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  1. #1
    Registered User Tourmax's Avatar
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    Back injury, looking for exercise recomendations

    So, first post. I wasn't sure where to put this, so "over 35" (I'm 55) made sense.

    A little background:

    I'm 55 and was released from the air force nearly 2 years ago. Canadian. I flew Search and Rescue for 30 years (first the CH113 Labrador, then the CH149 Cormorant) and I've got a laundry list of injuries as a result. Physical and mental.

    Medical conditions: ruptured disc l5/s1 (blown out lifting casualty on a Medivac), knees gone (general wear and tear of helo ops), left shoulder gone (tissue injury from a very bad hoist sequence), Type II diabetic (weeks and weeks at a time on restaurant/fast food), Hashimotos disease/hypothyroid (shot with a weather radar), right wrist 1 was the exact words on the report. Some days are worse/better than others. Some days I wake up and can't get to the toilet, others I can just jump up and go. It's a total crap shoot. But I'm never far from just the wrong move that will drop me to the ground like a sack of bricks. Mainly, it sends all the muscles in the area into spasm and all I can do is do my frying bacon imitation until it calms down (or meds kick in). It can happen anywhere. I can be walking down the mall and BAM! on the floor doing frying bacon outta nowhere. Sciatica, weird pains out of nowhere, muscle spasms, muscles don't respond to commands, etc. You name it with a spinal nerve injury, I probably experience it to some degree. I'll tell ya: it's quite the sobering experience to wake up and not be able to feel or move your legs.....

    Doctors suggested surgery, injections, etc. I was somewhat receptive until they rattled of the possible complications. When he got to "paralysis" I said "No thank you". I can still walk, it just hurts. A lot. But for the most part, I can still stand/walk. When I can no loner walk, I'll consider letting someone into my spine with a knife or a great big needle. Until then, I just keep doing what I've always done: I use my mind to not "feel" the pain. Truthfully, I still feel it, I just refuse to let it take focus in my mind. Basically, I shut it off/ignore it and try to keep noticing "new" pain (ie: new injury). I also don't take pain killers, I've got so much drugs running around my system, i don't want any more in the mix. Doctors pretty much agree. Heck, they won't even x-ray me any more since it's been done so many times already!

    What works the best for me for relief/maintaining mobility is the inversion table. Basically, it puts my lower back in traction, which helps immensely.

    This is an injury that I sustained in 2002 and have been fighting with it since.

    I've been to specialists, physio, massage, neurologists, osteopaths, etc. None are much help. Well, a little help, but not much really. Most physio doesn't want to "challenge" the muscles (mostly light work and balancing) and massage, etc doesn't want to go very hard because my body freaks out when they touch me (ie:muscles spasm on and off).

    I used to lift when I was younger, as in 18-25. Got reasonably large (maybe "fit" might be a better term), but it's genetics as much as anything else. I'm classic northern European build: 5'9", 190-210 lbs, stocky, shaped like a big rectangle. Mesomorph if you use those terms for body types. Barrel chest, big calves and forearms, square wide shoulders, etc. My whole family is disproportionately strong for our size, just the way the genetic roulette wheel worked out. But my work in SAR pretty much kept me in decent shape, when I was still working. Like I mentioned, the RCAF released me from my contract because I was finally too broken up to carry on. No regrets, life well spent and the "golden parachute" keeps me mostly comfortable. Mostly....

    So I'm looking for ideas of what exercises I can do that are light, won't aggravate my lower back (or anything else) too much and put a little bit of strength back into my core. I'm thinking of maybe picking up something like a preachers bench and working on arms and shoulders. My only concern is that will add weight above the lower back, which will just make it more PO'd. Things like kettle bell swings might work, hard to say until I try it out on the back. Things like planking, squats, etc aren't much of an option, back really doesn't like to bend or twist. Adding weight makes it worse. Can't walk far (1/2-1km at best), uneven ground is essentially out of the question. Heck, I even had to give up golf....back can't rotate without pain.

    I used to be the guy who could pick up a small block ford and carry it across the shop. Now, I'm lucky if I can carry two cans of paint from the store to the car. Not how I want to be, although I know my days of being "strong" are pretty much over. Same with the middle section growing now that I'm not conducting sar ops. I need a little exercise to at least stay in somewhat decent health, since it's all going to pot as it is....
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  2. #2
    Registered User Eternalstuden79's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Tourmax View Post
    So, first post. I wasn't sure where to put this, so "over 35" (I'm 55) made sense.

