Deadlift

Training With Back Pain

Aidan Donnelly
July 30, 2022
Listen to the audio version

Audience: People experiencing or fearing back pain whilst training

Overview: Being proactive versus reactive, choosing rather than being forced, what to do about back pain or fear of it.

Time to read: 4 minutes

 “Hopefully it will just sort itself out…”

Your back is starting to niggle, it’s either a new injury or an old one. You leave it in the hope it will go away and take care of itself…but it’s not…and bit by bit…it’s getting worse.

If it’s a new injury you start to think there might be something seriously wrong with your back. If it’s an old injury then you are waiting anxiously for the day it goes PING!

Deadlifting

You don’t want to deal with it right now, you don’t want time away from training. You’ve been enjoying training and making progress… until now.

Unfortunately…that back pain is not going anywhere. Special exercises, mobility routines, stretching, rubbing it…it’s still there…

Sometimes you find a position that gives relief, but the next day you know about it…

Sound familiar??

You have an option here

With your back pain you can choose to keep going and eventually it’s going to cause bigger problems, force you out of training, set you back, and significantly affect your day-to-day quality of life. Or you can chose to address it now, find out what’s going on, and take the the steps to manage and prevent it.

Being forced to address your back pain, rather than choosing to, is a ‘reactive’ approach. Being reactive has a habit of coming at a greater cost.

So, what’s the alternative? 

Adopting a ‘proactive’ approach and putting steps in place to try and ensure the problem doesn’t progressively get worse and then using those to prevent it in the future.

It’s very similar to going to the dentist. We all know to brush our teeth and visit the dentist every 6 months. This reduces the chances of needing expensive dental work done.

Not looking after our teeth or getting regular check-ups requires a visit to the dentist whenever something goes wrong. Invariably by the time that happens the problem is so severe that it is impacting on our quality of life. It would have required a lot less pain and effort had it been addressed sooner. We end up with a big dental bill and swear to a get regular check-ups from that point forth.

We are either proactive and stop things before they get too serious, or we are reactive and address it when the pain point is unavoidable.

Being forced to take action

With back pain or any aches and niggles the majority of people will power through and wait until something gets so painful that they are forced to deal with it.

Their first point of protocol is to visit a physiotherapist or get treatment from a clinician. There you can receive soft tissue work, dry needling, and get a list of exercises to help the injured area recover.

However, like with the dentist, usually by the time someone visits the physiotherapist the pain is so bad that Its weeks or months out of training, the prescribed exercises seem like a burden and completely removed from the normal intensity of training.

The problem is reinforced

With the dentist, there’s an onus on you to maintain your teeth by brushing them. Starting after a cavity appears is too late. There are things you need to do to ensure problems don’t occur. This is common knowledge.

Despite this, with clinical treatment there is an expectation that you can be ‘fixed’ or do a couple of exercises for a few weeks and the affected area will magically heal back to normal and you can get back to training.

Here is an uncomfortable truth…

If the pain has persisted longer than 3 months then no amount of massage, stretching, joint manipulation or specific exercises on their own will take it away and keep it away

Biopsychosocialmodel

Like with your teeth, it is important to look at what you do on a day-to-day basis that contributes to your back pain. This feeds back to the idea of being proactive.

It is equally important to understand that pain is complicated, and multifactorial. There are many factors that contribute to why you or anyone experiences pain.

Therefore, you may not need to add in anything (like brushing) at all. you might just need to take a different approach, or you may even need to do LESS.

So what does this mean? What can you do?

Let’s start by asking yourself these 4 questions and then we’ll continue the discussion in Part 2:

  • Is the pain or discomfort progressively getting worse?
  • Are you fearful of badly injuring yourself like you have in the past?
  • By not addressing the pain what are you avoiding?
  • What would need happen for you to take action?

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