What Choices Do I Have When Dealing With Low Back Pain? | Physical Therapy for everyBODY
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What Choices Do I Have When Dealing With Low Back Pain?

Back Pain

Recently I went for a long run on a very cold morning. I could see the frost on the ground so I made sure to put on my hat and gloves. Since it is winter in Maple Valley, WA I also wear pants, a long sleeve shirt, and my running wind breaker. I was all set for a relaxing 10 mile run to start off my weekend.

When I stepped outside, I felt the abrasive cold air against my face – literally the only part of my body not covered by clothing.

Dude, this is going to be a cold one”

Off I went. Determined to get my workout in but also to have my “alone time”. You see, these long runs are when I have time to think. Mainly, I think about you, my patients. What is going well and how we can progress that. What is not going well and how we can fix that. Who needs what and where you are in your plan. The ability to have time to think things through is one of the main reasons why I do my long runs.

I am a mile into my run and starting to warm up. The combination of long sleeve shirt and jacket is keeping my upper body and core warm. The gloves are helping keeping my hands toasty. I also do regular hand “squeezes” to keep the blood pupping on those really cold mornings.

The problem comes with my legs. My running pants are not rated for 28 degree weather. Now, you would think that all those big muscles constantly running, running, running would keep my legs nice and warm. But, not when it’s 28 degrees and not when they are too thin to hold in the heat.

I was miserable. I kept thinking about turning around and going back home. I mean, who runs when it is this cold outside? I was complaining – to myself, inside my own head – about how horrible this was. And, then I remembered something that I read and have adapted to my daily life.

It is the concept that when we are in a situation that we don’t like we have three options: Accept It, Change It, or Leave It. Here’s what that looked like in my running scenario.

Change It – Now, I do not have the power to change the weather but I do have the power to change my clothes. I could have worn a knit hat to help keep my head warmer and eliminate the ultimate headache I ended up with. Since it was a cold, crisp morning I didn’t need to worry about rain protection in the hat department.

Having heavier running pants in my wardrobe would have prevented my legs from getting so cold. Which also would have given the muscles more energy to run faster. Due to the extreme cold my muscles were cramping which was taking energy from my running.

Using a heavier windbreaker that had a liner would have kept my core even warmer. All of these options are available. There are people who go running outside in Alaska in much colder temperature that we have here. In fact, I know if anyone from Alaska reads this they will be laughing at my lack of proper equipment instead of feeling sorry for me!

Leave It – In this case, leaving it would have meant going back home and canceling my run for the day. For me, this run is critical to my physical and mental well-being. When I do not get my long runs in on Saturday morning, I have more difficulty focusing during the week. It’s like I need to download the previous week to get prepared for the week to come.

I also get behind on patient care. Those long runs are a chance for me to mentally run through where everyone is on their treatment plan and how they are progressing along that plan. It is the time where I come up with inspiration of exercises to prescribe or new techniques to try. When you come in and I say “I thought of something new for you” you can be assured that it was most likely a Saturday morning run you have to thank for the inspiration.

Accept It – This is ultimately what I did. I set a mental marker at mile 3 and thought to myself “You just have to make it back to here and then everything will be fine”. Because mile 3 on the way out becomes mile 7 on the way back. Which means there were only 3 miles left (we won’t talk about the really big hills in those last 3 miles).

The important thing is this – Once I accepted the situation and set my mental marker, I was no longer complaining inside my head. My brain cleared and I stopped focusing on the thing I could not change – the cold weather. My brain switched into thinking mode and I was able to focus. I was able to think about situations and make important decisions because my brain was not spending energy on the thing that I cannot change.

And this is the important part of this story for you. When you are faced with any situation in life there are only three options for what you can do. Accept It, Change It, or Leave It.

