Dan’s Note: Vicky began training with me in September of 2019. She originally sought help from Dr. Michael Ray of Barbell Medicine, who happens to run a gym in her town. He helped get her on the right track and start lifting again.
Back pain sucks. Chronic back pain really sucks. It insidiously diminishes your quality of life. One day you wake up and realize that you can’t do all the things you use to do and constantly must ask others for assistance. When you seek medical help/advice, your options include spinal injections or surgery. Those options are either temporary or run the risk of not helping at all. In fact, they could make things worse.
A lot of people have back issues. Mine started in my late 20’s with a degenerating disc, resolved and did not seriously start back up again until late 2014 when I was 52 years old. My young daughter was jumping on dead branches to break them for the firepit and I decided to join in the fun. It was very fun until I chose a petrified specimen that, instead of breaking under the force of my weight, decided to flip me on my behind. Which was very, very funny at the time. Shortly thereafter my back pain started up again. I assumed I had a degenerating disc that got inflamed from the fall. Drawing from the experience in my late twenties, I thought the irritating pain in my lower back and legs would eventually diminish and resolve in 6-8 months.
Fast forward 3.5 years. The pain did not go away. Somedays I dreaded getting out of bed and moving. Some nights I had a horrible time getting to sleep. No position was comfortable. Desperate for relief, I sought out the advice of a medical professional. The orthopedic doctor diagnosed a pars defect/fracture with acquired spondylolisthesis as well as chronic disc degeneration. Spinal injections were offered, and surgery was recommended. I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of spinal injections never mind invasive surgery.
Time marched on and I continued to be unable to do the daily activities required of me and those that I enjoyed. I couldn’t lift my grandkids, I couldn’t lift haybales or grain bags to feed my horses, I couldn’t lift 5-gallon water bottles to put on the water dispenser and the act of shutting the ramp on the horse trailer was impossible. Simply bending over to pick up a small item or unload the dishwasher caused pain. Over time, avoiding activities that I perceived to cause pain made me weaker and more fragile. I felt feeble and frail. My quality of life was suffering.
My husband is a Starting Strength advocate. He suffered a very traumatic disc rupture while deadlifting and instead of quitting, he enlisted Dan Raimondi’s help to get back under the bar. It was a testimony that barbell medicine does indeed work, but I was afraid that the back pain would keep me from being able to lift enough to benefit me. In July 2019 I was fed up with not being able to live my life as I wanted and needed to. Dan told my husband about a Barbell Medicine doctor whose main concentration was using weightlifting to help with chronic pain, especially lower back pain. As the fates would have it, Dr. Michael Ray resided in my hometown. Lucky me!
Dr. Ray was great with getting me started. I couldn’t even do a single squat, never mind squat with weight on my shoulders. After 6 weeks, I could actually “get under the bar” and do work outs like regular folks. Getting to this point was not without some discomfort but I realized lifting was not making the pain any worse, in fact, it seemed to be helping the pain decrease. Dan took over my training where Dr. Ray left off. The last 6 months efforts have paid great dividends. Now I can do most all the things I want to do without fearing I’ll be in excruciating pain. I have very little, if any, pain during the day or when I go to bed. A month or so ago I “tweaked” my back when I slipped on ice. Dan had me continue to lift but only as much as I felt comfortable lifting. Backing off and lifting what is tolerable helps move through the pain and get back to normal. While pain is sometimes present, its intensity and duration are subsiding. My quality of life is greatly improved, and I encourage anyone who suffers as I did to give weightlifting a try. Done correctly, it yields great benefits!