Never Stop Moving

This image sums up my life 20 years and still learning from my two back surgeries. I feel the connection because most sharks literally can’t stop moving or Shark imagethey’ll drown; similarly I believe I can’t stop moving or I’ll be in constant pain for the rest of my life.

It took me years to understand this simple fact about my body – honestly I used to pity myself because I thought chronic pain had robbed me of my ability to relax. But I slowly realized that maintaining my lower back injuries required constant movement – a revelation that first hit me when I borrowed my stepdad’s bike one day while recovering from my second surgery.

My sister gave me my first health club membership, at Bally’s in suburban Denver in the early 1990’s. Since then I have always joined the closest health club to my workplace, and supplemented all kinds of gym workouts (aerobic, weights, core, exercises classes) with mountain biking and walking/hiking (I currently belong to two gyms – one a 7 minute walk from work, the other within a quick bike ride from my house.)

Don’t get me wrong – there were days and weeks and months over that time that I didn’t work out enough, or at all. Through the peaks and valleys of my ongoing recovery, my weight fluctuated between 185-230, and often I justified my lack of activity because I was afraid that I might hurt my back working out.

I credit an orthopedic doctor in Bend, Ore. for telling it to me straight. She said my back was unstable because the muscles around it were weak. She told me to get on my bike, even if it hurt at first.

I have had other revelations about strategies for managing my back – deep tissue massage, core exercises, light weight training with high reps, ice, handling stress more effectively- but deep down I know that exercise and movement has always been the one thing that saved me from a life in chronic pain.

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4 responses to “Never Stop Moving

  1. It is weird they generally don’t stress this enough when talking to people about pain and injuries. Obviously you can over-exercise, but I’m with you that the one thing guaranteed to help my aches and pains is a workout or a ride. Or a fifth of bourbon.

  2. Yep, when I injured my back in the early nineties, the docs were all about bed rest and meds. In my experience that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. And thanks, I’ll add the fifth of bourbon to my list!

  3. Bakker,

    I suffered a stress fracture in one of my lumbar vertebra in H.S. Years of pain ensued. Good physical conditioning cured the pain. And I always sleep with 3 pillows, behind the head, a snuggy, and yes between the legs!

    • Interesting. I wonder if your pain is coming from stress and protecting the injury? As soon as I began visualizing my back pain as coming from minor oxygen deprivation in the lower back muscles instead of my disk oozing out into my sciatic nerve, my back started feeling better. I removed the pillow, and I no longer wake up with a back ache. I am becoming a believer in the mind-body connection, I’m convinced it’s not just guys trying to sell books. There’s a lot of established evidence out there, such as the placebo effect, the documented effect of stress on coronary artery disease, etc. but they’re also doing really interesting pain studies now about how fear and stress show up in your body. Check this one out, for instance:
      http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/BackPain/16112

      Thanks for reading Matt!

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