    A little background:

    I'm 55 and was released from the air force nearly 2 years ago. Canadian. I flew Search and Rescue for 30 years (first the CH113 Labrador, then the CH149 Cormorant) and I've got a laundry list of injuries as a result. Physical and mental.

    Medical conditions: ruptured disc l5/s1 (blown out lifting casualty on a Medivac), knees gone (general wear and tear of helo ops), left shoulder gone (tissue injury from a very bad hoist sequence), Type II diabetic (weeks and weeks at a time on restaurant/fast food), Hashimotos disease/hypothyroid (shot with a weather radar), right wrist 1 was the exact words on the report. Some days are worse/better than others. Some days I wake up and can't get to the toilet, others I can just jump up and go. It's a total crap shoot. But I'm never far from just the wrong move that will drop me to the ground like a sack of bricks. Mainly, it sends all the muscles in the area into spasm and all I can do is do my frying bacon imitation until it calms down (or meds kick in). It can happen anywhere. I can be walking down the mall and BAM! on the floor doing frying bacon outta nowhere. Sciatica, weird pains out of nowhere, muscle spasms, muscles don't respond to commands, etc. You name it with a spinal nerve injury, I probably experience it to some degree. I'll tell ya: it's quite the sobering experience to wake up and not be able to feel or move your legs.....

    Doctors suggested surgery, injections, etc. I was somewhat receptive until they rattled of the possible complications. When he got to "paralysis" I said "No thank you". I can still walk, it just hurts. A lot. But for the most part, I can still stand/walk. When I can no loner walk, I'll consider letting someone into my spine with a knife or a great big needle. Until then, I just keep doing what I've always done: I use my mind to not "feel" the pain. Truthfully, I still feel it, I just refuse to let it take focus in my mind. Basically, I shut it off/ignore it and try to keep noticing "new" pain (ie: new injury). I also don't take pain killers, I've got so much drugs running around my system, i don't want any more in the mix. Doctors pretty much agree. Heck, they won't even x-ray me any more since it's been done so many times already!

    What works the best for me for relief/maintaining mobility is the inversion table. Basically, it puts my lower back in traction, which helps immensely.

    This is an injury that I sustained in 2002 and have been fighting with it since.

    I've been to specialists, physio, massage, neurologists, osteopaths, etc. None are much help. Well, a little help, but not much really. Most physio doesn't want to "challenge" the muscles (mostly light work and balancing) and massage, etc doesn't want to go very hard because my body freaks out when they touch me (ie:muscles spasm on and off).

    I used to lift when I was younger, as in 18-25. Got reasonably large (maybe "fit" might be a better term), but it's genetics as much as anything else. I'm classic northern European build: 5'9", 190-210 lbs, stocky, shaped like a big rectangle. Mesomorph if you use those terms for body types. Barrel chest, big calves and forearms, square wide shoulders, etc. My whole family is disproportionately strong for our size, just the way the genetic roulette wheel worked out. But my work in SAR pretty much kept me in decent shape, when I was still working. Like I mentioned, the RCAF released me from my contract because I was finally too broken up to carry on. No regrets, life well spent and the "golden parachute" keeps me mostly comfortable. Mostly....

    So I'm looking for ideas of what exercises I can do that are light, won't aggravate my lower back (or anything else) too much and put a little bit of strength back into my core. I'm thinking of maybe picking up something like a preachers bench and working on arms and shoulders. My only concern is that will add weight above the lower back, which will just make it more PO'd. Things like kettle bell swings might work, hard to say until I try it out on the back. Things like planking, squats, etc aren't much of an option, back really doesn't like to bend or twist. Adding weight makes it worse. Can't walk far (1/2-1km at best), uneven ground is essentially out of the question. Heck, I even had to give up golf....back can't rotate without pain.

    I used to be the guy who could pick up a small block ford and carry it across the shop. Now, I'm lucky if I can carry two cans of paint from the store to the car. Not how I want to be, although I know my days of being "strong" are pretty much over. Same with the middle section growing now that I'm not conducting sar ops. I need a little exercise to at least stay in somewhat decent health, since it's all going to pot as it is....
    Unsurprisingly there's no easy answer to your question.

