Recovering From a Low Back Injury – Patience and Perseverance

28 Apr

Medicine BallWell it’s been a few months since I’ve had my groove on. Hurting my low back in January definitely put a damper on my exercise routine – and that’s an understatement! Let me put it this way, it was one month before I could get out of bed without helping myself with my arms. Unloading the dishwasher was painful. Getting in and out of the car hurt. I could not bend over at the waist unsupported. My core was SHOT! I will NEVER take my low back for granted again! Recovering from this low back injury was a slow process requiring a lot of patience and perseverance, and I still am not 100%. 

This was all SHOCKING to me because I considered myself functionally fit:  2 minute plank, 18 cindy’s in 20 minutes (that’s 180 pushups). My fitness program focused on overall strength/body/core conditioning using compound moves. So to hurt myself so badly that I couldn’t get out of bed unassisted was really strange. I didn’t even “know” that I hurt myself until one evening (after doing yard work and decluttering my empty nest), a strange sensation came over me, and I thought “uh oh.”

My Low Back Recovery Program

So here’s what my low back recovery program looked like – I’m not a pro – but this is how my path looked. Each little section sort of built on the previous.

Weeks 1 – 2: Ice and advil, a  little walking, and VERY little gentle, supported stretches

Weeks 3 – 4: More of the above with some more supported, static stretches; 15 second plank (cheater style)

Weeks 5 – 6: Gentle elliptical, limited unsupported stretches, static power poses (chair pose, static wall squats, warrior), 15 second plank (good form)

Weeks 7 – 8: Moderate elliptical, 30 second plank (really good form) , a few modified body weight exercises (modified push up, modified tricep dips, air squats focused on core)

Weeks 9 – 10:  Harder elliptical, 30 second plank, super man,  super assisted pull ups, regular push ups, body weight lateral lunges (focus on core), lateral lunge/cross body wood chop with limited range of motion (no weight)

Weeks 11 – 12: Decent elliptical, 45 second plank, low rep/low weight moves (stairs + curls, squat + shoulder press, modified inverted rows, lessen assistance on pull ups, kept on with the push ups).  During this time I worked out with Sonjia (but I was done at 40 minutes) and I even succeeded in a little wog (jog + walk).

During this whole period, I was VERY cautious. My body was my guide, I stopped before I felt fatigue, and I NEVER did anything that caused any discomfort (there are lots of moves that I’m still not doing). I’m so grateful that I had body awareness to listen. I’m also grateful that I had plenty of  “tools” in my fitness tool chest to gently move, and gradually incorporate modified strength and core moves through the process. I did not “lose” everything after essentially abandoning my fitness routine for 12 weeks!

Where am I now? I got on the bike for a little while (it felt great), and I succeeded in a great 60 minute workout with Sonjia this week (low weights, low reps, but kept moving the whole time).

Set 1 – 3 x 10 Reps

  • Assisted pull ups (yay!)
  • Wall ball (yay!)
  • Dumbell chest press on swiss ball (yay!)
  • Shoulder roll outs on swiss ball (yay!)
  • Lateral lunge with cross body chop with medicine ball (yay!)

Set 2 – 3 x 10 reps

  • Rear delt rows on rings
  • Lateral lunges (speed skater style without the bounce) with medicine ball
  • Hamstring curls with swiss ball
  • No weight dead lifts (ha! but the motion felt so good!)
  • Jumping jacks (25)

Set 3

  • Tabata Closer on the Bike (20 second sprint, 10 second rest, repeat for 4 minutes)

I was SO stoked to be able to do this routine – I can’t tell you how excited I am! I still have to “easy does it”, but I think I’m back!

Have you been injured? How did you manage mentally and physically?

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15 Responses to “Recovering From a Low Back Injury – Patience and Perseverance”

  1. FitMomma April 28, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    I, too, have suffered from low-back injuries, and had to deal with the effects on my workout routine. I applaud your very well-planned outline of getting back into the groove!

    I have not focused as much on core in the past two months, and can tell. Seems that once a back-injury, always a back-injury if you don’t stay on top of it. I’m going to steal a few of your moves to help get my back in tip-top shape again!

    Thanks for the post!

    • Kris O'Connor @Krazy_Kris April 28, 2011 at 8:36 am #

      Thanks so much! I wouldn’t say it was a plan cuz my plan would have had me doing Cindy’s again at wk 4 LOL. That said – I really enjoyed listening to my body and rediscovering some of the static moves. Since crunches and many other “traditional” core stuff was out, creativity was key. And I was reminded how powerful the “chair” pose is and even body weight squats (from a core perspective). Would love to know your modified core work is – keep me posted! Thanks again for coming by!

  2. lindsay April 28, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    I ha no idea! I am glad you are on the way to recovery. Biking is a plus!!
    I bet some wine for antioxidants will help speed things up, right?
    😉

  3. Karen@WaistingTime April 28, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    Glad that you are well on your way to recovery. In the past 13 months I have been sidelined twice. Once with a broken bone that then required physical therapy. Then, before I was back to full strength, got hit with surgery. My cardio is fine, or will be once I get to bike outside again. But my strength training is wayyyyyy below my old levels. Oh well. Patience.

    • Kris O'Connor @Krazy_Kris April 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

      Oh gosh Karen – I knew about the surgery but I didn’t know about the rest! Patience is key – for sure – I’m so glad I “remembered” some of the old school strength work – body weight, certain yoga poses, modified push ups – I’m really thinking (when I was ready) that little by little they helped me get stronger. Keep us posted, and yes, patience and perseverence….

  4. Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana April 30, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    Glad you are better… you actually took time off to heal and did everything right :).

    As you know, I also had a low-back strain around the same time. Mine was not as severe as yours… I could function just fine but it always burned after a workout/bending over and Advil/ice were my friend for weeks. It takes SO long to heal.

    I “backed off” (slightly) for a few weeks but it wasn’t until I really got serious about lowering the weights and taking about a week off (ok, from “most” everything) that I started recovering.

    AND I must say that the foam roller has sped up my recovery immensely! I roll my hip flexors, glutes, and IT band before and after my workouts and my back is truly golden now. The foam roller is totally undervalued as a stretching tool, and stretching is what we need the most.

    • Kris O'Connor @Krazy_Kris May 1, 2011 at 10:14 am #

      It is SOOOOO hard to take it easy! And I know it’s even harder for you 😉 Me, well… I’m naturally slothful LOL. And AMEN to the foam roller! It hurts soooooooooo good! I’m hoping to “finally” do your last swap – I think it’s in the cards for May – wooooooot! Hugs ~

  5. Lisa June 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    Did you ever try swimming?

    My boyfriend had a low-back injury in December from Dead Lifts. It was about four or five months of rehab and physical therapy for him. Watching him go through that was really hard. He was in a lot of pain and nothing seemed to help. 😦

    • Kris O'Connor @Krazy_Kris June 3, 2011 at 7:17 am #

      Oh gosh – that’s a long, tough haul! I got into the pool a couple of times, but I’m such a sissy, it seemed too hard LOL TY for stopping by!

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