Why My Disc Herniation Was the Best Thing that Happened to Me as a Clinician

How does the saying go? Do as I say, and not as I do…. Right?

Something that I have always taken pride in is that I always practiced what I preach. Eat well, move well, think well, sleep and recover well.  Or so I thought….

It all started in 2011 doing heavy deadlifts on the minute.  On my last lift, of course, I got sloppy and felt a pop in my low back.

Then in 2013, after very strenuous training for a competition, I attempted heavy deadlift repetitions and once again felt a pop in my low spine.

Then again in 2015 doing some heavy squats I felt a click in my low back. And again, weeks later doing the same thing.

Finally, in 2016 after an exhaustive year of CrossFit, Sealfit training, and an Ironman, I blew up my low back on some submaximal deadlift weight.  But this time it was different.  I wasn’t recovering, and even getting out of bed in the morning became a chore.  Suddenly I could relate to all those patients that I have taken care of who complained of chronic pain when bending forward, not able to put their socks on in the morning, and being apprehensive to do even simple tasks like taking the garbage out.

 As an athlete, and especially as a chiropractor, this was my humbling wake up call. 

 I tell you this story because I made the realization that I wasn’t practicing what I preach to my patients. I wasn’t doing the things that I needed to be doing to keep my most important structure safe and stable. For me, it took an MRI image of an L4-L5 and L5-S1 disc herniation for me to realize that I wasn’t invincible and that I wasn’t an exception to my recommendations.  I realized that I made the critical mistake of using chiropractic as a passive treatment instead of an active recovery tool. 

Chiropractic as a Passive Treatment

We could replace the word “Chiropractor” with MD, physical therapist, or any other clinician here.  What I mean by passive treatment is that you receive care from a professional who does something to you to alleviate your pain and you do nothing different. The problem with this approach is that it NEVER addresses why you ended up in pain in the first place. The chances are you end up with the same issue down the line even after spending your hard-earned money trying to “fix” your problem.

Chiropractic as Active Care

Chiropractic as active care can look similar to passive treatment in terms of the actual procedure, but it is vastly different when other protocols are applied.  Chiropractic is unique in that it can mobilize joints that are chronically stuck, activate reflexes that alleviate pain, and restore function to the neurological connections to surrounding muscles and tissues.  Where the magic happens though is when you start correcting faulty movement patterns that lead to the problem in the first place.  This is done by using trigger point and soft tissue mobilization techniques, customized corrective exercises that re-wire healthy movement, and practicing better body positions in your everyday activities.  

My mistake is that I had bad posture habits, faulty technique in my power lifts, and no routine in my mobility and self-care.  I was not practicing corrective exercises, listening to my body, or warming up correctly. 

 I could have told myself that chiropractic isn’t working for me, that I was just getting old, or blame my woes on crummy genetics, but the truth is that I had to take responsibility.  I was violating my own principles, and I knew better.

If you have back pain, the chances are you don’t need surgery or injections. Even painful disc injuries can be corrected if they are addressed properly.  Find a movement expert who can help identify the cause of your flawed mechanics and empower you to take charge of your problem and kiss it goodbye for good. 

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