Mar 28

Life After a Back Injury

Ever since high school, I have had low back pain. I was in the middle of a wrestling match when I heard a CRACK in my back. I couldn’t walk at first. I crawled off the mat. I remember walking home hunched over taking every step oh so gently. My father seemed to be prone to back injuries so my parents assumed I had inherited his back problems. The pain got less as the weeks went on and I was able to manage it with simple stretching.

I was in my 40’s when I realized I needed to loose a few pounds and get into better shape. So my wife, Dawn, and I decided it would be a great idea to enter a marathon relay with some friends of ours. There were 5 of us so we each had a distance of 5.2 miles to run. We didn’t set any land speed records but we had a great time. It was two days later when I felt the pain. It was an intense, indescribable and unimaginable pain that brought me to my knees. I knew something was seriously wrong.

After x-rays and an MRI, I was given the diagnosis. Spondylolysthesis (spon-dee-low-lis-thee-sis), more commonly known as “pars fractures” at L3 & L5 in my lower back. You can see the fractures in my MRI here, circled. The spine fits together with a system of interlocking ‘facets’ that click into the vertebra above and below. These ‘facets’ prevent the anterior or posterior displacement of the vertebra or Spondylolysthesis.  My few extra pounds, unfit core, and the added running was the right combination to allow one of my vertebra to slip forward and bring me to my knees.

Well, at least I found the reason for my low back pain all these years. You see, it is quite common for people with pars fractures to experience back pain and even leg pain. I couldn’t help but think back to my high school days when I heard my back crack on the wrestling mat. The doctor said it could have happened then or I might even have been born with the pars fractures. I’ll never know for sure.

I was fitted with a very expensive “turtle shell” back brace. Basically stabilized my back from my waist to my shoulders. I was told I would need to wear it for 4 to 6 weeks. So, of course, after 3 days of wearing the silly contraption, I left in the closet for good. But now that my back wasn’t in as much pain, it was time to get back to exercise. I needed to strengthen my core which would in turn, help support my spine.

I turned to twitter to get some advice and stumbled on Bonnie Pfiester. Bonnie and her husband, Steve Pfiester, created a program called “BCx Boot Camp“. It’s a miltary-style program designed to get you into shape. Some of the exercises were difficult for me because of my back issues. Steve and Bonnie helped me modify these exercises to accommodate my low back pain. They stayed with me every step of the way and taught me the importance of proper nutrition and daily exercise.

I still have low back pain from time to time. But as my core gets stronger and stronger the pain is less and less. There are actually days when I don’t even notice it. I work out 6 days a week. I lift weights, do cardio and also use Bodylastics bands. I’ve made videos of my workouts on Youtube. Things I never would have thought possible when I was wearing that turtle shell brace. So, for me, there is life after a back injury. It’s been a slow recovery. And SO worth it. I am grateful for my new Fitness Family! I am happy to be feeling better and learning to live Every Day Fit.

Here I am doing some high knees in Maui, Hawaii. Who says white men can’t jump, even after a back injury! Ha!


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