Living with a Back Injury

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A few years ago I “slipped” a disc in my lower back, or lumbar spine. I was lifting canoes at my summer camp, by myself, thinking I was “all that” for being strong enough to solo the canoes. Unfortunately, I bulged the disc between my L4-L5. For weeks I couldn’t move well, and for a couple years I wasn’t allowed to play sports or do much physical activity. I put on some weight, and wasn’t very happy.  I find joy in being physically active and seeing how far I can push my body- I had pushed too hard, and in the wrong way.

I took my physiotherapy more seriously, and this past year went to the gym a lot to ensure that I was building strength in the areas I had been missing before. I’ve been feeling really great, and am so proud to say that I am so much stronger than I was before the injury.

Every once in a while, I get a flare-up, and until you’ve hurt your back, you don’t know how bad it is. In case you have injured your back in some way, I have some tips here on how to calm your back and maintain the health.

1) Gentle stretches and yoga
If I’m in a flare-up, there’s not much I can do with my body. I revert back to the smallest physio exercises I have been given over the years (generally really small cobra push-ups) so that I maintain some movement in my back.
I like to find videos on YouTube geared towards lower back injuries, because the instructors often give you ways to edit your regular practice for those tight spots. I’ve included this awesome video from Yoga By Adriene. I discovered her through this specific video, and have loved taking her wisdom to the rest of my practice: doing flat-back during Sun Salutations? I’m keeping my knees real bent so that I don’t flex my back unnecessarily.
Hopefully you’re seeing a physiotherapist who has been able to discover how your injury is related to your other muscles. Often my butt and the fronts of my hips tighten up, which stresses out my lower back. When I do low lunges, that helps give my back space.

Yoga setup in the living room

 I love how calming our living room is. The apartment is so light and bright, and having that peaceful place to recover and do my physio.

My ASUS laptop and a fresh smoothie for this morning’s practice
YouTube Workout Tip: I like to know how much time is left on the videos, so I always put it on “cinema” mode, that way it’s large, but you still see the time listed at the bottom. Yeah, I got lots of motivation. 
2) Medications
I love Aleve. It really relaxes my back. Obviously I limit how much I take it, but when I’m in pain, that baby fixes it. 

3) Bathtime!
I do like to take baths to relax, and as long as you have a good setup for your injury, they’re great to make your muscles calm down. I also like to use those heated electric pads times when I don’t want to get in the bath.
Bath essentials
My baths aren’t that long, but I do make sure I have epsom salts, as well as a bubble bath (my favourite is Lush’s The Comforter).
bathtub
Our claw-foot tub is phenomenal

4) Relax

Take it easy during your flare-up. Even though I hate sitting still (or lying on the floor while slowly stretching my back) for a while, and taking time away from the gym, it’s important to let yourself rest. Recovering from injuries requires a lot of patience. I don’t have that. 
5) Be self-centered
People who haven’t been injured won’t understand what you’re going through, but don’t let that hold you back from resting and taking care of yourself. Say “no” to activities that you would find super fun, but might hurt yourself doing. It’s not worth it in the long run. My biggest fear is hurting myself so badly I’ll need surgery, or I won’t be able to walk again. What a great downer to end on, right?

Take care of yourself.

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