Littleton, CO

I’m so embarassed

I’m so embarassed

Yes, the lifting teacher strained her back while lifting wrong.
Luckily, my redemption comes in the fact that I was back to 100% in less than 3 days.

Here’s how it all went down…
Last week, I strained my low back lifting our couch. My “back went out” as some call it.
Yes, I teach people how to lift awkward things safely. Yes, I’m human.

We got a new large rug for our living room and I wanted to get it set right before my husband got home.  I was about 3/4 of the way finished and needed to get the front feet of the couch on the rug.  I bent over and grabbed hold to move the middle onto the rug  (aka, the whole front edge at once) and…

it felt like a lightening bolt tore through my lower spine.

The searing pain of my low back stopped me in my tracks.  I froze in place realizing what just happened and cursed the heck out of myself because I just did the exact thing that I teach my students not to do.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.
As I absorbed what just happened, my mind began to rationalize how I could have done this.  I was sore in my legs from a heavy deadlift workout the day before, I had just spent the current day walking all over Water World in bare feet and I wanted to get it all done quickly so there wasn’t a mess when my husband got home.
It was the perfect storm:

  • My legs were sore so I didn’t bend at my knees.
  • I was tired so I didn’t set my shoulders back to have a straight spine.
  • I was rushing and didn’t want to make two lifts.

Here’s the good news…I knew how to mitigate the problem.

Immediately after I felt the pain, I stopped and slowly got myself lying on the floor on my back and put my feet up on the couch at 90-90 or the static back position.

This position is a safe, supporting position for the spine.  This type of muscle strain sends the muscle into spasm and it is very important to stop the chain reaction of muscle protection and compensation.
I spent about 5 minutes on my back, breathing gently and gradually deeper.  I was having an internal conversation with the muscles of my low back and deep abdominals.  I wanted my abdominals to keep bracing, but my back muscles to release.
After the 5 minutes I rolled slowly to my side, then flat onto my stomach.  I gently did a few press ups with small range of motion.  From there, I got onto all fours, taking a moment to breathe deep again and then coming up to kneeling on both knees.
Here’s where it gets interesting.  You see, I wasn’t finished placing the couch.
You think I’m crazy right? Most folks would have gotten themselves into bed or laid on said couch, popped some pills and called in sick to work the next day.  However, this is actually the moment where correct muscle activation can start a healthy healing pattern. It’s completely counterintuitive.
I only needed to move the couch about 4 inches forward clearing a 1 inch high rug.  If I needed to move and carry something heavy, I WOULD NOT HAVE DONE IT.  These were small, correctly activated lifts.
Still on my knees, I got myself to one end of the couch and propped one foot out to a ‘tripod’ position.  This is the position I should have been in to lift in the first place (see image below).  I took a moment to activate all the right muscles by pulling up lightly on the couch to make tension. Mid back muscles on, abdominals on, low back off, gluteals on, legs on.
I lifted and placed right foot of couch. No tweaks so I repeated the same prep and lift on the left foot of the couch.
How I got back to 100% in less than 3 days: 

  1.  ​​​​​​​I went to bed that evening with heat on my low back.  NO PILLS
  2. In bed, with heat and support under my back, I stretched my sore and stiff hamstrings.
  3. I did NOT avoid movement the next day.
  4. I was super strict with squat lifting form to open low drawers and used a strict golfers lift to pick up things off the floor.
  5. I took a walk.
  6. I kept moving, I went slowly through a mobility routine the second day post strain.
  7. I activated the correct muscles with healthy, functional squats throughout the day.
  8. I took a walk and did some abdominal planks, side, reverse and regular

The third day, I was back to normal movement and activity…100%.
On the fifth day after my low back strain, my workout consisted of deadlift sets of 95 lb for 21, 15, 9 reps…among other things and I felt great!
Life happens, you may get hurt sometimes but
it doesn’t have to end up in a debilitating injury.
Exercise.  Move better.  Get flexible.  Eat less crap.  
All this helps defend against injury and pain.
All this helps you heal faster if the perfect storm arrives.
Nothing like some screaming pain to motivate my lifting form in the future.  To avoid reoccurrence, I will be much more vigilant with my stretching and warm up when I’m stiff and sore.
Stay aware when you’re lifting when sore!

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