Baby Got Back Problems

I love weightlifting. I love yoga. I love being able to move.

In February this year, I lost the ability to do any of these things.

At the beginning of 2015, I was strong. I was at the peak of my fitness and could deadlift the weight of a large man. Then, life happened. I began my practical year at university and every waking moment was committed to lesson plans, research tasks and stress. It was during this time that I made my fatal mistake – I stopped lifting. I was not inactive, but I lost a lot of strength over the year. If I had known that those deadlifts were preventing serious disc displacement, I probably would have made time for them.

I wish I had an interesting story about how the discs eventually popped out… Fighting off a shark, stealing some diamonds, lifting a car off an injured pedestrian… However, my story is far less interesting.

I opened a dishwasher.

When that dishwasher opened up, a whole world of pain opened up with it. The first three months of my injury were the worst of my life. I was bed-ridden with agony for much of that time. I saw doctor after doctor, none of whom seemed even vaguely interested in my issue. Among the responses I received were, “everybody experiences back pain” and “there’s no point in giving you a scan, you just need to stretch”. Thanks, fellas.

After six months and six different doctors, one finally allowed me to have a CT scan. The outcome was worse than I’d thought.

Four. Slipped. Discs. Four of them. This was on top of nerve damage, scoliosis and arthritis that my physiotherapist believes were caused by leaving my injury untreated for so long. It was not great news, but I was just so relieved to have a definitive answer. The doctor sent me away with a referral to a physiotherapist, and I could finally begin my recovery.

It has been almost three months since I started physiotherapy. We are working against a lot of damage, as my body has contorted itself in strange ways in order to combat the pain. Because of the various types of damage (including nerve), I have to be very cautious about the types of exercises I do. The treatment is hard and the progress is painfully slow, but I am finally starting to feel some relief.

This would have been so much easier if the doctors had listened to me.
This would never have even happened if I’d continued my weightlifting.

But, what’s done is done and it is now time to concentrate on the future. My goal for now is mobility. I need to improve my range of motion with sciatic nerve flexes and lower back muscle stretching. My ultimate goal is to lift weights again. Last week, my physiotherapist gave me the all clear to start some light strength training. I never thought I would be so excited at the notion of bodyweight squats and lunges. It seems like such a tiny step… but this is the first step in getting my life back.

And no matter how long it takes, and how much work I have to put in… I will get my life back.

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