How does this play out with low back pain? We have been inundated with people who are suffering with low back pain during this time. There are three main reasons that people are suffering right now:

  1. 1
    Many people are working from home and sitting for longer periods of time than usual. When you are at work you tend to get up and have to walk to the bathroom or to go talk to someone. Now, your bathroom is steps away and all your meetings happen while you are sitting. Also, many people do not have an ideal set up at home for their office. They are not sitting in the correct position to start with. On top of that they are sitting for longer than usual. And, taking fewer steps on a daily basis than they would if they were in the office.
  2. 2
    People are heading back to the gym after taking several months off. We know that when you take time off from exercise you need to ease back into it. But, with the gyms finally open again you may be eager to get back to doing what we were doing before. Which leads you to return to the program that you stopped doing several months ago without the proper progression of exercise.
  3. 3
    Home improvement projects. You may have used this extra time at home to get through their “To Do List” at home. Which has led to increased stress on you low back as you are bending, twisting, and lifting in weird positions to get your projects done.

So, what are your options when you are faced with a sudden onset of low back pain? Or even when you are managing chronic low back pain that simply doesn’t seem to be resolving – no matter what you do!

Accept It – You can choose to move on with your life and live with this low back pain. Accepting the limitations that you now have physically will actually change your mental mindset regarding your pain. Accepting the pain will free up your mental space so that you can move on with your life.

But, you will remain limited in your activity level.

Leave It – Oh, to be able to leave your body! Don’t you wish for a “Body Store” where you could switch out parts that aren’t moving correctly? If only we were built like Lego people where we could pop off the offending area and get a new one from the store.

I guess “leave it” isn’t really an option with low back pain.

Change It – When it comes to low back pain this is the choice that we recommend. Changing your low back pain allows you to return to all the activities you love doing without ever having to worry about that low back pain stopping you again.

When you fully understand how this low back pain started in the first place you know how to modify your activities to decrease stress to your low back. You can make the modifications necessary so that you are not putting excess stress through your body which then eliminates the pain. And, getting back to a full night of sleep without low back pain interrupting allows your body to heal properly.

Are you curious about why your low back pain started in the first place and what you can do to change it for good? Then we invite you to sign up for one of our No Obligation Discovery Visits. This visit allows you to ask all of your questions regarding your specific low back pain. It is designed for people who are skeptical or have had a bad experience in the past with other providers.

If you have been everywhere and seen everyone for your low back pain but have not yet found the true answer to healing this pain and eliminating it for good then we encourage you to sign up for our No Obligation Discovery Visit. During this visit we can get to know you and your low back pain story. And start your body on the path to healing and eliminating this low back pain for good.

That is, if you have decided to Change It.


Dr. Amy Konvalin

Dr. Amy Konvalin

Struggling with pain and dysfunction can impact every part of our lives — it drains our energy, distracts us from our goals, and keeps us from the people and activities we love. As an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, Dr. Amy Konvalin understands how frustrating those limitations can be — and she knows how to help get you back to the life you want to live! Beginning with a focused evaluation, Dr. Amy works to determine the root causes of your pain, as well as understanding how it affects the way you move through your world. Dysfunctional patterns of movement often grow worse with time and cause further damage if left untreated — so it’s important to address these issues as soon as possible. Dr. Amy knows there is no one-size-fits-all plan for success, and she partners with patients to identify their unique treatment goals and personal values. Using these goals as a guide, Amy uses her doctorate training in manual (hands-on) therapy and exercise prescription to treat patients with a wide variety of medical challenges and histories throughout the Maple Valley, Black Diamond and Covington areas. Dr. Amy is also a wife to a Boeing superstar/former C-130 navigator. While they lived in Germany, Dr. Amy was able to volunteer with the US Army to treat military personnel and civilians on base. She has two beautiful teenage ballerinas who keep her on her toes and educate her on all things ballet! Bailey, the princess pup, is her running partner and her napping partner. In the spare moments in between, Amy enjoys reading, yoga, wine with friends, Pilates, and walking on the beach.
Dr. Amy Konvalin

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