the comforting sort, but I kind of like bad attitudes. Worked for me, I did the program, I got better. Five years later I do the stretches before I get out of bed. Every morning, without fail. And I work out ...

I'm now 8 months into crazy Crossfit stuff, which, were I my doctor, I'd say was stupid. Guaranteed to blow that back and put me back where it was. I didn't say I was smart.

I'm just one data point, but Intensive monitored exercise programs can work. Insurance companies should pay for 'em -- mine was a hell of a lot cheaper than surgery (which I never considered, that rarely works for more than 1-2 years except for atypical problems).

Back backs aren't hopeless -- at least not for everyone. 

1 comment:

Zol Heyman said...

Like John, I went to Physician's Neck and Back clinic and avoided surgery for a herniated disc in my neck. A lot of work, but in 3 months, I went from 'confined to a chair' to pain-free. I've been going there for their maintenance program ever since. If you live in the Twin Cities, check them out at