Your Lower Back, and You


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Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - May 9, 2013 - 12:31pm PT
OK, mostly I'm thinking about "MY lower back, and ME."

I've had lower back "issues" since I was in my early 20s. I'm now 55, and not diggin' the prospects of how it's gonna feel 10 years down the line. I'm not debilitated, or out of commission, or anything, and could embark on a rigorous program if it was worth exploring.

I was a distance runner (not competitively) for years, and I imagine that took some toll on it. I've been climbing regularly since '75, and was told by a physical therapist that if my core weren't being regularly worked out from climbing, my back would probably be in a lot worse shape.

I know that everyone's back is different, and different people respond differently to different therapeutic approaches. I also know that the medical community seems to be pretty hit and miss on how to be helpful about back stuff.

For those of you who have had chronic lower back pain, what has worked best for you? I'd love to hear about "Your Lower Back, and You!"

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
May 9, 2013 - 12:48pm PT
You HAVE to get your hamstrings and calves stretched and strong.

This saved my life. I was in chronic pain. Docs handed me vitamin V and said u did it to yourself, tough luck.

Painful sessions early on of weighted squats and constant daily arching of the lower back now has me pain/pill free. Not even IB.

If I think ur hams are loose..... They're not. Make them looser and stronger.

U can buy a beer once your doing hurdles again.


Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
May 9, 2013 - 12:48pm PT
Had problems most my life, it most probably started when I broke my left leg skiing at 15 during a growth spurt and consequently have a shorter leg (I do wear a lift, but it doesn't take up all the missing height). I exacerbated it through crazy bump skiing in my 20's, and then running 5 k's and jumping off of tall boulder problems before pads.

I'm not as good at stretching as I should be (in fact I'm downright lazy about it). When it's bad, the lumbar muscles on either side of my lower spine stand out like two railroad tracks. The best thing I've found is knowing my body and taking the appropriate precautions, such as:

When I feel I've "tweaked" it, lay low for a couple of days, don't do sh*t!

Never, never, never, carry anything over about 10 lbs in front of you (this is a hard one if you've got kids, or you don't want to bruise your ego by letting your petite, short backed wife out do you when it comes to moving stuff).

Make sure that all of your seating arrangements, work chair, car seat, home seating, have firm lumbar support.

In short, don't be afraid to baby it when you first feel it coming on. I've tried all of the build the stomach exercises and push your back to the floor exercises that were given to me by my physical therapist. I think those things probably work for someone that doesn't have the problem and doesn't want to get it. They never seemed to really "fix" my back.

Good luck! A good supportive chair and a couple of Old Rasputin's work about the best for me.
gonzo chemist

Fort Collins, CO
May 9, 2013 - 12:52pm PT
Swimming. Anytime anything in my body starts rebelling, I hit the pool for a couple weeks. Always makes me feel like a million bucks...


A long way from where I started
May 9, 2013 - 12:52pm PT
Jeeze Tom, I tried to end your misery. I really did try. But oh, no, you had to duck out of the way and let the rock miss your head. If you'd just taken that shot like a real man, you'd be dead now and we wouldn't have to listen to you whine about your back.

But since you are still alive and hurting, here's a couple of quick thoughts...

First, there are a lot of different things that can cause lower back pain, and here on the internet you're going to hear about every one of them, and how if you just do what I did (Yoga? Cut out gluten? Dancersize?) it will surely fix you up.

Second, I'm not a back doctor, nor do I play one on TV. But I do know one of the best back doctors in the Seattle area (she's a climber) and can put you in touch if you like.



Trad climber
the crowd MUST BE MOCKED...Mocked I tell you.
May 9, 2013 - 12:55pm PT
I did notice some back popping (not really pop, as much as settling) when laying down flat on soft mattresses. it's not really pain in this case. sublax?

the more I climb, the less it happens. when I get lazy and start losing the very little core I have, it returns some. I don't image it is anything near what most folks have. Just one experience.

usually my neck is what get's jacked up. muscles and cold temps and all that.

