The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Feeling Better Than She Ever Has Part I - Fixing Herniated Disk and Reclaiming Active Life

Barbara's story came in over several weeks. Barbara thought she was healthy and active, and had done years of yoga. She had years of lower back pain, then a sudden onset of severe pain, leg weakness, and numbness. She couldn't push off effectively with her left foot, or stand on tiptoe. The heel of her left foot was completely numb, as well as the left side of that foot.

Barbara lives six hours from the nearest big town (there are 300 people in her little town in the Yukon and one general store).

Her doctor found that she had a herniated disc in her lower back, put her on anti-inflammatories. She was in continuing pain, and fearful of her future of pain and reduced activity, which would mean getting more out of shape and feeling worse. She was frightened that she had some "debilitating disease."

Barbara found my web site and this Fitness Fixer column with free information of how discs become pushed outward (herniated) through bad sitting and bending habits, and began trying some of the information. She wrote me excitedly the first week,

"I decided, after reading one of the many great patient stories you included in your book showing what to do, to lie on the floor on my stomach propped on my elbows to read your book. This felt amazing and when I got up again I could walk straight!"

Another e-mail followed that she was feeling worse again after that. I asked if she had gone back to all the injurious habits that cause the pain. She was surprised to realize that she had. Bad forward bending puts outward and eventually herniating forces on the discs. Barbara was bending badly all day at work when she need to pick things up, bending badly at home over the sink, counters, and while doing housework, then going to yoga class and spending much time bending over forward. Even in a yoga class, herniating forces occur from chronic forward bending, both sitting and standing bent over. It isn't magically good for the discs by calling it a stretch. Barbara also had been told by her health care providers not to do any lunges or squats. She later realized they were just the healthy bending she needed to do normal daily reaching and bending at work and around the house. Without them, she would only be doing the same bad bending that was contributing to the original problem.

Barbara wrote,

"I realized that part of my problem all week was that I had been half-heartedly doing "exercises" then going back to wrong bending while getting completely frustrated because it would seem things would start to feel better in the morning, but I'd feel like garbage by night. I wouldn't do all the things you recommended first thing in the morning, and I would get halfway through a lunge or squat to bend or pick something up and then bend forward out of frustration. So, I pampered myself yesterday - really, truly practicing and applying how to move in real life, especially concentrating on those lunges and squats when I needed to get something. It also finally clicked with me that while I was trying to concentrate on tucking the hip to neutral spine to walk, I was totally ignoring the forward bend of my upper back while standing and walking all week. I was walking all stooped over and feeling like an invalid."

I wish I could write that Barbara followed everything I said and was better the first day. What actually occurred was that it was six weeks until the "light bulb went on" and Barbara realized that "doing" a stretch or exercise doesn't magically erase the injury. Stopping the injurious bad movement habits that harms the disc is needed to let it heal. Using healthy movement in daily life for daily bending and reaching would improve strength and balance. Barbara said that reading the Fitness Fixer stories from Ivy sparked her "turning point" to understand. She then started feeling relief.

Barbara wrote.

"In short, I’ve come from having pain, and muscles completely unaccustomed to healthy movement lifestyle, to feeling stronger, more flexible and agile, pain free, along with a new attitude to everyday life and health, with fresh energy and a renewal of love of life. I know this might sound dramatic, but you’ve changed my way of life.

"Your website has been a godsend actually; especially when I surf the net and see "surgery" splattered everywhere.

"PS My principal just ordered your book - he borrowed Fix Your Own Pain for a week (I didn't think I'd get it back) and would like his own copy. That's saying a lot - he's doesn't take well to other people's advice."

It was six weeks of half-way recovery and recurring pain until Barbara got the idea that "doing exercises" doesn't heal an injury if you go back to bad movement habits the rest of the day. She also noticed how some of the most common exercises contribute to the original problem. Here are links to the information Barbara used:

Barbara generously wrote up her story to help readers see that they can fix pain sooner, rather than waiting six weeks.
Coming next, Feeling Better Than She Ever Has Part II - a look behind the scenes.

Read success stories of these methods and send your own.
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.