I have met many people, both on and off the mats, who seem to take their injuries with resignation. They say things like: “I just have bad shoulders”, or “I’m going to have to live with this bad back for the rest of my life”, and are content to live a less rich life. My reaction to injuries has always been to try to educate myself, and then to tackle them head-on.
To illustrate, let me talk about my lower back. I first injured my lower back getting thrown onto a wooden floor back in my Kajukenbo Karate days. I then further aggravated it by getting into high-level whitewater canoeing, where you are exerting a tremendous amount of unilateral twisting strain on your spine and torso. It got so bad that, when I was doing Judo, even with proper breakfalling it only took 3 or 4 times getting thrown onto my back for my lumbar spine to sieze up completely.
Most of the time I just experienced a dull discomfort in my left lower back, but when it flared up (after a Judo class, or weightlifting with bad form) it was really, really BAD! The worst time it was so bad that I was trapped on the floor of my study for almost 24 hours because I simply couldn’t walk, crawl, or be dragged to my bedroom.
All this time I was actively pursuing various treatments and therapies. Over a period of about 1o years I tried doing the following things to cure my back problems:
- stopping Judo and concentrated almost 100% on groundfighting
- switching from whitewater canoeing to whitewater kayaking
- consulting ‘Western medicine’ (i.e. family doctors,visits to the ER, back specialists, etc.)
- going to physiotherapy, developed and used my own routine
- using anti-inflammatories (3 or 4 different types)
- trying herbal and vitamin treatment
- applying Chinese tinctures and ointments
- doing Yoga
- acupuncture (from at least 3 different practitioners)
- having frequent professional massages (from at least 4 different massage therapists)
- trying deep tissue massage / Rolfing
- taking hot baths and jacuzzis
- applying ice packs and cryotherapy
- consulting a pelvic malalingment expert
- going to ‘normal’ chiropractic therapy (from at least 6 different chiropractors)
- trying ‘no-touch’ chiropractic therapy
- buying and using several traction and inversion devices
- having cranial-sacral therapy
Various experts (and ‘experts’) diagnosed the problem as being herniated disk(s), rotated disks, facet syndrome, misalinged pelvic bones, excessive scar tissue, tight muscles, loose ligaments, torn ligaments, cervical problems creating low back pain, lumbar problems creating cervical misalingments, etc. etc. etc. Naturally there tended to be a correlation between the diagnosis of a given expert, and the services they offered; very few diagnosed me with something that they supposedly couldn’t cure with their services!
As you can see I tried about everything except short of putting a pyramid under my bed and having surgery! Now this was time-intensive and finacially-expensive process, and I was very fortunate that many of these treatments were partially or fully covered by a combination of the public health plan (I live in Canada) and my health plan through work. I realize that unemployed (or underemployed) people will have difficulty pursuing as many treatment options as I did, BUT some of these options are low cost or no cost.
My point isn’t to talk specifically about back injuries and treatments per se, but rather to illustrate the lengths I went to in order to live a healthy and energetic life. My bad back cut into my training, my family time and my general enjoyment of life, and I wasn’t about to accept it as part of the definition of who I am.
In the next article I share some of the treatments that actually helped me make progress with my back problems.