Every since I was a young teenager, I have had back problems. From general soreness, stiffness, and aches and pains to full-fledged, debilitating lower back spasms that have sent me to the Emergency Room and/or kept me bed ridden for days.
I’ve hurt my back in so many ways. There have been obvious and not so obvious reasons that my back would spasm.
- Trying to move a cast iron tub
- Spending 5 hours hunched over picking weeds in my yard
Not so obvious:
- Hanging up the telephone
- Crossing the street (yes, seriously – this is what ended me up in the ER last year in Chicago)
Over the years, I have sought the advice and services of physicians, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, masseuses, and countless friends with back problems.
Yet I still always had back trouble. I may relieve the symptoms for awhile, but I always end up with tight muscles and hamstrings.
Late last year I was in Austin, TX lamenting about my back troubles to a guy who runs ultra-marathons. Ultra-marathons are races longer than 26.2 miles. They could be 50 miles or 100 miles, for example. And yes, this guy is crazy.
He said, “Matt, stop everything you are doing. After 20 years of running, I thought I had my body figured out, but I had it all wrong. I want you to employ the service of one other specialist – something you may not have heard of before. Just trust the process, ask lots of questions, and I’ll see you back out on the trail.”
I ignored his advice for 3 months. But one morning, after waking up in substantial pain, I committed to following through and seeing the specialist.
After just ONE 90-minute session that included NO exercise and NO stretching, I was miraculously pain free for the first time in years. Also shockingly, my hamstrings no longer felt tight.
Two months later, I am feeling on top of the world. Still pain free and now beginning to run short distances again. I was ecstatic!
Feeling in the best shape of my life, I decide to let loose a little. It’s now late March 2012 and my wife is giving me sideways glances every time we leave the house because the weeds in our front yard are getting out of control. Like any good husband would, I get on my hands and knees and started pickin’!
Five hours later, I can tell my back isn’t doing well. My muscles are tired and sore. And then, with no concern for my own health, I decide to move a mattress upstairs to the spare bedroom.
That’s when it happened…SPASM!
If you’ve never had back spasms, it’s hard to explain the terribleness of them. And after my storied past of back problems, this injury was also emotionally crushing.
I was so upset and disappointed. I was upset with myself and disappointed with my body. I thought I had it beat. I thought I had figured it out.
But now I’m back to square one. Again. And in pain.
Dejected, I mustered ever ounce of energy to call my specialist – the one that had fixed me up months before – to see if she could squeeze me as soon as possible.
When I saw her later that day, I was still crushed. In addition to the physical pain, I was completely deflated. I complained that all the work we did previously was wasted and that I’ll never have a healthy back.
She appreciated my disappointment and after letting me vent for a minute, said something very interesting. Calmly, she replied, “You know, Matt, the fact that we’re able to work on your back when you’re in acute pain and experiencing spasms will give us so much needed information to tackle the root causes of the problem. I feel like we’re really close, and seeing how your body responds to this treatment will tell us more of what we need to know. In reality, this could be a fortuitous injury.”
Did she just reframe my perspective to help me find the opportunity in this challenging experience? Wow, maybe she should be the life coach!
From there, my whole attitude and energy shifted. And my body responded too. I loosened up quickly and found myself moving more freely.
Just one week later, I am back to where I was before the injury. I can’t believe it. It would take me 6-8 weeks to recover from my previous back spasms, not 6-8 days.
I feel that we have a much better handle on the source problem (limited hip rotation), and have also addressed my knee pain (a secondary ailment).
This whole experience got me thinking. What else can I reframe to find the opportunity? How else can I see the benefit of a challenge where others only see obstacles and disappointment?
What about you? Are down on yourself about something in your life? Your job? Your finances? Your relationships? Your health? How can you reframe your experience and see the opportunity?
Leave a comment below and let us know.
And if you are curious about what kind of specialist I’ve been seeing, leave a comment on our Facebook Page, and I’ll send you a message about it.