How I Treat My Own Back

back pain
5 min read

Any physical impairment has an impact on your mood, energy, and productivity. I’ve had lower back issues since I was 15 years old. And it haunted me many years through college, grad school, and my career after that.

Ever since it started, I was conditioned to go to physical therapists and chiropractors. The cycle was always the same. I did something that triggered my back pain, went to the chiropractor, got my back “manipulated,” and I was good…for a few months. 

By the time I was 29, I was fed up with this cycle. One of my main goals in life is to be self-reliant. I don’t want to be dependent on people or tools unless it’s absolutely necessary. So I was committed to get rid of my back pain.

Now, in 2020, I’ve been treating my back successfully for four years. With the global pandemic, most of us can’t visit physical therapists. So what can we do? We can’t just give up and be bedridden. 

In this article, I will share my journey to treating my own back. I’m now 99% pain-free, which is something I couldn’t imagine a few years ago. But I want to stress that I’m not a medical expert. My goal is not to give advice. My goal is to show you how I did it. But first, let me tell you how my back issues started.

Back Issues Can Become a Part Of Your Identity

It happened during a pick-up basketball game. I was going for an offensive rebound, and mid-air, my opponent’s knee hit me in my lower back.

I felt a sting, but I continued the game. When the game was finished, I sat down on the grass next to the concrete court. After a few minutes, my back started feeling stiff. I talked with my friends some more and everyone got up to play another game.

But I couldn’t stand up. I knew something was wrong. For the next 45 minutes, I laid flat on the grass and tried to find a position to relieve the stiffness. The colder my muscles became, the more painful the whole experience became.

I couldn’t take it anymore. So a few friends and I jumped on our bikes and went home. At home, I showered and laid down. After some time, the pain became worse. I couldn’t get up anymore. I’ve had problems with my back since that moment.

It became a part of my identity. I caught myself saying things like, “I have chronic back pain.” Looking back, it sounds like defeat. I accepted I’m a “back pain” guy. And that harmed me in life. 

I was always careful with sports, activities, doing groceries, carrying things, you name it. You do everything to avoid triggering your back pain. 

Quick Fixes are Not Long-Term Solutions

So the day after I got injured for the first time, I went to a chiropractor. He cracked my back, and 90% of the pain was gone. Like millions of other people, I had issues with my L4-L5 discs. That’s at the end of your vertebrae. It’s the classic cause of lower back pain. 

But here’s something I realized after nearly 15 years of back pain: You can treat your symptoms all you want, but the issue will not go away. 

About four years ago, I got enough of it. I started doing research on the internet. I found a book called Treat Your Own Back by Robin McKenzie (he has one on neck pain too), a physical therapist from New Zealand. That book helped me a lot.

It changed the way I thought about back issues. McKenzie’s method worked excellent for me. It didn’t take away all my back issues, but it showed me that I could eliminate them.

What’s The Cause?

I was determined to figure out what caused my lower back pain. I went on a research spree about human anatomy. I read countless articles online, read books about fitness and the human body, and watched almost every YouTube video on back issues.

I finally figured out what caused my back issues: Tightness in my hip area. My hip flexors and psoas muscle were very tight. From what I understood, this mainly came from sitting all day long. 

I had lower back pain because my hip flexors were too tight and that in turn caused another problem: Anterior pelvic tilt. The muscles in my pelvis and thighs were tight, while the muscles in my back were weak. My glutes were also weak. In short, most of the muscles on the back of my body were too weak.

These were the fundamental causes of my back pain. And with all the sitting millions of us are doing, I’m not alone.

How I Fixed It

I’ve really benefited from Jeff Cavalier’s YouTube channel: Athlean X. He has so many videos that show you how to stretch properly and how to strengthen your important muscles. This video on fixing anterior pelvic tilt is great

When I started stretching, I had a lot of pain. It was like a war for the first year to stretch. Don’t be discouraged by this. Most of us beat our bodies up for years and we can’t expect to fix our physical issues within a few weeks or months.

It took me about a year of stretching to see real effects. I’m still stretching almost every day. During one time, I stretched so much that it was counterproductive. I now do it after every workout. And if I don’t work out, I stretch at night—but I don’t overdo it.

It remains a process. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s important to remain critical of people’s opinions. Just because you’re labeled as a “chronic back-pain patient,” it doesn’t mean you actually are one. The key is to keep trying to heal yourself without taking unnecessary risks. 

I’m glad I started this journey because I feel so much better. Maybe that’s due to luck, who knows? The quality of your life exponentially increases when your pain decreases by just a little. That’s why it’s always worth trying to get better.