No matter what your age, low back pain can rear its ugly head at any time. Whether the result of an accident or injury, physical symptoms can often be a message to pay attention to your body as well as the rest of your life.
Let me begin by dating myself. I’ve been a gym rat since the ’70s when I first stepped into a Jack Lalanne Ladies European Health Spa. My friend Eileen and I were going to San Francisco State, and the health club was right next door. Donned in tights, leotards, leg warmers, and tennis shoes, we decided to check it out. We were hooked.
I’ve belonged to a gym ever since.
Three days a week, I typically spend a couple of hours lifting weights, dancing, stretching, or taking a yoga class. Yay, me! About six months ago, my occasional low back pain turned into a constant source of discomfort. I figured it was stress related, and if I took it easy, it would just go away. The symptoms persisted. At my annual checkup, I mentioned the issue to my doctor and she referred me to physical therapy (PT).
When symptoms flared in the past, I would try deep-tissue massage and chiropractic, but for some reason, PT never occurred to me. Before we began, Ingrid, the physical therapist, asked me several questions. Only then did I realize that the pain originated from a car accident that occurred in 2010. While waiting at a crosswalk, I was rear-ended by a woman who was texting. My car was totaled and so was a portion of my cervical spine: L 3, 4, and 5 to be exact.
After the accident, I saw a chiropractor for several months. Once I was pain free, I put the incident behind me. Now, several years later, my symptoms have returned with a vengeance.
The solution: strengthen my core.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been doing the exercises as assigned, paying attention to my body alignment and tightening my abs. The trick to healing is paying attention to form. This is accomplished by working slowing with slight or light resistance and doing each rep perfectly. I also have to pay attention to how I move and sit throughout the day. Sounds simple enough.
Basically, I’m having to overcome some unconscious habits. Last night, while I was holding a plank (I’m up to 45 seconds now), it occurred to me that so much of what occurs throughout the day is routine and done without much thought. Healing my low back pain requires that I slow down and pay attention. I’m pretty sure it’s a good metaphor for life in general.
My current mantra: Slow Down. Pay Attention.
Where in your life could you benefit by slowing down and paying more attention?