Trad climber
May 9, 2013 - 12:56pm PT
Flexibility in your glutes, hammys and hip flexors is key. Also a good strong core. If I can maintain good strength and flexibility from my knee caps to my nips, all is good! Also,the MRI is a necessity to see what is really going on back there.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 9, 2013 - 01:00pm PT
Sounds like you need some Kris Solem:

Kris will straighten you out!

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
May 9, 2013 - 01:02pm PT
It was those three large boxes of climbing mags that you put in my trunk. I screwed up my back getting them out and back in then back out again. And now I gave them to someone with a real serious back situation: Big Mike. What is wrong with us?

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
May 9, 2013 - 01:10pm PT
Boxes of magazines and books, those are the worst! The next day you'll be bending over the sink to brush your teeth, and you won't be able to stand back up.

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
May 9, 2013 - 01:19pm PT
Tom, I am absolutely convinced that the key to a good lower back, is VERY fit abs.

I work out every day, and the only muscle group that NEVER gets a break...are my abs....tight abs, no back issues.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 9, 2013 - 01:20pm PT
coz: once you got your MRI, what did you do beyond the diagnosis? And thanks for the suggestion!

Ghost: better luck next time, and work on your aim!

Wayno: you might be on to something there...

Dean: thanks. I am on a regular schedule of 4 days of cardio, and 3 days on the home woodie now.

Thanks, all, for your great input! I'll be continuing to watch this thread with interest.

May 9, 2013 - 01:26pm PT
When my back hurts I go to the Cookie and do laps.

Then back hurts more.

Then day later back hurt goes away.

This is just sarcastic humor.

Almost 99% of my post are like this so do not disrepair ..... :-)
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
May 9, 2013 - 01:30pm PT
Mooser aren't you a skinny phuc? Wtf with the lower back probs, dude?

Ok, our stories may be similar so I will type....

Hurt my lower back bad at 17, lifting, twisting and tossing bags of sweet feed for horses. I have had recurring lower lack issues ever since (53 now).

Chronic? Yes, at times. For a time I climbed with a medical back brace on, it was that bad. Over time I self-discovered the things that caused my back to hurt and how to avoid it. The number one issue for me is weight control.

Its this simple - when fat? CHRONIC LOWER BACK PAIN IS A FACT OF LIFE. Only rarely will a lard ass avoid lower back pain. Americans have chronic lower back pains because Americans are obese or just fat.

When my weight is under control, like right now, I have far fewer symptoms and little to no pain. Miracle cure! Nope, but nevertheless, I can track my pain to weight ratio over time, I know its true.

In terms of 'treatment'?

I have a chiro who can crack my back free when I pinch a nerve and get the thing going across my hips and down my legs (sciatic nerve or some such?). I do not let him 'put me on a program.' He cracks back for a living, let's not assign miracle cures to that. Does it help me?

YES! When I throw my back out, say clearing brush for a trail or even yard work (lower back bending and twisting that I don't normally do day to day)? I get an adjustment. If it still hurts bad a day or two later I get one more adjustment. End of chiro involvement.

I have had the same chriro now for 10 years. I can go a year or more in-between visits, so infrequent am I they have retired my file to 'former patient' more than once :-)

A day or two after the back cracking, I am usually good to go. Disk swelling subsides, realignment settles in and the pain (constant burning sensation) subsides.

I have to watch how I sleep - I am a side-sleeper not a back sleeper. I have to be very careful I don't let my hips twist too much. I will wake up with a screamer if I do, like someone sticking a knife in my back; sharp pain. So I don't sleep that way.

I have to have lumbar support for long drives and airplane rides.

That's it. Very simple for me and no extensive exercises necessary:

1. Control the weight. I'm size 33 waist right now, 190 lbs, 53 years old. I'm kinda proud of that. :-)
2. See a chiro when my back acts up, sooner, not later. But do not over do manipulation, impo it is destructive to do so. One or two back crackings, that's it!
3. Sleep position is important.
4. Watch how I sit. I have a lumbar pillow for my office chair, as I type. its just a little throw-pillow, nothing fancy. A scrunched up jacket will do in a pinch, as will a towel.

I am OFF anti-inflammatories pretty much... SUCCESS. Taking that sh#t for chronic pain is not good for the rest of the body, imo.


