Saturday, July 13, 2013

Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain

I know I've mentioned starting physical therapy for my low back pain but with everything else going on I've barely had a chance to write about.  So I met with Kate, the PT, a few weeks ago and we went over the history of my back pain.  It's bothered me off and on for years.  In the past it would flare up whenever I took some time off exercise and then returned, or anytime I did some new hard-core exercise, but it always got better on its own, usually the pain would go away entirely within a week or so.  But when I started back to the gym earlier this year after my bout of pneumonia, the back pain never went away.  After trying to ignore it for a month or so I finally decided to see the doctor.  PT was so helpful for my shoulders last year that I've become a believer.

So Kate asked a bunch of questions about my pain, activity levels, etc.  She's a runner too which is cool.  Then she spent some time having me do various strength demonstrations before feeling around my back muscles a bit.  In the end she said my ab muscles are plenty strong but that the stabilizer muscles in my lower back, the ones that run down either side of my spine (lumbar multifidi?), are not so strong and are over-taxed by all my activity.  So she told me to scale back on ALL my ab exercises for now and do the stretches and exercises she gave me.

Bird Dog (aka Quadruped Contralateral Upper/Lower Extremity Lifts)
Bridge on Swiss Ball (I have to REALLY focus on tightening my core and glutes or else this hurts my back)

Half Kneel Iliopsoas Stretch

Hamstring Stretch

I did my exercises except while we were camping and while I was in Philadelphia.  I know, bad patient.  I think my back is feeling better, although there are still times it hurts so bad ibuprofen barely helps.  Over the weeks Kate added squats and some other exercises that I can't remember right now to my routine.

At my appointment yesterday we got to talking more about running and she ended up taking a look at my stride.  I ran on the treadmill for about 5 minutes and she watched me while chatting with one of the trainers.  I felt like a pro being evaluated, except I wasn't.  In the end she said my stride is notable for one thing, no movement at the hip.  A normal stride would include about 15 percent (or is it degrees?) rotation of the leg moving back, with the rotation happening at the hip.  But in my case all my rotation is coming from rotating my core, suggesting my glutes are not pulling their weight.  Iiiinteresting.  So she's going to add some exercises to help with this too.

When I went to the gym after PT I focused on tightening my glutes with every stride.  Dear me that made running harder.  I had planned to run 3 miles on the treadmill but I was bargaining with myself after only 1 mile, "just make it to 1.5 miles."  Deal.

It wasn't that my legs/glutes felt too tired, the effort just felt increased overall.  So I stopped after 1.5 miles and moved on to chest/triceps/core exercises.  Kate had added planks back into my routine so I did side planks and traditional planks too.  She's against all forms of crunches so I might have to let go of my beloved decline crunches altogether.  I sure hope this works, I got to chatting with a guy at my gym who's had back surgery and the idea of that just scares the bejeezus out of me.  I think I'd have to be immobile before I went that route, which he practically was.

The only other issue is I sit WAY too much.  My job is mostly sitting and a fair number of my hobbies involve sitting (reading, movies, writing, online research of random bits of whoknowswhat).  I need a "get up and move!" app that reminds me to take even the tiniest stroll every half hour to hour.  I saw a headline the other day that said, "Sitting is the New Smoking," suggesting that sitting is just as bad for you as cigarettes. 

Anyway, that's the summary of my physical therapy so far.  Today, Saturday, has been a day with the kids.  We walked to a local garage sale - where I scored an indoor bike trainer for $15!, let's hope I actually use it - and then to a park that has a water feature.  The kids played in the water and spent some time in the swings.  I am so used to wearing tank tops now that you'd think it was my mandatory summer uniform.  The more you get used to wearing less, the more and more comfortable it feels and more clothes just feel so darned HOT.  It's like getting hooked on flip-flops in Hawaii, after a while regular shoes feel like torture.  Aaaanyway, I'm getting way off topic and I need to clean up this mess before Miguel gets home and asks the old "what did you do all day?" question.  He worked today so it's just been the kids and I.

p.s.  Still doing great on my food.  Today, for example, Kashi GoLean with Almond Milk for breakfast, Fage and peaches for snack, Sandwich with avocado and chicken breast for lunch, apple for snack...more to come.  Feeling so good, physically and psychologically with putting good fuel into my system.


