I will never forget June 17, 2011. I fell down on the ground of the house I was living in at the time after I got up from the couch I sat on. I had such a constant sharp pain in my lower back, I could not walk. I crawled to my car, then started it, and I peeled out of the driveway. The pain increased every moment I was seated, and I was stuck in DC area rush hour traffic on my way to the urgent care on top of that.
Now, let’s rewind back to see why I got to that point. Being 27 years old, I thought I was invincible. I lifted weights, often heavy, I ran long distance 3-4 times a week. I had a six pack of abs, and I ate healthy foods. However, my overall habits were terrible. I never had one particular injury that caused this low back pain. It was a result of everything I was doing in general. My job at the time was a huge part of the problem, and I am reasonably convinced it set me over the edge. I stood all day in dress shoes with very little movement. My hips, hamstrings, and lower back got very tight. I went home many nights in excruciating pain. I was also freelance writing on a regular basis and I spent hours without getting up in a hunched position on a crappy $99 chair from Staples. My workout routine was intense, but the amount of weight, the constant pounding of the pavement with running, and the lack of core stability began to take its toll. All I did for abs was sit-ups, crunches (both of which I later found out were two of the worst exercises I could possibly do), and a few leg raises. I had no idea about core stabilization and working muscles like the transverse abdominis. In fact, I barely worked on my legs or my overall core. My posture was terrible and I blew off people for years who tried to correct me. I slept with 2-3 pillows each night, constantly placing my neck and upper back in a flexed position, which placed a lot of pressure on my lower back.
Now let’s fast forward back to June 17, 2011. I sat, impatiently at the urgent care, waiting to be taken care of. The doctor seemed shocked that I was going in for excruciating back pain. He said I did not look like a typical back pain patient. He said I seemed like I was in great shape. I said, “Yes, I do run and lift, but something is majorly wrong”. He did some x-rays and he did not come up with anything. He said the x-rays looked fine. I said I did not feel fine. He prescribed some muscle relaxers and 800 mg ibuprofen. He told me to ice my back at least three times a day. He said that should take care of it and you will be fine. Otherwise, there is not a lot that can be done for your lower back. I got the pills and a couple squishy reusable ice packs. My back still hurt after I took my first dose and I iced my back, but at least I was walking. I took the words that I basically would not recover to heart. I felt completely defeated. From that day forward my pain was constant. It never got back to that stage of excruciating acute pain, but it was far from feeling well.
I took a few weeks off from the gym, but depression was taking over. I had no outlet of getting my stress out and I was new to the DC area, not having too many friends in the area yet. I eventually went back in the gym after I researched exercises I could do. I began stretching, doing floor bridges, and planks. I could also do the elliptical, and high rep/light weights on some exercises. This helped relieve my pain a little bit. Some exercises were trial and error, as a few of them caused pain, as opposed to relieving it. Mentally, this was the first time in over a month I did not feel defeated. Of course, there was a day I felt pretty good, and I let that get to my head. I decided to try and bench press a larger amount of weight then what I was doing the past couple weeks before. By the fourth set, I felt my back regress into pain that was almost as bad as the initial feeling on June 17, 2011. This time, I at least had some knowledge of exercises I could do and took no time off because laying down and sitting around made the injury worse. Luckily, I quit cheat meals completely and had a very strict diet so I did not gain any unwanted weight.
Eventually, I began researching chiropractors, and did not act upon it until one day after night shift, I drove on 270 North very groggy. I fell asleep at the wheel. Now, you are already more tired naturally after working a night shift. I usually took the muscle relaxers right as I was clocking out since they typically took 20 minutes to kick in and help me sleep. I took them right as my shift was about to end but my relief called in literally after I swallowed the pills and said she was just waking up and will be an hour late. I was at work trying to stay awake, and I left with my eyes practically shut already. About five minutes into the drive back home, I fell asleep as I was driving 60 mph. Thank God I woke up after a few seconds and I was going against traffic, so there were not very many cars on the highway. I was going straight in one of the middle lanes as well. I threw away my muscle relaxers that day and decided to call the chiropractor I had wanted to see. Enough was enough!
(Stay tuned for Pt. 2 where I go more into my recovery stage)