Several months ago I was getting a massage to address my chronic lower back pain and my therapist, who is very knowledgeable in back pain management said to me, ‘There’s a world renown back pain specialist here in Canada. His name is Dr. Stuart McGill and he’s with the University of Waterloo. Read some of his stuff. He takes a different approach which is a bit controversial…… Bodybuilding was my passion and I spent many hours in the XXX weight room. I was big and strong with a healthy back but a left knee that never fully recovered from a major knee injury the year before. But I still squatted a lot of weight.
I was taking a first year kinesiology course, KIN101 I believe, and at the end of one class the professor, Dr. Norman ( a great guy by the way – he helped me get into some KIN courses that were only open to students majoring in kinesiology) said to us, ‘ Next class I have a special treat for you. A collegue of mine, Dr. McGill, who specializes in low back disorders, has agreed to give you his famous back pain lecture. You don’t want to miss this. You’ll not be tested on the material. It’s just for your own enjoyment and interest.’
Stupid me, upon hearing that, thought: free class, if it’s not required why go? My back is fine anyways.
So I skipped the next class and as usual I used the time to go to the gym for a workout. There was a heavy barbell on the floor next to the rack that someone did not bother to put away. It was in my way so I bent over to pick it up to move it. At the time I was still favouring my left knee so I did most of my lifting from the floor with my back, not bending my knees. When I went to pick up the barbell I felt something shift in my low back. I wasn’t in severe pain but something didn’t feel right. I have been plagued with low back problems ever since.
I tried everything to fix my back, from chiropractors to physiotherapy to acupuncture and even some alternative therapies. Nothing worked. An orthopedic surgeon wanted to fuse my L3-L4 vertebrae. Luckily I said no. I read many books on the subject including Dr. Sarno’s raically different approach. It helped a bit. I believe there is some merit to his philosophy. But I always believed that if I made my back strong and flexible with strong abdominals and good hip strength and flexibility it would eliminate my back pain. It didn’t happen. And after reading your books, I know why. For my low back and abdominal training I would do extreme full range of motion exercises, concentrating mainly on the end ranges. I thought, like other joints, this would make my spinal joints healthy and strong. But as you pointed out, the same principles that apply to other joints do not necessarily apply to the vertebrae. So now I exercise my spine in a neutral, fixed position. I will introduce small ROM soon. And I used to train my lower back for muscular strength not endurance. Again you convinced of the importance of developing muscular endurance first.
My back pain is slowly getting better thanks to your books. I still tend to overdue it with my training and it’s hindering my progress. I learned the spine is not as forgiving as other joints. Thank-you Dr. McGill for setting me straight on self-treating my back. Sorry I didn’t buy your books ( I borrowed them from the library). But of course all this probably would not have been necessary… IF ONLY I HAD ATTENDED YOUR LECTURE THAT DAY!!! lol