Lower back pain is the worst. In my life I have went through a broken collarbone, broken wrist, stitches in my foot, head, and lip, concussions, and none of it came close in pain and debilitation to my invisible lower back pain. This lower back pain lasted roughly 5 years and severely limited my quality of life. I was unable to do many physical activities, and the pain consumed my thoughts nearly every waking hour. My life began to revolve around my lower back pain - I bailed on sports with friends, changed how I travelled, and mostly just marinated in the misery. I went to numerous Physical Therapists and Chiropractors, had two MRIs looked at by physicians, and could never find lasting relief. I thought I was cursed with a broken back, sentenced to live in misery. I asked God "Why me?" all the time.
I'm sharing this because during those 5 years I sincerely thought that there was no way out. I'd talk to older folks and they'd hit me with "Oh you're in pain now? Just wait until you're older it gets worse!" or "That's just part of growing up bud", and thankfully I refused to believe it. It pissed me off that the older "wiser" population just submitted to this misery and expected me to follow suit because "it's just part of the suffering of life". I refused to believe that at age 22 I was about to live my entire life in crippling pain (my pain was ~7/10 constantly at this point). I had to believe there was a way out because, well, that was the only way anything was going to get better.
The rest of this article outlines the steps I took in going from a miserable pile of pain to the flexible, strong, pain-free person I am today. I can't guarantee this works for anyone, but this is the raw truth of what worked for me. If you are in lower back pain take the time to read this. If you know a loved one in lower back pain send this to them. Life is too long to suffer through all of it, and I promise that you were not put on this Earth to suffer. You were not given a birth sentence to suffer in lower back pain. You do not have an unfixable back. If I can be fixed, anyone can. Here we go:
Step 0: Give Up In The System
This is pessimistic, and it happened before I got any relief, but it is necessary. I'm including this step because in order to discover the treatments and fixes I found, I had to look outside the box and traditional medicine. Physicians, PTs, and Chiropractors all looked at my pain through the same incorrect lens: The structure of the spine. My spinal structure was fine, as revealed by 2 MRIs and 2 X-Rays, but the professionals kept attempting to solve the problem on that level. No amount of "adjustments", spinal correction, or disc exercises helped but we beat the dead horse for 4 years anyway.
After year 4 of my unsolved lower back pain I went on my own and branched deep into research on anatomy, how muscles work, and trigger point therapy - which unlocked the first major door of my relief journey.
Step 1: Get Your Muscles To Calm The F*** Down
Looking back, the first big revelation I had was that I didn't have a spine problem, I had a muscle problem - and a bad one. I had incredible muscular tightness, trigger points, imbalances, and weaknesses in the worst areas possible. This muscle problem was created by years of playing hockey, lifting weights with poor form, and constantly slouching in chairs - with no attention paid to corrective stretching or mobility. I worked out hard and clunky twice per day because I was young and could get away with it, and gosh darn did it catch up.
I identified my muscle problem when reading my first two textbooks on trigger point therapy - Myofascial Pain And Disfunction by Janet Travell and David Simons (a dry, but deep 2169 pages) and The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair and Amber Davies. These books beautifully illustrated that a ton of pain in the body - especially lower back pain - is caused by tightness and trigger points in specific, predictable muscles in the body. This lit me up, because I had a new lead on lower back pain relief for the first time in years. Upon further investigation, I boiled down general lower back pain caused by trigger points to 5 main muscles - Quadratus Lumborum (QL), Psoas, Iliacus, Gluteus Medius, and Piriformis. I analyzed the symptoms and pain patterns associated with trigger points in these muscles, and determined I had issues with all of them - especially QL and Gluteus Medius.
The next step was to attack these muscles to rid them of trigger points and get them to chill out. The trigger points I had developed were likely 5 years old at this point, and they didn't want to go down without a fight. In order to release these trigger points and knots effectively, I needed a targeted, deep tissue massage tool - and that's when I set out to create QL Claw.
Step 2: Build A Bulletproof Lower Back
Step 2 can only be successfully achieved once step 1 is complete, and this can not be overstated enough. Prior to my indoctrination of step 1, I tried step 2 for years. I tried to build strength in every area of the body that could be lacking with the sole intention of bulletproofing my lower back. However, the result of doing step 2 out of sequence was never getting out of pain. Sure, I was strong (I had the lifts and muscles to prove it), but I still hurt - all the time. This taught me a crucial lesson: no amount of strength gains can solve a muscle tension problem. My muscles were still tight, locked up, and constantly pulling on my joints. Increasing strength in these muscles did nothing for my pain relief during this time.
Once step 1 was adequately completed, I still kept falling into pain periodically. Sure, I knew how to get out of pain when it crept back into my life, but the problem still lingering. Step 2 was essential to avoid falling back into pain. As described in step 1, trigger points and spasms occur as a defense mechanism when an external load placed on a muscle is higher than it can withstand. By increasing the amount of load a muscle can take (building its strength), it is less susceptible to developing spasms and knots in the future.
For me, step 2 looked like the program I created called Back Of Steel. I created Back Of Steel to cover every area of the body that could be weak and contributing to lower back pain and weakness - and believe me there are muscles that will work in this program that may have been asleep for years. Back Of Steel is a 3 day per week, 15 minute per day program designed to build strength and resilience in the areas of the lower back, core, and glutes that need it. This can be added on to a regular workout routine or done independently. Learn more here:
Step 3: Unlock High Level, Ancestral Flexibility
After completing steps 1 and 2, most of my pain was gone. It is possible to live a great physically active life at this point, but something will always be missing. The human body was meant to move, squat, bend, reach, run, jump - essentially do all sorts of activities. We have devolved extremely far from our physical potential in the 21st century, mainly brought on by stiff, slumped, sedentary lifestyles. It is rare to see an American over the age of 20 who can descend into a full squat, place his palms on the floor with straight legs, or do the splits. Step 3 gave not only my lower back but my whole body a rejuvenated life.
Flexibility is huge part of lower back health and staying out of lower back pain for life. A great example to illustrate this concept is this: when you bend over, are your glutes and hamstrings mobile enough for you to reach the floor? If not, your lower back will take up the slack. Are your hips mobile enough to descend into a full squat, or even a half squat like when on the toilet? If not, your lower back will take up the slack.
Increasing my flexibility gave me an extra level of confidence and ability with my lower back. I can pick up heavy objects off of the ground with ease, move better in athletic sports, and have less aches and pains all throughout the back and hips. I'm also a huge fan of improving flexibility because it can be done anywhere, without a single piece of equipment.
Following the trend here, I created a program to unlock a level of flexibility you never thought possible. Until I used the principles in Flexible Back, I couldn't touch my toes (and it hurt to try). After Flexible Back, I can lock my legs and place both hands fully on the floor with ease. Flexible back is a potent 4 day per week program designed to increase your flexibility fast and permanently. Flexible Back is roughly 15 minutes per day, and it will require effort. The mobility sweats are real. Learn more below:
That is it folks. Thanks for reading if you got through all of this. Share this story with a friend or family member in lower back pain because it does NOT have to be this way. For 4 full years I thought I had a God-given bad back, when all I had was a bad self-inflicted back muscle problem. After countless hours of research and conversations with experts - there is a high chance that your lower back pain is also no more than a bad back muscle problem. Share this and help fix one more back, because life is hard enough without chronic pain and no one should have to live through it.