Fix my back

I’m 24, and my back hurts. I’m tired of it. This is going to be a bit long, but I would love suggestions.

I’ve injured it a few times… about a year ago it started hurting so bad I couldn’t walk, couldn’t even stand up. I went to the doctor and she told me I was having back spasms. She gave me pain killers and muscle relaxers and told me to strengthen my abs.

Since then, I’ve had two times when I felt like I pulled a muscle and was just rotten pain for a few days. Last night one of my horses launched into some twisting bucks while I was riding, and I felt the muscle stretch and strain or something! I took some painkillers, went to the gym and walked which always helps me stretch out. I did that again this morning and it helped, but I know it won’t last and it’s already starting to hurt again.

I drive 2-3 hours a day. Sitting in my car always seems to make it worse. I currently have my seat set to pretty upright, which I have found to be the least painful.

I exercise. I lift weights several times a week. Once or twice a week I do a workout focusing on strengthening my back, things like lat pull downs, rows, good mornings, as well as squats and deadlifts, and things that focus more on the lower back but I don’t know the name of. I work my abs around 3 times a week, doing various exercises I’ve learned from magazines and websites.

I also do cardio at least once a day, typically on an elliptical, treadmill set on an incline or stairmill. And I ride horses, which is probably a negative in this case. My horse pulls very hard, which generally makes my back muscles tired. He also occasionally does something silly that twists me around like yesterday.

When ever I get hurt I’ll start taking ibuprofen and go on slow walks to loosen my back up. This seems to help. I also ice it if it hurts particularly bad.

What I’m hoping for here is some more suggestions to prevent this from happening at all! I don’t do alot of stretching, suggestions here would be great. I have tried to learn to yoga/pilates from magazines/internet, haven’t felt too successful. I cannot currently afford to take classes.

I’m also not doing much of a warmup before riding, if there is something I can do that will help I would love to know.

I’m hoping to draw on some collective wisdom here, I figure with as many readers as SDMB has, at least some have this problem and have some better suggestions to fix it.

I am not a doctor and strongly recommend you seek advice from professionals, but I can say this: have you tried yoga? Yoga is great for both flexibility and strength, is focused on aligning your body so all the parts function well together, is only as hard or as easy as your body is capable of at that point in time, etc…

It is the only form of exercise that has given me consistent, obvious rewards, makes my body feel immediately better (this increases a lot the more you do it) and I want to do regularly. In some ways, it is like doing physical therapy to your entire body, but without someone leaning into your joints until you are in pain!

My $.02 - best of luck,


PS: I see that you have tried it - sorry I wasn’t clear; you can get a DVD or something for pretty cheap and do it at home by yourself so you don’t have to pay for lessons or anything. The goal is to find something you like and that you can stick with. But from what you describe is bothering you and what you would like out of it, yoga sounds like a solid fit…

Do you have one of those total gym systems with the sliding bench?

Nope. I wish, those look useful. Is there any good substitute for that?

Wordman - the DVD is a good idea. I will go to a doctor if the pain gets worse, but everytime I’ve been to a doctor for this the response has been the same. “Here’s some pain killers, work your abs more”

Yoga or Pilates was going to be my suggestion, too. The problem with the videos is that there’s no way to tell if you’re doing the exercises correctly, and doing them incorrectly can cause more harm than good. Check your park district for low cost classes, or consider calling a Pilates studio and ask if they have anyone working on a sliding scale, or can put you in touch with a local school who might have students needing clinical hours. Or maybe someone would like to trade riding lessons for Pilates lessons? You’ve got a skill there yourself, and in my experience, Yoga and Pilates instructors are often part of the alterna-world where barter is big.

If you really can’t find a way to work it out with a teacher, then try to find a video buddy - at least for the first few times you do it, have a friend watch you, and watch the video at the same time, and give you feedback about your posture, watch for hyperextension or sagging guts, that sort of thing. Then start the video again and do the same for your friend. After a few reps, you’ll be able to work together to the video and still catch one another getting sloppy. Not as good as a trained instructor, of course, bet better than trying to do it alone.

The Chinese Position:

  1. Stand, your feet apart and out at about a 45 degree angle (experiment to see what works best.
  2. Hold your hands out in front of you, fingers interlocked.
  3. Crouch down. Your calves and thighs should touch.
  4. Let your head relax.
  5. Hold the position for 30 seconds to a minute.

Stand up. You’ll notice the improvement immediately. It is one way to remove ALL stress on your back muscles.

Repeat as necessary (or until your knees give out).

Second method (if you have bad knees. Doesn’t word as quickly.):

  1. Kneel down, knees on the floor, legs at a 45 degree angle.
  2. Lower your body to the floor, sort of prostrating yourself. Keep that way for a minute or two.
  3. Roll on your side and get up.

I don’t use this one that often, since it doesn’t work as well, so my description isn’t as good. The idea is to take all the weight off you back by using your legs as sort of a sling for it.

I’m not seeing this in my mind clearly at all.

In step 1, when you say “legs at a 45 degree angle” do you mean to each other so that my knees are apart but my feet are together or feet apart knees together? Or that my knees should be bent at a 45 degree angle so that my butt is hovering somewhere above my heels?

In step 2, do you mean go from whatever position step 1 is to lying flat in full contact with the floor, or that the body should drop straight down over the lower legs, butt touching heels and then across the folded under legs? If the former, I don’t get the physics, because there’s just not enough weight in my lower legs to counterbalance the rest of me. Can I use my hands during the transition?