  1. Hello Michell. This was very interesting reading. I have been struggling with lower back pain my self for the last couple of years. I got a very similar diagnosis, that I sit to much. When I, as you, have work and hobbies that requires sitting, it get much. Luckily my dogs get me out at least once day. I have visited a chiropractor for my back pain, and got some exercise to do, but it seems like your PT have made a more complete workout schedule. Maybe I'll talk to some om the PT as my gym if they can help. In the meantime I'll try the exercises you have listed here.

  2. Hi Michelle, I saw you got an indoor trainer so I wanted to tell you about the spinning podcast my husband and I use by Jamie Morton at Some of them are free, so you could see if you like them, and then she also has some you can buy, which are priced reasonably in my opinion. We really like her taste in music, variety of workouts, and she has a nice voice. Good luck with your back!

  3. I was interested to see your back exercises since you are so much more fit than I am. Some of them are similar. Unfortunatley, my back is pretty messed up, but at least I am feeling better with weight loss. Hope yours goes away completely!

  4. i just bought an indoor trainer for my bicycle from a co-worker for $40. did you know that the "cheap" ones go for $150 new? crazy! i use mine at least twice a week. i LOVE it!!! if i can't make it to the gym or out for my run that day, i hop on the bicycle in the living room and ride for an hour.

    1. That's awesome! Still havent gotten on mine :)

  5. Thank you for very valueable post about back pain!

  6. It’s a good thing that you did not ignore it for too long. Some people experience extreme back pain because they let the ache for so long before seeing a doctor. That is not advisable for someone who is always on the move. Have it checked right away so that it’ll be treated immediately before it could take a huge part of your everyday life. Listen to your body. And don’t ever contradict to whatever it says.

    @ Fort Lauderdale Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine

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  9. I have used these exercise and tips to get rid of the back pain. Now this time, I am able to say that these in fact works.
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  10. Thanks for sharing! I work as an office specialist and sitting 7 hours a day puts a significant strain on my lower back. Therefore, chiropractic treatment was very therapeutic for me. I go to some very well-qualified back pain specialists in NJ. They were instrumental in managing my lower back pain; offering a variety of techniques and treatments.

  11. Great read! Thanks for the exercise tips you've posted here. I'll be able to add these routines to my daily treatment. However, for those who'll be doing this for the first time, they should be guided by a licensed physical therapist.

    US Health Works - Redmond Center

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  14. Ignoring pain will only worsen the situation. There's no better way to solve this than to seek professional help for proper treatment. Continue your physical therapy to restore the condition of your body and to prevent pain from coming back.

    -Roberta Warner @ Chiropractor90210

  15. Lot of activities can ruin posture, like golf, washing dishes, doing yardwork, etc. But so few things are actually good for posture. What gives? LOL. Find exercises for back posture

  16. Nice post! The physical and occupational therapists at GMC's Gwinnett SportsRehab provide quality care for general orthopedic and sports injuries and conditions, as well as work-related injuries. For information about our outpatient programs and services.

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  17. These tips and advices are really very much effective, Happy to see your blog as it is just what I’ve looking for and excited to read all the posts. I am looking forward to another great article from you.
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  18. I'm very glad to hear that physical therapy continues to be beneficial to you! Here's hoping that you'll recover quick enough to be able to exercise the same way you did before!

    Katherine Mocks @ Forgey SportsMed & Rehab Clinic

  19. Very nice information you shared in your blog.

  20. Now this is Informative writing, Keep up the good work.


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