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Back pain, work and the gym

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I just thought that I would share my personal experiences with back pain. 

 

I used to do a lot of weightlifting in my younger days. I gained 54kg over 4 years (aged 19 to 23, 77kg to 131kg) doing powerlifting and strongman lifting but injured my back and right leg and stopped. I then lost 30 odd kilos and settled at 100kg body weight. That was 9 years ago. 


Over that time my lower back and right leg pain has steadily and consistently increased. I've tried all the usual treatment routes including physiotherapy, strong pain killers and surgery (in the form of facet joint denervation). Nothing helped and over the past nine years I have to an extent become more and more disabled. I don't use that word lightly, or indeed in the traditional sense as I'm still able to function reasonably. However, I couldn't run, cycle, stand up for long periods of time, drive any distance without using cruise control (pedal operation caused pain), play with my kids in the energetic fashion that I wanted to or even sleep on my left side (due to it compressing the right side of my back). I'd say that I was in some degree of pain 95% of the time.

 

So 11 weeks ago I thought stuff it, I've tried everything, I'll go back to the gym. The effect was immediate. Focusing primarily on lower body strength (lots and lots of leg pressing, which I wasn't expecting to be able to do pain free) within a week I was having pain free days. For the first 3-4 weeks I'd still have blocks of pain (multiple days of consistent pain) but this was almost always cured by a gym visit. 11 weeks later, I'm 90% pain free and I've got a quality of life that I never thought possible three months ago. I've gained weight, I feel stronger, I can play like a 5 year old with my daughter and I can now actually lie on my left side in bed. Sounds like a daft thing to fixate on, but not having one complete sleeping position available to you is awful. Even 30 seconds on my left side used to cause my immediate and lasting pain. 

 

The issues with my back were never properly diagnosed and I still have no idea exactly what went wrong. I'm 6ft 8" and I'm basically too tall for everything, including my back it would seem. I always thought that a physical job was enough for fitness and rehab but it simply wasn't. Now, a total of 3 hours in the gym each week is enough to keep the other 165 hours relatively pain free and I can't tell you how much better I feel for it. 

 

So, if you've got constant back pain (as I'm sure that many of you have), please consider as an option the idea of going to the gym and training with weights. Take advice on what you should and shouldn't try (don't jump straight under a bar for back squats - I'm still working up towards them) and see if it can help you. We're all guilty of assuming that our manual jobs are enough for strength and fitness, but I honestly don't think that they are. The funny thing is that the gym membership is cheaper than the physiotherapy I used to have to pay for. 

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I know it’s slightly different but I found that Tabata workouts and circuit training got rid of the (slight) arthritis in my joints.

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The strength and fitness involved in our manual jobs is only really any good for our manual jobs. 

 

Our jobs become the norm so if you want to lose weight, gain weight, shape up etc you have to go above and beyond what you consider a normal day. 

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I just thought that I would share my personal experiences with back pain. 
 
I used to do a lot of weightlifting in my younger days. I gained 54kg over 4 years (aged 19 to 23, 77kg to 131kg) doing powerlifting and strongman lifting but injured my back and right leg and stopped. I then lost 30 odd kilos and settled at 100kg body weight. That was 9 years ago. 

Over that time my lower back and right leg pain has steadily and consistently increased. I've tried all the usual treatment routes including physiotherapy, strong pain killers and surgery (in the form of facet joint denervation). Nothing helped and over the past nine years I have to an extent become more and more disabled. I don't use that word lightly, or indeed in the traditional sense as I'm still able to function reasonably. However, I couldn't run, cycle, stand up for long periods of time, drive any distance without using cruise control (pedal operation caused pain), play with my kids in the energetic fashion that I wanted to or even sleep on my left side (due to it compressing the right side of my back). I'd say that I was in some degree of pain 95% of the time.
 
So 11 weeks ago I thought stuff it, I've tried everything, I'll go back to the gym. The effect was immediate. Focusing primarily on lower body strength (lots and lots of leg pressing, which I wasn't expecting to be able to do pain free) within a week I was having pain free days. For the first 3-4 weeks I'd still have blocks of pain (multiple days of consistent pain) but this was almost always cured by a gym visit. 11 weeks later, I'm 90% pain free and I've got a quality of life that I never thought possible three months ago. I've gained weight, I feel stronger, I can play like a 5 year old with my daughter and I can now actually lie on my left side in bed. Sounds like a daft thing to fixate on, but not having one complete sleeping position available to you is awful. Even 30 seconds on my left side used to cause my immediate and lasting pain. 
 
