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The High Performance Journal

How I Healed My Chronic Low Back Pain

high performance journal Mar 19, 2024

Read time: 4 minutes

The High Performance Journal - March 19th, 2024


When I was in my 20's, I played a game of basketball at my friend's house.

Upon finishing, we headed inside his home. As he went up to get a quick shower I ushered my way to his kitchen to get a snack.

When I went to grab something from the fridge the phone on his wall started to ring (1). Seeing how no one was at home I decided to answer it.

When I grabbed for the phone a sharp jolt shot up my lower back causing me to collapse to the floor. When I tried to get up I felt a searing pain down my back down to my leg.

I didn't know it then but that would be the start of a decade-long journey with low back pain.

Note: This article doesn't account for people who suffer from back pain due to a medical condition (bulging disc, osteoarthritis, etc.) This is also not medical advice. As with all things do our own research.

What Are The Stats On Low Back Pain?

  1. Globally, 540 million people suffer from back pain at any given time (2)
  2. 8 out of 10 people in the United States experience back problems at least one or more times.
  3. 50% of all Americans who are employed, about 80 million workers, claim to have back pain every year.
  4. Overweight people and women over 30 years of age are the most at risk of developing chronic pain in the lower back.


When I injured my lower back, getting up and down from a chair was the hardest thing to do.

I looked like an 80-year-old man who just got out of hip replacement surgery and this would go on for almost 10 years.

The first chiropractor I went to told me I'd have to keep on getting adjustments from him every week for my entire life. The second chiropractor confirmed what the first one said (10).

After tons of frustration, I said, "Screw it" and decided to go searching for the solution myself.

Here's what I found...

The Possible Causes Of Low Back Pain

  • Too much sitting (3)
  • Lack of core stability
  • Not enough movement (7)
  • Lack of glute activation
  • Not getting enough quality sleep (4)
  • Not warming up properly before working out (5)
  • The mindset of always being afraid of your low back pain (6)

When someone gets low back pain it's not down to one thing but a variety of factors.

What I needed to do was find the physiological, lifestyle, and psychological causes before fixing it.

I first assessed my pain with techniques like this one by Squat University​.

Afterward, I asked myself if I was getting enough sleep, warming up properly before a workout, and if I was identifying with the pain itself.

With that being said...

Here's How I Fixed My Low Back Pain Forever


Step #1 - Improve My Core And My Glute Strength

When I assessed my body for pain I found that I was suffering from 2 things: A weak core and weak glutes.

This was due to sitting for long periods and made worse by doing intense workouts on a sedentary body.

To improve my core stability I used the McGill Big 3:


I did these exercises 2 times a day every single day. If you suffer from low back pain due to a weak core you might feel instant relief from doing this but you get the most benefits when done consistently over time.

To improve my glute strength I did glute bridge holds every day for 6-12 reps:

And to build strength in my glutes I did hip thrusts 1-2x a week for 3-4 sets using 6-12 reps:

 

 

Much like the McGill Big 3, I felt instant relief when I performed these but I saw the real benefit when I did them consistently over time.

 

Step #2 - I fixed My Warm Up

Having a proper warm-up before lifting (especially the lower body) is a great way to prevent injuries and prep your body for a great workout.

To warm up my body I used:

A. Dynamic stretches like the world's greatest stretch.
B. Activation exercises like the glute bridge
c. Nervous system wake-up exercises like jumping jacks.

Making sure your body is properly warmed up and activated is one of the best ways to ensure you don't wreck your back in your workouts.

I did an article on how to warm up your body that you can access right here.

Step #3 - Fixed My Sleeping Habits

Poor sleep is harmful to both your body and brain.

In my 20's, sleep was less of a priority than it is now. I also thought getting 8 hours of sleep was enough but I'm sad to say that I was misinformed.

My biggest sleep mistake was not realizing both the quantity and quality of matter.

I began by tracking my sleep using an Oura Ring. I then proceeded to set up my environment to support good sleep. Finally, I found a few protocols that enhanced my quality of sleep that are too much to list for this article.

If you want the full protocol list you can go here for a free guide.

Finally, something that helped my lower back was putting a long pillow between my legs to help align my spine, pelvis, and hips while taking pressure off my spine.

Getting quality sleep is not only great for your low back it's a pillar in overall pain reduction (4). Fixing your sleep can fix a lot of other problems.