    You've got injuries over most body parts, so anything you do has to be scaled to your own capabilities.

    Advice for what it's worth:

    Air bikes are great as you can ensure no impact on any joint (takes practice).

    Bands more than weights nay be preferable as easy to control.

    And diet is key to weight and T2DM.

    Hope that helps.
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  3. #3
    In it for the gainz RestoringTally's Avatar
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    As Eternalstuden79 said, no easy answer.

    I suggest a whole body program using bodyweight exercises. BW exercises will get you fit. They will also help identify weak body parts or those body parts that you need to work out another way. To build more strength after progressing, you can add dumbbells and kettlebells to the mixture.

    I have bulging discs around L5 from bad deadlifting form when young. I use the McKenzie program exercises when it acts up. It is basically 3 exercises that I use periodically to ensure I don't have problems. Check out the book Treat Your Own Back by Dr. McKenzie. (no affiliation).

    I would proceed slowly with kettlebell swings. Start with light weight and practice good form before going up in weight.
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  4. #4
    Registered User Chut26's Avatar
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    I would definitely stick with body weight exercises and bands. Maybe go to PT and have a professional show you different exercise routines to rebuild some of your strength.
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  5. #5
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    Certainly this be something a medical professional answers for you.
    I like the PT recommendation and preferably someone that works with athletes/active people.
    I think your desicion to not have a surgery is a good one.
    I know personally a couple people that have had more than one because the first one didn't correct the issue.
    They never truly got to where they were totally pain free.
    Lots of good advise above for other posters.
    Have you tried a reverse hyper machine at all?
    Power lifting coach swears by it for lower back issues as it dynamically tractions the low back.
    He had a serious low back injury and came back from it.
    It may be worth a try if you have access to one or try one out somewhere.
    Good luck to you.
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  6. #6
    PT, DPT matthewkelling's Avatar
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    WOW!

    I love weightlifting but given your complex medical history it's extremely difficult to provide specific exercises that won't conflict with one or more of your medical issues. The basic but ideal approach involves a press forward, a pull from forward, an overhead press, an overhead pull, a squat and a hinge. If you can use free weights you will challenge your core and accessory muscle better but that might be at the expense of your back so start light and build up as you tolerate it well.

    If you are deconditioned you may be considering the wrong starting point. Think about getting your heart muscle in condition before you attack your skeletal muscle. Ideally, you could try swimming (if your shoulder will allow it). This would provide you some of the same relief you get from the inversion table because of the water buoyancy, it will start to condition your heart, and it will start to condition your skeletal muscles.
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    Registered User Tourmax's Avatar
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    I've been seen by many physical therapists over the years. Literally from one side of the continent to the other (military, move around a lot) . They are all limited benefit to me. All they want to work on is balance and stabilization. None ever wants to talk about increasing (actually, regaining) any fitness. They are all injury stabilization focused. I've been living with this since roughly 2002, so it's probably about as good as it's going to get, injury stabilization wise that is. While I know that's an important part of the puzzle, I also need a way to get a bit of cardio (and I absolutely HATE cardio). Some muscularity would be good too.

    We bought a bowflex max trainer a while ago, but it's not the "beginner machine" they make it out to be. It's very hard to go for very long and although it's "0" impact, the rocking motion in the hips causes me pain after a few minutes. Actually, anything that requires a sitting position, rocks the hips side to side or bearing any significant weight is mostly "out" for me.

    I'm not talking about building mass, just to get some tone and strength back....I'm well aware that I won't ever be what I once was ever again.

    Maybe I need to talk to a few more doctors about how I can regain some fitness/health. There must be a professional out there somewhere who can address this situ. I know i can't be the first one with this type of problem. I need to get some fitness/heath back, or I'll end up in a wheel chair or worse. Hell, there's some mornings I'm already in a walker. At the very least, I'd like to put off those types of issues as long as possible.....fitness is the way to push it off. It's just a matter of finding a way to get there.....
    Last edited by Tourmax; 07-28-2020 at 01:39 PM.
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    PT, DPT matthewkelling's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Tourmax View Post
    I've been seen by many physical therapists over the years. Literally from one side of the continent to the other (military, move around a lot) . They are all limited benefit to me. All they want to work on is balance and stabilization. None ever wants to talk about increasing (actually, regaining) any fitness. They are all injury stabilization focused. I've been living with this since roughly 2002, so it's probably about as good as it's going to get, injury stabilization wise that is. While I know that's an important part of the puzzle, I also need a way to get a bit of cardio (and I absolutely HATE cardio). Some muscularity would be good too.

