Last time (and first time) I went to a physiotherapist was when I had a sore back. He was very good. He told me the muscles up and down my back, shoulders and neck were tight (indeed) and that some of the muscles in my lower back were seized up and that was the cause of my pain. He manipulated the muscles a little – but recommended a massage as being more effective at relaxing back muscles. He also showed me what he described as the best two exercises he knew to both relieve back pain and to avoid future problems.
I was happy and excited. Happy that I felt better after his manipulation and excited that I had a preventative path forward. And then came the punchline – ‘do these exercises twice a day every day and it will help prevent any future recurrence’.
He could see my face of course – and sure enough it was only a split second later that he added – ‘I know…no-one ever does the exercises every day’. No problem I thought to myself – this guy doesn’t know how determined I can be when I set my mind to something – I can do this.
And sure enough I dutifully did both exercises, exactly as demonstrated, twice a day, every day….
…for about 5 days! And then I stopped. My back felt better and something else just seemed like a better option to do with that time.
And sure enough he was right. On a regular but infrequent basis I get the same lower back pain. And when I do, I dutifully do his exercises twice a day…and re-resolve to myself that I will continue to do them every day…even after the pain has gone.
And sure enough…I don’t!
It also turns out that back pain is very common…so much so that whenever I am obviously and painfully struggling, I always get lots of great advice (as well as my fair share of sympathy and mockery). Pilates and yoga are both good, frequent, and as yet never tried suggestions. Lose weight is common – although I am not sure if that is based on sympathy or mockery. 10,000 steps a day is another one I have heard a few times…but that is a very large amount of walking.
No, I am sure; the best advice I have had was the first (and professional) advice – from that friendly physiotherapist – practice his best two exercises twice a day every day.
I am also pretty sure I know why I don’t do these exercises once the pain has gone. There is no obvious reward. If I work out on my bike, then my adrenaline flows, my blood flows, my endorphins flow and I even sweat. I feel tired but I feel good (those endorphins are pretty impressive). If I was to try to lose weight then I have a number of biomarkers to help me…ranging from looking in the mirror through to my weighing scales – again I get reward as I make progress.
Preventative exercises that involve lying on the floor for 10 minutes…not so much. No endorphins, no biomarkers, no feel good factor, no praise, no reward, no gain…no pain -but I wasn’t in pain anyway whilst preventing.
I have tried listening to music whilst I stretch. I have tried setting my phone alarm to remind me. I even booked slots into my daily calendar one time. No go…
…there has to be a better way.
Yesterday I tried something new – I did my daily exercise and went straight into my back stretches as I was cooling down. That worked really well. Yesterday. Today…who knows…
…wish me luck!