The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Reps of Exercises Don't Fix Pain; Fixing Causes Does

Monica from Montana bent over dogs daily in her dog boarding kennel. She spent the summer doing stretches, exercises and going to chiropractors for severe back pain. She did all her "sets and reps" (repetitions) of the exercises her various practitioners gave her. The pain kept coming back. What did she do differently that stopped this cycle?

I first heard from Monica through her short happy note:

"Thank You!! So much. I've had quite the drain of lower back pain the whole summer. Finally I got online and read your article and have now begun the fast road to recovery. The first day I did have relief. Now it's been three days and I can't stop talking about how good I feel. Today I drove six hours and was still comfortable!
"Thank you again,

I wrote to thank her for using my work as intended and taking time to tell me. She replied:

"Hi Dr. Bookspan,
"The whole summer of 2009 was plagued with lower back pain, I thought due to raking pine cones. I did my usual routine. Going to the chiropractor. Doing stretches (the wrong stretches) all day long thinking they were giving me relief and come to find out by reading your website I was re-injuring my back over and over by doing these improper stretches of bending forward. When I found your website it all made sense so I immediately implemented your instruction and what do you know I immediately started feeling better.

"The pain did not all go away over night, it has taken time to heal, tolerable time thank you. At the end of August I wrote to you saying thank you. It is now the first part of October and the lower back pain is pretty much gone.

"When the pain makes an appearance I immediately pay attention to body position and it (the pain) goes away. I also suspect the chairs I use at work were a part of setting me up for this injury. The chairs are like saddles to "help with upright posture." The molded hard part of the back of the chair is protruding to where it was subtly pushing on my tail bone I've now realized. I think that's a part in why the injury was so low in my back. Plus I think the saddle part of the chair had been affecting my hips. This has taken some time to realize I was so used to these chairs. This whole combination has caused quite a bit of pain and discomfort but due to your website I started looking at all of these things and am reaping the benefits.

"Thank You Dr. Bookspan! You are a bright expression of this essence we all are. The essence of compassion, clarity and skillful means.
"Much Love,

Thank you Monica, for lovely writing.

I wrote back to Monica to see what, specifically, she found helpful, and make sure that after time, she remained pain free, had her life back, and could do more than before she started using my work. To help readers, I make sure these reader inspiring stories are tutorials, not just testimonials. For new readers who have not previously heard of fixing causes rather than doing a few sets and reps of exercise and stretches, I ask success story writers to include specifics.

Monica continues with two commonly prescribed forward bending stretches that add to a common source of pain, rather than fix any problem:

"The main (wrong) exercise I kept repeating over and over was to sit in a chair, bend forward with arms between my legs to stretch as much as I could. This would make my spine move as if straightening - I thought. I also found that bending forward over the front knee created a stretch that would make my spine move. I realize now this was not a good thing."


Bend Over 

She also described habitual body positioning that are classic contributors to pain. Even if you do all your sets and reps of exercise and stretches, if you don't prevent these causes of pain, you won't stop the resulting pain:

"My habits have been to let the bottom of my pelvis bend back at while sitting or standing. You know the "butt out" posture. While walking, my feet tend to face outward too. I've now been more conscious to keep my feet square and tilting the bottom of my pelvis forward to give my spine more support. Works like a charm.

"For real life bending... The first thing I do in the morning is go feed dogs in my dog boarding kennel, so in order to pick up bowls and put them back down I now bend my legs instead of bending over using my back. I try to keep my heels to the ground and come up easy while I'm still gaining strength to take care of my knees. My legs have adapted quickly. I bend using my legs all day long and really try to take care of my knees and back.

"I hope this helps someone.
"Warm Regards,

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Bending Back Pain Image by Iain Alexander via Flickr
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About the Author


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