    We bought a bowflex max trainer a while ago, but it's not the "beginner machine" they make it out to be. It's very hard to go for very long and although it's "0" impact, the rocking motion in the hips causes me pain after a few minutes. Actually, anything that requires a sitting position, rocks the hips side to side or bearing any significant weight is mostly "out" for me.

    I'm not talking about building mass, just to get some tone and strength back....I'm well aware that I won't ever be what I once was ever again.

    Maybe I need to talk to a few more doctors about how I can regain some fitness/health. There must be a professional out there somewhere who can address this situ. I know i can't be the first one with this type of problem. I need to get some fitness/heath back, or I'll end up in a wheel chair or worse. Hell, there's some mornings I'm already in a walker. At the very least, I'd like to put off those types of issues as long as possible.....fitness is the way to push it off. It's just a matter of finding a way to get there.....
    I would 100% agree with you that the vast majority of PT's focus is stabilizing a problem rather than restoration of function/life which is mind numbing! I started my own clinic because the same old, same old version of PT wasn't for me.

    Generally speaking, if you find someone in the fitness industry to work with they will know how to push your fitness but be injury clueless. If you work within the medical community you will find someone that stabilizes your problem but never thinks about how to bridge the gap to get you doing what you actually care about. They just try to get you out of pain.

    Doctors are great but a 10 minute consult isn't going to get your fitness back. You need one on one intervention from someone who knows how to respect your injuries and will trouble shoot your fitness journey with you.
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    Physical therapy

    Swimming/water aerobics

    Never touch a leg press
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    Look into Diamond Dallas Page Yoga or DDP Yoga. He is an ex wrestler who injured his back and came up with a program to heal himself. He also worked with a guy named Arthur who was a disabled veteran from the gulf war who became a youtube celebrity. The guy could barely walk and was overweight with back injuries. His video circulated youtube some years back and has over 60 million views.

    Here is that video if interested.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9FSZJu448

    Good luck to you.
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    Back problems can have several different underlying causes, so what provides relief to one person my do nothing or may even exacerbate the problem for another. With that noted, I have had a few episodes of EXTREME back pain . . . even causing me to get my one and only ambulance ride to the hospital ~10 years ago. After that initial injury (caused by lifting an object with poor form), I had several recurrences. With that noted, my back seems significantly stronger, and I actually attribute it to the amount of bike riding that I do. I've asked other bikers and they have similar comments, but I live near several huge hills and I go up them out of the saddle with a slow, steady left, right, left, right, . . . action all the while my spine is flexing side to side which I think has strengthened my core. I'm not bullet proof as I am sore for a couple of days if I carry a 60# bag of concrete over one shoulder, but I've not had any of the debilitating back pain nor spasms that I've had in the past.
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  12. #12
    Clearly Irrational blue9steel's Avatar
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    You've got a complex situation that would make a Physiotherapist blanch. If you're going to seek professional help you going to want someone with a sports background who is used to folks that are totally messed up (elite athletes, high end bodybuilders / powerlifters, etc.) Off the top of my head I'm thinking maybe reach out to Juggernaut Training Systems or Renaissance Periodization to see if they could recommend someone appropriate.

    I'm not a doctor or a rehab expert, so take anything I say with a hefty dose of skepticism and realize it may or may not apply properly to your situation. I do have a lower back injury from coming off a horse and I spent some time in the Marine Corps so I can at least conceptualize what you're going through. I think you'll want to consider some kind of mobility work like yoga. For lifting you'll want to experiment with different exercises, use the most ridiculously light loading you can manage and work up really slowly. Band work is probably a good idea. The inversion table sounds pretty darn smart and you'll want to avoid axial loading like back squats.

    For me, strengthening the stabilizer muscles around my injury significantly reduced pain in the long run but it was a painful process. For my specific injury this meant starting with stretching, progressing to back extensions and then eventually things like good mornings. I still have to be very careful with torsion or lateral stress but the more I've worked on it the better things have gotten.

    After time in the military you should know the difference between "ouch that sucks" and "ouch I'm breaking something", don't try to gut your way through the 2nd type of pain and you should be ok to try some things.
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