How Things Really Work For People Who Are Suffering From Back Pain - Freedom Physiotherapy & Pilates
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How Things Really Work For People Who Are Suffering From Back Pain

Hi. I just want to share a story about a patient of mine from a few years ago. I guess the context here is back pain and how things really work for people who are suffering from back pain. This guy was a...oh, he's about a 40-year-old self-employed bricklayer. He'd been having back pain on and off, probably getting a little bit worse and more prevalent.

It was impacting on his ability and productivity of work as a bricklayer, because brickies, as we all know, get, you know, pretty much paid by the brick. And, yes, he had a crew and whatever, but he was the leader of the pack, and it was really getting him down, because know, he also enjoyed other things like, you know, playing golf, and he was involved in junior footy and just kicking the footy with the kids and stuff.

It wasn't just back pain was his problem. It was the impact, not just on work but on family life. So there was a bit of a knock-on effect. So he'd pretty much tried everybody or tried everything. He'd been to physios, chiros, and osteos, and massage therapists, and whatever, and he was a bit of an expert on treatment. He'd had, you know, acupuncture, dry needling, massage manipulation, talk therapy, swimming, you name it. He had done everything.

Sometimes the treatment he had was quite good. It would settle the pain down for a little while. Of course, he would try the old anti-inflammatories and painkillers, which would calm it down. So the reoccurring theme here was, he was having symptomatic treatment, treatment for the pain. He was having treatment to calm the symptoms down. But, you know, nothing was really making a difference for him. The treatment would settle things, and then of course back to laying bricks and it would come back.

What got him to come in to see us was, you know, it was starting to interfere with his sleep. Like most blokes, he was complaining at home and his family said, "Look, you better go and do something about it." So he turned up to me and I listened to his story, and I thought, "Wow, he's done everything." I sort of, you know, think, "Well, you know, we need to have a bit of a change of direction."

So what we dug down was, "Well, what do you do outside of bricklaying, you know? Do you do any exercise? Do you walk, swim? What do you do?" He goes, "Well, I'm not doing much because my back hurts, but, no. No, I don't do much exercise." I said, "Well, do you go to the gym?" "Oh, no. I was told, no, I wasn't to do any weights because, you know, that could hurt my back."

He had this barrier to exercise. Obviously, quite understandable, because he had quite a bit of back pain. So what I suggested to him was, "Well, you know, we need to look at doing some strengthening." I was thinking, "Oh, look, I'll get him into some core stability training, and we'll do some Pilates and, you know, all the things that we have to offer here."

What he did is he actually, much to my, you know, trepidation, he headed off to the local council gym, and he decided, "Well, when I was a younger bloke, I used to pump iron. I used to like pumping iron." Anyway, so he lobs up and he doesn't tell the gym instructor about his back problem. He thought, "Well, if I tell him about my back problem he's not going to let me do any weights."

So off they went. He started doing deadlift, squat training, overhead press. He was doing bench press. He was doing traditional free weights, okay? You think about deadlift, you know, you've got to get down and put your back into it with a barbell. Anyway, what happened was very interesting. I didn't see him for a little while. He didn't come back, and I chased him up and said, "[inaudible 00:03:55], you know, what's going on? How's your back?"

He goes, "Oh, it's heaps better." "What have you been doing?" He goes, "I've been doing deadlift. I've been doing overhead press. I've been squat with the barbell." "Have you been swimming?" "No, mate, I haven't been swimming."

So what's happened here, here's a guy with back pain made worse with lifting and twisting, lifting bricks and wheelbarrows and everything else, who's actually gone to the gym and added to his daily workout, which was laying bricks. And he started doing traditional barbell training, deadlift, and he felt heaps better. I saw him the other day. This is about 10 years down the tracks. So he's been pumping iron for 10 years, and interestingly enough, he got the flu. He couldn't go to the gym. He was crook. He was crook for about a month.

After a couple of months, he still hadn't been back to the gym. He was quite tired and fatigued after having the flu, and his back seized up. So, yeah, sometimes you get a tight back after a cough, cold, or flu, but basically you put it down to one thing, one thing only. He hadn't been lifting weights. Back to the gym, starts lifting weights, and haven't seen him since. Had a chat on the phone, "All good, mate," he says, "I'm back into my routine."

So what's the moral of the story? Back pain is counter-intuitive. Most of the advice that you will get about back pain is wrong. Yes, there are some specific conditions, and you shouldn't just race off to the gym without proper advice. But this is a little story about what we've been doing wrong for so long about managing back pain.

Yeah, there is some adage about putting your back into it. At end of the day, it's about strength. It's about mind over matter, and there's a lot you can do to help yourself. If you're looking for some advice...I've been taught how to do a deadlift now, which is terrific. You wouldn't believe, there's a lot that you can do to help yourself.

I would love to hear any stories from you people out there. But this is what it's all about. It's all about exercise, the right exercise, and it can make a huge difference to your health and well-being. It's been great talking to you. I look forward to speaking to you next time. Thank you.

Joshua Hayter, MAPA, B.Physio
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