This book helped me manage my back pain


Here’s my hardware from 6 years ago. Lots of info on cervical and lumbar but not much on thoracic. Hard to stretch these muscles and it really does fuck up your core.




I don’t have nerve pain, but the thing with the lower back pain that only flares up when sleeping sounds very much like what I’ve got. I saw a physical therapist several years ago, and she gave me a set of stretching exercises which have essentially eliminated it as long as I do them at least daily; things were noticeably improving within a week of starting.

I can’t find the printed exercise sheet, but if you like I can write up a description of the exercises. Let me know.


Sure. Feel free to share. My original pain or origin I figured out the cause and how to live with it. This isn’t directly related, but I am sure indirectly related, so it looks like I need to start researching something on my own. My normal stretches and meager exercises aren’t enough.


Lower back pain is starting to be a problem for me, too. Well, actually, I’ve had lower back pain since I was 12 or 13, but it’s starting to be serious enough that it’s negatively impacting my quality of life. A bone disorder and multiple femur fractures in childhood left me with one leg slightly shorter than the other. And my femurs are bowed so I waddle more than walk. All of this results in an unavoidably bad spine positioning when I walk. I’ll definitely check out some of these books and see if they help, because the root cause of my back pain is unavoidable.


I was a power lifter for three years (around age 40) until four years ago when I had a 12-14mm herniation of my L5/S1 disc. After two years, I had minimally invasive surgery (where they make one cut in your skin, pull the muscles out of the way, and cut a notch in a vertebrae to send tiny instruments in) to remove the damaged disc material, which were causing me bad inflammation and worsening sciatica. The surgery resolved about 85% of my sciatica and my inflammation largely receded. Needless to say, I did not return to 390 lb deadlifts…

For regular maintenance since then, I have continued to work out (with weight machines instead of free weights) in a way that doesn’t compress my spine and I do about 25 minutes of mat work pilates (on the ground) every day. I’m working with a pilates instructor for an hour a week as well but I’m lucky in that I can afford it. I can’t use a reformer though (too much compression).

As long as I keep somewhat in shape and make sure to get out and walk a bit every day, my pain is mostly tolerable. I go to the gym three days a week for upper body workouts.

I mostly have problems with long periods of sitting in bad chairs (I normally sit in a nice chair with lumbar support behind my back). I also see a good (and well recommended) local body worker about twice a month to make sure my spine is mobile and not shifting or twisting (my original failure was caused by bad structural issues caused by a lifetime of chair sitting and poor choices). Basically, if my lumbar curve hadn’t been absent, I probably wouldn’t have destroyed my disc. I now have proper curves again but my body sometimes likes to slip bones back into non-ideal positions (probably from decades of being there).


This is more like what I was thinking:

[As an aside, I suffered from motorcycle-related severe back pain for several months. Nothing seemed to help, until I discovered that a seam on my leathers was pressing on a particular spot next to my spine. I trimmed the seam, and the pain was gone within days.]


I was imagining a video of, like, an irate librarian frisbeeing a weighty hardback tome into someone’s spine and they leap up and announce “I’m cured!”


Yup - that one works for me.


Years of performing in heavy costumes and running around on concrete studio floors with my back twisted sideways & my arms in the air has done a lot to fuck me up in the back and neck department. I was young. I was immortal. Used to just shrug it off and take my meds and carry on - but now all those old injuries come back with age to haunt me. I’ve found a good balance between the advice in The Back Mechanic and the judicious use of cannabis to be a much better option than any opioid or surgical intervention. I still puppeteer but I won’t get into any body costume for love nor money. Of course, sitting hunched at my computer writing comments on blogs doesn’t help much.


I was quite literally reading a few days ago about the harness breaking while hoisting Ludo up to the goblin tower, so it’s a bit insane to, today, read your confirmation that that did you no favors in the long run. Thank you for suffering through that and making something magical and amazing.


Anyone with backpain issues should try to locate a gym that has the back training equipment that Louie Simmons holds the patent for. It’s been in continuous use for forty something years and the people who have discovered it and it was suitable for SING their praises.

