Well, it’s been nearly three months, but PT is officially over! Partly because my insurance decided they didn’t want to cover any more sessions, but mostly because my doctor said I was good. Not 100%, but close enough that I could finish the last of my recovery on my own.
I’ve learned a lot about taking better care of myself over the last few months. Which, when you consider the fact that my spine is never going to be the same again, is pretty important. If you make two fists and stack them atop each other, then shift them in opposite directions, that’s what my spine looks like. So keeping the muscles around it in great shape is going to be a lifelong priority.
Luckily, my physical therapist is amazing and has given me all the information I need to make sure I can do that on my own. And while my treatment plan is specific to my injury, here are some general tips for any of you guys suffering with something similar, or just generally struggling with lower back pain.
- Stretching is, by far, the most important thing you can do. I’ve gotten into a habit of doing it at least twice a day – once when I wake up, and once right before bed. Sometimes I’ll even do a third round at lunch. My doctor gave me a list of stretches and exercises to do, all of them aimed at strengthening the muscles in my lower back and core. Foam rolling every day is good, too.
- Core exercises. Things goes hand in hand with stretching. To help relieve back pressure, you want a strong core. We’re not talking tons of sit-ups, we’re talking small but focused exercises that really work to strengthen those muscles.
- I traded in my gym bag for a backpack. While I looooove my gym bag, I tend to carry everything on my left side, and it was messing with my posture and how my spine curved (or didn’t, as it were). A backpack better distributes the weight and helps to relieve pressure.
- Don’t stand with your knees locked. This took a lot more practice than I thought, but now it’s second nature. I make sure my knees are slightly bent, and try to keep the rest of my body stacked neatly on top.
- Sleep with a pillow between your knees. This helps to keep your spine properly aligned all night, meaning less pain in the morning.
- Bend your knees, or even squat, when picking things up. Sounds like common sense, I know, but I apparently had a tendency to keep my legs locked when I’d bend over to grab things, and it’s terrible for your back.
- Learn your perfect posture. Know it, use it. If your job requires you to sit most of the day, this is going to be a lifesaver. Even after just a week, I noticed a huge difference in how my back felt.
Sometimes it’s the easiest fixes that make all the difference! Here’s to getting back out there and back on the hunt for my first half marathon!