“Today is a bad day for backs.”

“Just so you know, today is a bad day for backs.”

That was the text that one of our reception team sent to me last Friday morning.  Three new patients had called in that morning, a much higher number than most Fridays through the Summer months, and all three had a primary complaint of back pain.

BSAS LogoThat part is not atypical; back pain is far and above the most common condition that I treat in my practice, despite us being a full-body, sports-based clinic.  The stats don’t lie, and in fact, up to 85% of working people can expect to experience lower back pain in their lifetime.  Couple that with the word “spine” in our clinic name, and it makes sense that a lot of low back pain walks into our office.

And guess what?  We are really good at treating low back pain.  Really good.  We can make a big difference in a short period of time, and while I don’t have a randomized controlled trial on my patient’s improvement levels to present to you, I can say that our success rate is very high.  We are good at what we do, and a large part of what we do is treat low back pain.

I will go a step further and tell you that what patients do outside of my office (things like following rehabilitation exercises and modifying activities appropriately) are far more important than what they do inside my office, on my treatment table.  The hands-on, manual therapy part is a small piece of the puzzle in a lower back complaint.  My most effective roles become those of educator (why does my back hurt?), ergonomist (what positions should I modify/avoid?), and personal trainer (what movements should I do to feel better?).  My ultimate goal with a lower back pain patient is to avoid a reoccurrent episode down the road; the cycle of lower back pain is all too common.  Again, education, ergonomics, and personal training come into play.

The point?  Lower back pain is very common, NOT normal, and very treatable.  spine-vector-563412

Happy Tuesday all.


Sit, Stand, Bend, Lift, or Twist

I’ve come across a concerning trend in my practice lately…. that is, patients assuming that all low-back pain is the same, and therefore all low-back pain solutions are the same.

Low back pain (LBP) is most definitely the number one condition that walks into my office, even though we offer a full-body approach; from necks to toes and everything in between.  But here’s my concern: please don’t assume that your low back pain is the same as your friend’s low back pain.  Just as you wouldn’t take a friend’s prescribed medication, be wary of taking a friend’s prescribed rehabilitation exercises.  I hear this all the time:  “My friend told me to do ____ for their back pain.”  “I saw this stretch on Google.”  “My sister had back pain and she still did 100 sit-ups a day.”

Please, no.  (And also, please, please, please, NO sit-ups.  Ever.  We can talk about this later.  Email me.)

Don’t assume that your back pain is the “same” as your friend’s/neighbour’s/Uncle’s/dog’s.  There are many causes of low back pain, and it’s my job to figure out what is causing yours specifically, and give you the appropriate rehab to support that.  In certain cases, forward fold stretches can be helpful.  In certain cases, they can be harmful.  The same can be said for extension exercises, and mobility drills, and activity limitations.  Each has their time and their place, and one size does not fit all.

Low back pain is a widespread condition; in fact, up to 85% of working Canadians can expect to experience LBP in their lifetime.  And if we all work together, from practitioners to researchers to personal trainers to patients, I think we can dramatically lower that statistic.

There is one hard and fast rule that everyone can safely adhere to: a neutral spine is always the most preferred, protective posture for your spine.  Keep that in mind the next time you sit, stand, bend, lift, or twist.

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Happy Tuesday.


Mr. M

Sometimes my blog posts reach far and wide.  Sometimes they fall flat.  Sometimes I have thousands of readers per day.  Sometimes I have none.  Sometimes I pour my heart and soul into my words.  Sometimes I lack inspiration and struggle to write.  Sometimes people message me to say how much they loved what they read, how it made them think, how it made them feel, how they can relate.  Those are the best posts, the best days in blog-land.

Another best-day happened the other day, this one in real life.  I was treating a long-time patient.  This patient has been with me from day one, ten years ago when my practice first began and I was new to Burlington.  This patient, let’s call him “Mr. M,” is in his late 60s and we first met when he was a member of the full marathon clinic I instructed at the Running Room.  We ran many miles together, and all the while I yickety-yacked his ear off.  (Note: if you want to get to know me, either read my blog or run with me; I’ll spill my guts.)  He has young grandchildren, similar in ages to my kids, and we often trade stories about the colourful personalities of four-year-old girls.

I’ve mentioned that it’s the “people part” of my job that I love the most, and Mr. M is one of those people that makes me happy to come into work.  Last week we were mid-treatment, when he mentioned that he’d recently been on my website and read my ‘Blizzards and Accomplishments‘ post.  “Ashley,” he said, “Your daughter is very lucky to have you, and I feel very lucky to know you.”  Then, in true gruff Mr. M fashion, he added, “And I’m not sucking up, because I don’t do that.”

Now let me tell you, that comment made my day.  I smiled all afternoon, and it still makes me smile when I recall it.  My challenge now is to pay it forward, to pass along the kindness, to make others feel as good as I did then.  It’s very easy to think positive thoughts, but our thoughts have more power if we let them out, and the most power when we share them.

That’s been my own personal improvement challenge as of late: to say out loud the positive thoughts that I’m thinking inside my head.  To spread the niceness, give some energy, generate some love.  I hope you’ll join me.

And Mr. M, I feel lucky to know you too.

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