John M

May 9, 2013 - 01:31pm PT
Don't listen to Ghost. He don't know jack about internet doctoring. I'm sure you can find just the right answer if you will just get that fecal transplant. Oh wait.. thats moosedrool with that problem. you are mooser.. never mind

What works for me has been learning to let go of stress, plus Finding a really good physical therapist and learning the right exercises and stretches for m. Finding a good physical therapist is really tricky because its hard to know if they are good or not. I didn't find out the difference until I found one. He helped me more in 6 weeks then years or therapy had before. He figured out which muscles and ligaments and tendons were too tight, and just where they were contributing to the pain, and then he tied me up into all sorts of weird psycho movie positions, and it helped a ton.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
May 9, 2013 - 01:34pm PT
Oh and don't wear your pants or underwear too tight. Seriously.


Trad climber
'cross the great divide
May 9, 2013 - 01:44pm PT
I'm 52, have been climbing consistently since I was about 22, and have been a distance runner (not competitive) since 15. The main thing that I do that makes my back sore is running. I stretch lower back, hip flexors and hamstrings religiously after every run. I stopped running on hard surfaces several years ago, and this makes a big difference. Fortunately, we have excellent trails to run on around Boulder: just as good as the climbing.

I have tweaked my back badly three or so times in the last 4 years, while attempting to strengthen my abs through specific exercises. I have decided that I can't do any intense abs specific exercise anymore without putting my lower back at risk. At my age, I'm not willing to take that risk anymore.

When my back gets sore, but before it goes into spasms, I rest, do very gentle stretches (talking about lying on my side with my knees pulled a little toward my chest) and apply a heat pad.

Climbing generally helps with potential back issues. I don't seem to stretch after climbing the way that I do after running, and my back is mostly okay with that.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
May 9, 2013 - 01:48pm PT
I've got about 12 degrees lumbar scoliosis, since childhood, and have had lower back pain since about 17yo. It comes and goes.

Luckily, I am skinny and have a very strong core. Unluckily, I work a job that keeps me at a desk 90% of the time. Keeping my hip flexors, hammys, quads, and lumbar stretched is vital.

Like DMT, I'm also a side sleeper. Switching to a memory foam mattress about 5 years ago made a big difference for me. Seems to keep me in decent alignment without twisting. The rare time I migrate from side sleeping, I end up on my stomach with head turned to one side...this tends to cause neck pain which sometimes migrates all the way down.

Manage your stress levels too. Holding a lot of tension in your body (which you often don't notice) due to the stress can exacerbate the issue.

My dad has it much worse. Aside from a terrible diet and smoking a pack of marlboro reds a day, he never stretches, and ended up with multiple ruptured discs and DDD after what should have been a minor muscle tear type injury on the job (steel worker), which eventually ended with fusion of 3 or 4 vertebrae and a lot of hardware in his back..rods and screws and stuff....which meant he was on Oxy, lortabs, somas, percs and similar for about 3 years. Being the irresponsible dipshit he is, he'd hoard them for a while then get ripped on a big dose sharing them with his GF.

I'd focus on addressing these: stretch, stengthen, diet, sleep, stress mgmt. And if it is chronic, Coz is right, see a doc and get the MRI.

Ice climber
Soon 2B Arizona
May 9, 2013 - 01:56pm PT
Tom, I am absolutely convinced that the key to a good lower back, is VERY fit abs.

I agree 100%

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
May 9, 2013 - 02:07pm PT
Tom, I am absolutely convinced that the key to a good lower back, is VERY fit abs.

No disagreement there, but sometimes it's not that simple. As has been said, many folks with back problems exacerbate their problems by doing ab work. Sit ups are often the worst culprit.

Pilates is a great way to develop the core, and balance all those quads, hammys and hip flexors which have been mentioned. But if someone with serious back issues comes to me I'll ask them to see a Doctor (who will want an MRI) and a physical therapist first. Then I can have a chat with the PT and we'll be able to proceed safely. Baby steps at first.

FWIW a lot of back injuries happen after sitting for a while (a lot of spinal stabilizers which are active standing take a nap) and then getting up and and lifting something with rotation.

I am currently building a standing workstation here at home. If I have to spend several hours a day at the computer (yes, I do,) then I'll darn well do it standing.

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