Through my experiences with chronic pain, I have discovered 3 points that must be addressed. I hope by reading this I can save you a lot of money, time & energy, as well as provide you with hope & confidence that your body is not permanently damaged. I’ll discuss two issues I’ve had to deal with; my shoulder & my lower back.
Let’s begin with my lower back. I had suffered from lower back pain since I was 14 years old. I could never stand up for longer than 20 minutes without feeling pain. Being so young, I was so frustrated & had no idea what was wrong with me. I saw doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, & personal trainers. X-rays & MRIs showed no abnormalities, not even signs of scoliosis. So, I was basically stuck with this pain with no apparent problem & thus no solution. As I got older & began lifting weights, this was very limiting. I could never squat, deadlift or perform most traditional leg workouts. So, I primarily concentrated on my upper body & counted bike riding as my leg workout. I became obsessed with cycling around this time.
I attended college at UC Santa Cruz, which is a very hilly campus. Getting to class was a pretty intense workout on the bike. I loved cycling, but I could never ignore my screaming lower back while climbing hills. My lower back pain was gradually increasing. I couldn’t take it anymore. My RA at the time was offering free yoga classes, & having tried most traditional methods, I decided to give it a try. After trying a few yoga classes, I discovered how tight my hips were. My psoas muscle was particularly tight (which cycling did not help), so I began stretching every night. I continued this for months.
I sufficiently loosened my body up a few months into my freshman year of college, but I was still not pain free. In fact, this is about the time my shoulder started giving me problems. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with myself which lead to depression. I was losing hope. Why was this happening to me? I was so young, active & seemingly healthy. Every medical test I had done, showed absolutely no problems. So, why the FUCK was I feeling this chronic pain in my body?
I’ll cut to the chase. After a few years of suffering from this lower back & shoulder pain, I was obsessed with finding some solutions. I always had hope that I wasn’t stuck in a life of weakness & discomfort. I had read & seen too many stories of people overcoming much worse. Once I conducted some research & implemented various unorthodox methods & techniques, I discovered what was wrong with me & what to do to fix it. It boiled down to joint mobility/motor patterns, breathing mechanics & nutrition.
Joint mobility/motor patterns. I soon discovered that chasing pain would not help. Just because I felt pain in my lower back, did not mean the problem was with my lower back. It could literally be a problem with in the feet, knees, hips knees, etc. Yoga taught me how connected our body is & practicing really brought my awareness to the kinetic chain. Our body is one long kinetic chain, so when something goes wrong in one of the major joints, it can potentially throw off the entire chain. I could feel the connection between my lower back pain & shoulder pain. My pelvis was rotated which induced multiple muscular imbalances up the chain. I began to focus on mobilizing & strengthening all of my joints; my ankles, knees, hips, & so on. Once my joints are strong & mobile, I focused on correcting the way I moved. We generally move about unconsciously. We are not consciously concentrated on every step when we’re walking, for example. By practicing yoga, qi gong, tai chi, or other mind/body practices, you learn how to mindfully move to correct your bad motor habits. I chose to practice yoga, Ido Portal methods, & mindful calisthenics. This all took time & patience because I also had to cease heavy and/or intense workouts, which I was addicted to at the time.
Breathing mechanics. No mater how much I stretched & mobilized my body, I still felt tight & generally imbalanced. I had always ignored the deep breathing aspect of yoga during classes or while following along to youtube videos. However, I began to research the physiological (& even psychological) benefits of breathing correctly. I was totally unaware of the fact that most of us do not breathe properly, until I began practicing breathing exercises. These exercises not only began to restore my breathing mechanics, they brought my attention to how shallow my breath was. Once my breathing mechanics improved, my body began to re-establish proper intra-abdominal pressure. By optimizing this pressure, my core was able to sufficiently support my spine which corrected many imbalances in my kinetic chain.
Nutrition. How can nutrition possibly have anything to do with back pain? It can have everything to do with the way you’re eating, actually. If you are allergic or sensitive to certain foods which you are unaware of, eating these foods will cause inflammation in your gut. Inflammation in the gut can also be cause by eating too much, eating too fast, eating low quality food, drinking alcohol, & much more. We are all unique, so different foods & substances may effect us differently. Inflammation of your digestive system can affect surrounding muscles, causing them to shut down or hinder them from functioning properly. Go ahead & check how close your gut is to your back… Pretty close, huh. Try intermittent fasting & eating a more paleo/ketogenic diet; it helped me a lot.
If you are suffering from chronic pain anywhere in your body, you should certainly consider addressing these three points. It could be one or all of them which need attention. Be patient with yourself, never compare yourself to others & most importantly never lose hope. Never accept the fact that you are damaged for life. We are extremely dynamic, malleable creatures & with enough focus & determination, we can overcome anything. Love you all.