For those of you suffering from back pain, disc problems, and who may have stumbled upon my blog in search of support or advice, I can only tell you that things get better with time and patience. There is no magic bullet, nor is there a perfect exercise, physical therapy regiment, or pain pill to rid you of what ails you. What I can tell you unequivocally is that proper diet, regular exercise, and perhaps compromise to trying new things in the gym are pretty solid areas you should focus on. A combination of all 3 are what have helped me feel 100% back to where I was pre-injury. (details in some of the blog posts further down)
Over one year ago, I was in the worst pain of my life from hip to toes, with a weakness in my right ankle that made me feel like I was 67 years old instead of 37. After microdiscectomy surgery of my disc between L4-L5, and probably up to 6-8 months after, I still had lingering pain that was so random and frustrating that I really began to doubt the effectiveness of my surgery. I went through PT, tried my best to get back into the gym, but had forgotten that 6 months pre-surgery I had reverted to a fairly sedentary lifestyle, drinking alcohol a little more often that I wanted to keep the pain at bay, and gaining at least 15lbs of fat while feeding my face watching episodes of Lost, Dexter, and Mad Men. I rushed into things. I tried to run 3-4 miles a few times a week, as I had done years previous and probably came back too soon.
Somewhere between August and October of this year, I noticed that pain, tingling, and tightness in my muscles I had been feeling throughout recovery sort of magically disappeared. I’m not saying this will happen to you, but I’m sure it gives hope to some of you who are 4-6 months out of surgery asking yourself “When the heck is this going to end?”
I tell everyone to stay in touch with your neurosurgeon or go see your orthopedist to make sure you’re on track or just to have them check any irregular pain or tightness you’re feeling.
Now I train at least 3 days a week, and I use light weights and do some ample interval cardio on the elliptical, stairmaster, + stationary bike. I’ve abandoned running outdoors for now, because the pounding still aggravates my lower back and hips.
I’ve sought the advice and training of fitness guru Anthony Ellis, who’s muscle building/fat bashing programs I’ve followed for years. One of the things he helped me with was strengthening my back muscles. There’s not a day I’m not in the gym anymore where I’m not working my legs, back or shoulders and these are areas that are most ignored and dreaded by most fitness buffs out there to begin with. These are important muscle groups you should be working. Below are a list of a few exercise that I enjoy doing now, and are really helping me get stronger. Keep in mind that I started out doing some of these with as little as 5lb dumbbells. Be careful and consult your doctor before trying any of these excercises!
1.) Split Squats (dumbbell)
2.) Lunges (dumbbell)
3.) Crunches w/ Swiss Ball
5.) Step Ups (with or without dumbbells)
6.) Calf Raises
7.) Back Extensions
8.) Deadlift (dumbbell)
With a steady regiment of the workouts Anthony created for me and about a 2,000 calorie diet of 40% protein 40% carbs and 20% fats (all healthy foods), I’ve lost about 12lbs of fat and put on 3 lbs of solid muscle. I’m feeling the best I’ve felt in 18 months and can’t wait to update you again in about 6 weeks on progress.
Just stay positive and pace yourself in the gym. Don’t worry about using light weights. It’s all about moving your body, working your muscles out, and please, please, whatever you do – don’t forget to stretch!!
Even on days I don’t work out, I stretch for 10-15 minutes a day. Make it part of your morning routine and this will help you feel great!