The good news is, step 3 is clear as a bell to me.

I had problems with lower back pain for years. I tried every stretch imaginable, and nothing really helped.

Finally, after mostly giving up, someone suggested that maybe it wasn’t my back I need to really work on, but my hamstrings. Ta-da! Turns out it was some interplay between my hamstrings and my back that was causing the pain.

Nowadays, when my lower back hurts, I do a bunch of hamstring stretches. It goes away pretty quick.

They’re bulky and hard to fold up so you should be able to buy one used pretty cheap. What I do with mine is put it on the lowest setting and secure my feet to the top. I then let my weight gently pull my back straight. I can push myself up and let the falling weight do the tugging. 5 minutes a day helps when I start to have problems.

And your car drive may be part of your problem. I discovered in therapy that I was slouching when I drove to work. Sitting up straight made a difference as part of the whole effort. I also take Glucosamine which is good for the joints.

Finally, I discovered that the chair I was using at work was a major contributor to many of my problems.

When I was about 24 is when I started having back problems. I have been in back pain so bad I couldn’t walk. I’m 39 now and it almost never bothers me. I think my watershed year was probably about 32-33.

Listen to all the advice about exercise, exercise is very important, but it sounds like you do exercise.

The most important thing I had to learn was: Nothing is really wrong with my back.

Anxiety was the most contributing factor to my back pain. I am not saying “It was all in my head” and I’m not saying “It’s all in YOUR head” however this kind of pain OF COURSE makes you think something is wrong. This is why back pain is so maddening. You can have a lot of pain with there being no real serious problem.

So there I was thinking things like “will I be crippled? will I need surgery? will I be able to pick up my children? will I be disabled?” and that causes anxiety and anxiety causes tension and tension causes/increases PAIN.

Nowadays when I have a pain in my back I think, “rats, a pain in my back. That’ll get better on it’s own, no big deal” and go about my daily activities to the extent possible. I have also used this approach with success to pains in my hip, leg and neck.

I do take ibuprofen when in pain, but I’m pretty conservative even with that, it’s not without side effects.

My experience with chiropractors I would file under: waste of time and money.

My experience with MRIs: waste of time, money, discovery of claustrophobia.

As I said, that one is harder to describe because I never use it. Some clarifications:

  1. The 45 degree angle refers to how the knees appear as you look down at them. As I try it, the angle is probably not that important (it is in the first version; if your knees aren’t at the correct angle, you’ll fall).
  2. You start out kneeling. Knees on floor, feet tucked behind your butt.
  3. You then lean your body forward, arms in front of you on the floor, body as close to the knees as you can get. Don’t use your arms for support – it should come from the legs acting as a sling for your back.
  4. You’ll know you’re doing the right thing when you feel your back relaxing.

The first version of this (crouching) always fixes my back pain. Sometimes it takes a few tries, and it’s tough on the knees, but it always works.

The second version (kneeling) usually works, too. I’ve even seen it described in medical handbooks. It just takes longer to have an effect – a couple of minutes instead of 30 seconds or so. But it’s easier on the knees.

Thanks for the clarifications, RealityChuck. I think I’m seeing it better now. I do have bad knees, so I don’t think I should even try the first version.

The hamstring thing mentioned upthread is confirmed by my chiropractor, btw. He tells me that once he gets me to “stable,” he’ll put me on a regimen of stretches that will include ballerina stretches for my hammies.

Thanks for the suggestions guys. I’m going to try some of the moves/stretches RealityChuck mentioned. And I think I’ll swing by half price books and look for a yoga DVD.

Does Pilates have the same good affect as yoga?

Exercise is key, but since I see about 1 in 100 people ever doing any exercises properly (ESPESICIALLY THE BACK), I would love to see your mechanics.

I am exaggerating a bit: I would say about 1 in 1000 people I’ve seen actually do exercises with the proper mechanics/form.

See a doc and professional trainer.

I use an inversion board. It works pretty well. I’d reccomend having someone with you the first time you try to set it up. If they’re set up wrong, you’ll either not be able to flip upside down, or not be able to flip rightside up!

1-2 Aleve (generic is fine) twice a day, continue until well after the pain goes away.

Microwave heat pack.

And of course- see your Doc.

Riding a horse at the walk is apparently the physical exercise most similar to walking on the ground. I bet both you AND your horse will benefit from a long, slow, flexibilizing walking warmup that includes lots of bending, circles, lateral work – and hill work if you have 'em – (for him) and gentle yoga-based stretching (for you).

What type of riding to do you? I used to Event, and teach some as well. :slight_smile:

Also, check to see if your local library has the book “Yoga for Equestrians” - it has a lot of mounted and unmounted stretches (including some you can do while wearing tall boots!) and exercises.

I’m aiming at doing hunters eventually. The horse I’m riding is 4, so we’re just doing lots of repetitive baby work right now. And I’m about to break my 2 year old, also aiming at hunters.

I evented with my old horse, it was a blast!

I don’t have back pain, but I know a few people who swear by Dr. John Sarno. It might be quackery, but I wonder if any Dopers have read his books or tried his methods.

Also, what kind of shoes do you wear? Minimize heels and any unsupportive shoes, as well as barefoot time.