The issues with my back were never properly diagnosed and I still have no idea exactly what went wrong. I'm 6ft 8" and I'm basically too tall for everything, including my back it would seem. I always thought that a physical job was enough for fitness and rehab but it simply wasn't. Now, a total of 3 hours in the gym each week is enough to keep the other 165 hours relatively pain free and I can't tell you how much better I feel for it. 
 
So, if you've got constant back pain (as I'm sure that many of you have), please consider as an option the idea of going to the gym and training with weights. Take advice on what you should and shouldn't try (don't jump straight under a bar for back squats - I'm still working up towards them) and see if it can help you. We're all guilty of assuming that our manual jobs are enough for strength and fitness, but I honestly don't think that they are. The funny thing is that the gym membership is cheaper than the physiotherapy I used to have to pay for. 
That's great news j I had three pro lapsed disks in my spine I went from 23st to 17 in three months it was without doubt the most traumatic time of my life and when u used the word disabled I understand they told me if i didn't stop the gym and climbing trees I would be in a wheel chair am glad i didn't listen I don't do certain things in the gym now heavy at all squats and deads I train my upper back relatively heavy but I have found I no my limits and as long as I keep active and never forget that horrible time I can live a 90percent back pain free life am so happy for u 🖒

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Timely thread for me.  Im quitting cimbing at the end of this month and will be looking at doing something, gym at the least but possibly Yoga and some other classes.  Not sure if I will do freeweights again, machines, or a bit of both

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Interesting read, I am into my sixth week as a cripple now, been upright for the last two weeks but still in agony. Sleep deprivation is probably the biggest killer , rest seems to be the shortest path to recovery for me because a day out and about puts me back a week.

 

Bob

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My back wasn't that bad but would get episodes after lifting heavy weights due to compression of the spine or any sort of heavy physical prolonged lifting work would knock it out.

I wanted to lose a bit of excess round my middle so started doing 10, 20 then 30 sit ups a night and the back pain went progressively after 2-3 months, I was pretty amazed as well but it was just down to strengthening the core.

I have since lost a couple of stone as I am now on my feet all day rather than behind a desk and very rarely get back issues. The difference is that if I get them, it goes straight in to a tight feeling rather than the "knife in the back" sharp pain I used to get a few years back and heals in a day or two rather than weeks of being bent double.

My issue - 6'2" and having a relatively long spine!

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Interesting read, confirms my understanding. There was a story on T-nation once by a retired pro powerlifter who locked up due to years of injuries so as he could barely walk. Same thing happened: he returned to training, not full intensity but full range of motion with resistance, and he was fine again.

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Thats a great motivational story BigJ..

 

I have lower back pain ever time I put too much pressure on my lower back during work..  Usually manifested itself if I did any lifting involving uneven lengths of wood..  say a long branch five ft out in front, two ft behind..   or bending down pulling up saplings, that one gets me every time...

 

Used to send me round the bend for days afterwards..   But I think like you I have the measure of it now...

 

I sit on the couch, place my legs under the table my PC sits on, my feet touching the underside of the table and do a sit up routine while sat on the couch..  only takes a minute and I've had wonderful results..

 

I think in your case as in mine its about trapped nerves, in your case the muscle has pulled the nerve back into position, in mine its realigning a trapped nerve due to bad posture..   I can't sit straight for more than a minute, I'm a sloucher.. 

Edited by Vespasian

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I broke my back 10 years ago and had an l2-3 spinal fusion. Was told I've never do manual work again and would have some form of discomfort for life. 

 

I said yeah fuck that, discharged myself 3 days post surgery. I did do my research though and rested while the fusion bedded in for 2 months as I recall and then went back to work. 

 

You are right to go back to the gym. Working out really helped me. Adopting properly lifting technique is absolutely essential of course but lifting and stretching prior to, during and post working out is a must, certainly as you age. 

 

Nothing helps my lower back more than deadlifting. I do use proper technique. I do use a hex bar and I DO use a belt. Don't care what anyone says, belts work. 

 

Properly manual handling at work is a must also. If I'm fatigued at work and find that I'm not adopting proper technique to pick up that innocuous pair of pliers (it's not the heavy stuff) or any laundry list of small pissy little items I stoop for 100's of times daily, I go home and start fresh the next day, adopting proper technique for the light stuff as well as the concrete fence posts etc.

 

You're a big guy. I'm only 185lb at 6ft but no longer in training at the moment due to work load, I do get bigger, but yeah it's a different kettle of fish for the big guys which I do appreciate.

 

Best of luck.  

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