Step #4 - I Walked Every Day

As the saying goes: Motion is lotion.

Back then I was getting around 3000 steps a day. The only movement I was doing was high-intensity sports like basketball or working out.

People who walk more often experience less lower back pain than those who do not (7).

Even if my back felt tight I would go out and walk at least 15-30 minutes outside in nature daily.

Doing so not only helped relieve low back pain it was a great way to lower my stress levels, which have been associated with higher levels of pain and injury (8).

Step #5 - I Adopted The Right Mindset For Healing

When I went on my journey to heal my lower back pain I would say an affirmation to myself:

I am so grateful to have a strong and resilient body.

While this may seem "woo-woo" I assure you it's not.

The things you tell yourself regularly have an impact on how your body performs (6). The more you fear or tell yourself that you have a "bad back" the more you will live out that reality.

Anytime I caught myself thinking a negative thought I would replace it with that affirmation.

You won't see results overnight but, if done consistently over time (9), you'll eventually start acting in accordance with the thoughts in your mind.

Our thoughts are not idle things. They are literal signals we're sending to our conscious and subconscious brains that determine our direction in life.

To fix any pain you must fix the brain. There's no way around it.

Conclusion

When I would get up and down from a seat like an 80-year-old man who had hip surgery people would ask me what happened.

After I told them about my lower back pain they all told me one thing:

There's nothing you can do about it and you'll have to live with this pain for the rest of your life.

Well, I'm here to tell you that's hogwash. There's a solution to almost every situation on the planet.

But it ain't easy and Rome wasn't built in a day. It will take a strong desire and courage to let go of the self-pity that comes with suffering from pain.

If you suffer from lower back pain and you've gotten this far I commend you.

I hope some of what's presented here can help you heal and build a strong resilient body.

Onwards and upwards 🚀

- Dan


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References:

  1. This was before the internet and cell phones. A time when people had actual house phones usually stuck up on a wall. Yes, I am that old.
  2. Wu A, March L, Zheng X, Huang J, Wang X, Zhao J, Blyth FM, Smith E, Buchbinder R, Hoy D. Global low back pain prevalence and years lived with disability from 1990 to 2017: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Ann Transl Med. 2020 Mar;8(6):299. doi: 10.21037/atm.2020.02.175. PMID: 32355743; PMCID: PMC7186678.
  3. Baradaran Mahdavi S, Riahi R, Vahdatpour B, Kelishadi R. Association between sedentary behavior and low back pain; A systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Promot Perspect. 2021 Dec 19;11(4):393-410. doi: 10.34172/hpp.2021.50. PMID: 35079583; PMCID: PMC8767074.
  4. Luo G, Yao Y, Tao J, Wang T and Yan M (2022) Causal association of sleep disturbances and low back pain: A bidirectional two-sample Mendelian randomization study. Front. Neurosci. 16:1074605. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.1074605
  5. Ding L, Luo J, Smith DM, Mackey M, Fu H, Davis M, Hu Y. Effectiveness of Warm-Up Intervention Programs to Prevent Sports Injuries among Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 May 23;19(10):6336. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19106336. PMID: 35627873; PMCID: PMC9140806.
  6. González Aroca J, Díaz ÁP, Navarrete C, Albarnez L. Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Are Associated with Pain Intensity and Shoulder Disability in Adults with Chronic Shoulder Pain: A Cross-Sectional Study. J Clin Med. 2023 May 10;12(10):3376. doi: 10.3390/jcm12103376. PMID: 37240482; PMCID: PMC10218856.
  7. Kim H, Min TJ, Kang SH, Kim DK, Seo KM, Lee SY. Association Between Walking and Low Back Pain in the Korean Population: A Cross-Sectional Study. Ann Rehabil Med. 2017 Oct;41(5):786-792. doi: 10.5535/arm.2017.41.5.786. Epub 2017 Oct 31. PMID: 29201817; PMCID: PMC5698665.
  8. Ahmad AH, Zakaria R. Pain in Times of Stress. Malays J Med Sci. 2015 Dec;22(Spec Issue):52-61. PMID: 27006638; PMCID: PMC4795524.
  9. See a theme here?
  10. This is not a slight against chiropractors. But as with all professions, you'll usually find that a small percentage are actually good at what they do. These guys were not.

 

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