“Nothing can stop a successful man like a bad back or a bad marriage.” – Bill Lyon
It was the fall of 2003.
I was moving patio furniture. I fell to the ground.
It felt like someone stabbed me in the back.
Another back spasm. Shit.
While on the ground, I looked up to the sky. I made a promise.
“This will be the last back spasm ever.”
It was. I have not had one since.
UNINVITED GUEST: From 16 years old to my early 30’s, back spasms were part of my life.
The spasms would show up UNINVITED. They took me down UNANNOUNCED.
They canceled work days, martial arts classes, and nights out with my friends.
When a spasm showed up, it would kick my ass for a week.
- 1 day of being able to do nothing.
- 1 to 2 days of walking around like I needed my hip replaced.
- 2 to 3 days where I moved at the speed of Jared from Subway before the intervention.
YOU NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST TIME: My first back spasm was at 16 years old. I showed up late for Tae Kwon Do class. No time to warm up. Just jumped on in.
I attempted a jump spinning kick. My back froze up like an introvert in a room full of strangers.
To this day, I can still remember what that pain felt like.
I fell to the ground. It hurt to move. I was the 16 year old version of the, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” commercial.
The old school Korean instructor did not even fake concern. He barked out the next round of kicks to the class. I laid there while the other students passed by me kicking imaginary bad guys.
I hobbled up and walked home.
THE SOLUTION: After my “no spasm promise”, I did a ton of research. I spoke to physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, and other people who suffered back spasms. I even called in to the Dr James Corea radio show. (I was “Tony from Conshohocken”).
The solution EMERGED. Each conversation taught me something. Each person gave me a peace of the puzzle.
The 4.5 ways to “SPAZ OUT” on back spasms:
- 1) Yoga
- TAKEAWAY: Yoga was a GAME CHANGER. Yoga is a HUGE gift I received from training jiu jitsu at Balance Studios. Phil Migliarese, head instructor / Jedi, is a yoga guru. Phil developed the “Yoga for Fighters” system. I end each of my training sessions with Y4F stretches. Yoga is the reason I am able to get slammed, flipped, and thrown by BIG, fast, strong, tattooed 25 year olds with out injury.
- 2) Pull Ups
- TAKEAWAY: Pull ups are part of my warm up and cool down routine. I can feel my lower back open up as I hang on the bar. 3-4 sets of 10 pull ups each day work MAGIC. Focus on slow, full range of motion movements.
- 3) Stability ball
- TAKEAWAY: The stability ball is simple. It’s effective. 3 to 4 times per week produce real benefits. The lower back stretch on the ball feels like a mini vacation.
- 4) Ab Wheel
- TAKEAWAY: The ab wheel is a distant cousin of the pull up. 3-4 sets of 15 rolls. Focus on slow, full range of motion movements.
- 4.5) Persistance
- TAKEAWAY: Persistence is the glue that holds my lower back together. The secret is in the daily dose. Developing the habits and rituals where these 4 exercises became part my daily routine were key.
Back spasms are like the X-Files. The answers are out there. You just have to find them.
Suffering with back spasms makes a great life AVERAGE.
Living a life free of back pain feels REMARKABLE.
– Joe Ciccarone