First of all, I would like to start off by saying, yes I am a human and therefore I can injure myself! As funny as it sounds, most people’s reaction when I told them I hurt my back is something along the lines of “but aren’t you a chiropractor?” If only my years of education somehow gave me a super power to be immune against injuries to my spine!
As many of you know, my workout style of choice is Crossfit. Again as soon as I say I hurt my back during a workout, I get the typical “you guys at Crossfit are so intense - of course you hurt yourself.” The reality here is - yes if I’m working out and pushing my body I run the risk of injuring myself but this isn’t something that’s unique to Crossfit. It’s like telling a cyclist they are more likely to have a bike accident compared to someone who doesn’t ride a bike. Of course that’s true but it doesn’t make cycling dangerous or take away from the benefits you get from the physical exercise! Any sport or physical activity has its inherent risks, but are often times FAR out weighed by the positive benefits to your body. But I digress.
Back pain sucks! It hurt to walk, to change positions in bed, to get up from seated, to put the leash on my dog, to use the washroom and everything in between was a struggle. The morning after I did a front squat that was just a bit too heavy, my back was in a complete spasm and man did it hurt.
Of course I knew right away what I had done and what was going on. My body was protecting itself, just like it was designed to do. Was I frustrated? Of course. Was I concerned? Definitely. No one wants to be in pain. My back was sore and I was more irritable and cranky because of it.
However, here is EXACTLY what I did and only 2 weeks after injuring my back I am back at the gym at 95% capacity and honestly feeling a million times better.
Fixing my Low Back Injury
1. I got Adjusted. This was my obvious first course of action. I immediately got into to see my chiropractor. I actually went 4 times within the first week of my injury. I knew it was exactly what my body needed. I felt amazing after each adjustment but the pain would come back in the morning just as I expected. It’s ok though, I knew my body was heeling and after the first adjustment I was able to walk without pain and bend over and continue to care for my patients with only minimal discomfort.
2. ICE ICE BABY. I iced with the protocol 10 mins on / 10 mins off, 3 x (1 hour) every evening and after every shift at work. Theres some mixed thoughts on icing but in this acute injury, it helped tremendously to reduce some of the pain.
3. Mobilizing. This is really where I brought it back to basics. I give these exercises out 100x a day and I normally practice them daily myself. I just made sure I was extra vigilant in doing them more often throughout my day to ensure I was giving my body what it wanted - movement. Here’s the exercises: pelvic tilt (ugh this one hurt so I only did it within a pain free range), cat-cow (lots of these), down ward dog, child’s pose, single leg knee to chest (lying on my back). It honestly does not need to be complicated!
4. I ate really healthy food. I took out most of the inflammatory foods from my diet and stayed pretty strict on lots of vegetables, a protein source and some good fats. I didn’t eat any bread or pastas for a week and stayed away from dairy. My body was already inflamed, I didn’t need to add crappy foods to make it harder for my body to heal. Moreover, MY BODY IS HEALING! I need to give it the nutrients it needs so all those repair cells can do what they are meant to do.
5. I DID NOT take any medications or pain killers. Trust me I was close to popping some Tylenol or Advil. I was in a lot of pain and it felt so easy to just pop a pill to take that edge off. But I didn’t because I wanted to know exactly what movements were going to irritate things. Remember, my body is guarding an injury and vulnerable area - Why on earth would I want to numb my body’s cues to tell me what is safe for me to do?
6. I listened to my body and rested. Even though I still continued to go to the gym (I only took 2 days off following my injury) I modified everything and only went into positions where I didn’t feel pain in my back. I kept things light because ultimately I knew movement and exercise were good for my body.
Our bodies are amazing machines that are designed to heal and be extraordinary. Believing that this is true will help you recover just as quickly as I did! I’m still not out of the woods yet, but I know that healing takes time and that if I keep following these steps my back will recover and be stronger than it was before!
Dr. Alfredo is a health enthusiast who’s goal is to help people and families live healthier, happier lives. My philosophy on health is simple - our body’s have the amazing ability and potential to self-adapt, self-regulate and THRIVE in this world.