They are pricey so not for everyone, you can see them here


Okay. Geez, let’s see if I can do this clearly. The physical therapist took a while to get me doing it right, and she was there to demonstrate. Feel free to ask questions.

All of these are done while lying on the floor. You’ll need a strap of some kind for the leg extensions. I think this kind of thing will work; I used a big elastic band that the therapist gave me a while, then I jerry-rigged my own out of an old nylon shoulder strap and a couple of D-handles. You can also just use a normal belt, although I found it hard on my hands.

Some of these are pretty uncomfortable, especially the leg extensions, so feel free to take it easy or stop early if you need. They get easier once you’ve been doing them for a few weeks. The stomach clench in particular gave me nasty cramps the first few times I tried to do all 30 reps, so just stop when your muscles start complaining. Also I have no idea what these exercises are officially called, so bear that in mind if you talk to a professional.

The whole routine takes about 10 minutes together. The therapist said to do it 3 times a day; I can only really manage one, but that does do the trick. I use this metronome app on my phone to count the seconds, but whatever works.

  1. Leg extension. With one leg flat on the ground, pull the other leg up to your chest; hold one end of the strap in each hand; put the middle of the strap over the ball of your foot; extend your leg fully while keeping it as near to vertical as you can (which isn’t very for me, but that’s okay), while pulling the strap tight with both hands. You should feel the tension along the back of your ankle, leg, buttock, and lower back. Hold for 30 seconds. Do at least 2 reps for each leg.

  2. Leg pull. With one leg flat on the ground, pull the other leg up tightly against your chest with your hands, with the knee bent. I tuck one forearm behind my knee, and grip the wrist with my other hand. Don’t let your leg sag to the side; if you imagine your back and leg forming a long, low Z-shape, keep that Z standing upright. You should feel this one mainly in your lower back and hip. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 2 reps for each leg.

  3. Knee pull. With one leg flat on the ground, pull the other leg across your chest, so your knee is pointing towards your opposite shoulder. Put both hands on your knee and hold it tight to your chest. Again, you should feel it mainly in your lower back and hip. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 2 reps for each leg.

  4. Stomach clench. Bend your knees about halfway with your feet flat on the floor, like you’re going to do sit-ups. Tense your stomach muscles like you’re trying to lift your butt off the floor and roll it upwards (but no need to actually leave the floor), or like you’re trying to press your lower back into the floor. Sorry, I know that’s vague.You should feel the tension in a line right up the centerline of your stomach; if you put your hands on your stomach and feel a hard ridge of tense muscle, you’re doing it right. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Do 30 reps.

My pain was mostly centered to the right of my spine, right above the hip bone. (The therapist only told me to do the knee pull on the side opposite the pain, but I found that doing it on both sides helped a bit more.) I found a lump there which turned out to be a large but benign cyst, which was easily removed with outpatient surgery and local anesthetic; unfortunately the removal didn’t stop the pain, but it did seem to help a bit.

For the record, my diagnosis was scoliosis (side-to-side spinal curvature) plus my left leg being slightly shorter than the other. (There’s a separate exercise to help with the leg thing specifically, which I haven’t included.) I hope this helps, but I am not any kind of medical professional, and a proper physical therapist can probably help you more accurately than I can. Good luck.


Worked for me. Added in some additional lower back and ITB stretches.


Robyn McKenzie is a New Zealand physiotherapist, his approach to return to lumbar lordosis is simple, low cost and effective, living in an environment that causes us to slump so much. There is moderate evidence for the McKenzie method:

Another sensible, non-woo, complimentary approach is by Sarah Keys, a British physio, she looks at the normal curves and mobility between spinal segments and disc hydration. HOwever although Keys talks about evidence a lot in her books, referring to individual elements, it is unclear if there is evidence supporting her whole approach? Happy to be schooled on this.

There is no evidence that opiates or medications targeting the neuropathic pain of sciatica help at all and there is good evidence that opiates sensitise the consumer (central sensitisation) and may prolong chronic pain.

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