Low back pain – Has the system failed you?

Low Back Pain – has the system failed you?

Low back pain. Most of us will suffer back pain at some point in our lives, especially if we lift heavy weights, but not limited to lifting. Many of my clients aren’t even lifters but people who lift as a hobby. Some play basketball, run, are average joes, or are in the military. Some are stay-at-home moms who tweak their back doing chores around the house. Others suffer from car accidents and falls. The common theme for all of these clients is the medical system failed them. This article will discuss the primary ways I see the system fail back injured people.

Post-low Back Surgery PT – non-existent

Over the last 2-3 years, I have seen an increasing wave of clients reach out to me and other practitioners who have gotten low back surgery and are told they were good to return to everyday life with ZERO PT.

If this is you, you are almost doomed to fail, in my experience. One must rebuild before one returns to everyday life, and this is especially true for athletes. Steps must be taken to rehab and adapt the spine to load slowly. Failure to progress slowly can mean a lifetime of back pain and worse surgeries.

Cookie cutter Physical Therapy

Low back pain treated with cookie-cutter physical therapy will work for some people, depending on their pain generators, injury severity, therapist, etc. But, for many, at best, it will not help; for some, it will make them worse; even reinjure some. The bad news is therapy, at least in North America, is not very likely to help promote the healing necessary due to the necessity of back pain & injury needing specific treatments. In addition, many cookie cutter plans involve mobilization of the spine with stretching and particular postures, which will further exacerbate the damage, with silly stretches, and exercises that will feel temporarily good. Still, the pain returns shortly, with the area becoming more sensitized, therefore, more pained. It becomes a cycle of pain.

Their clinician gives no homework for back pain.

Some patients will start to feel better during PT, but once they finish the arbitrary number of PT sessions, their insurance will cover and forgo their therapy. As a result, clients have a false sense of healing. It can take years for a back to heal truly. They feel they have arrived and are ready to move and do as they wish. I tell all of my clients that if their PT or their Chiropractor or practitioner doesn’t assign them therapy to do on their own when dealing with a back injury, they are going to the wrong clinician. Avoid PT and Chiropractic packages that sell you on only going to see the clinician. I advise people to veer away from these practices. When you see your provider, you must do daily exercises and not just manual therapy (or other) with them. You only see them for a few minutes; what about the other 23hr + just on this day?

Terrible prognosis

One of the worst things clients report to me is that their Dr., PT, etc., tell them they will never be out of pain. They are told they are screwed and have a lifetime of pain to enjoy. Or, worse, they are chastised and told they deserve their misery. I got this vibe from more than a few DR. Athletes hear they have to hang it up and will never be able to compete or enjoy their hobby again. While this may be true for some, I’ve seen many clients beat their pain and regain their life. Many can return to sport, though not all. I’ve witnessed too many cases heal up and get back on the lifting platform, on the field, behind the jet, racecar, or operational ready to go along with this narrative.

I could go on further, but you get the point. Unfortunately, many people don’t know that specialists exist. We can spend the proper time with you and give you the best possible shot at beating your pain. I experienced the flaws in the system. Thankfully I found someone like Dr. McGill, who showed me there are no quick fixes or cookie-cutters that can fix my pain. It comes down to a proper assessment, removing the causes of pain, and good progress in restoring pain-free capacity and building resilience, as discussed in Back Mechanic and Gift of Injury.

My mission is to help as many people as possible. If this message resonates with you, those reading this are lost and struggling. You can book a virtual or in-person session HERE. 

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Brian Carroll

Owner and Founder at PowerRackStrength.com
Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
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