Introduction to Desk-back
Firstly, I need to point out that similarly to the majority of the population, I work in an office at a desk. I also must highlight that I never had any real back pain to speak of until I was involved in a car accident 3 years ago. Initially when I went back to work after the accident my pain was pretty bad, however as time went by the pain was getting progressively worse. I was sitting down all day and the pain levels would escalate as the day went on.
My daily routine would consist of getting up out of bed pissed off and extremely stiff. I would then walk to work becoming tighter and tighter with each step. When I sat down at my computer my stress levels would go crazy and my body would feel obliged to cramp up based on my anxious state. The working day would draw to a close and when I got up out of my seat to go home, I would sound like a bowl of rice krispies after the milk was added. I would snap, crackle and pop my ass out of work and struggle home. This is what I self diagnosed as chronic desk-back which I have defined as, “back pain which gets progressively worse during long periods of being seated”.
Some days the pain would be in my lower back and then other days my neck would be in bits. The pain would move up and down my spine from day to day like a yo-yo. I couldn’t explain it and it just got more and more upsetting.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Desk-back
I started doing a lot of research online in order to figure out what was causing my problems to get worse. I found as much information as I could and I put together a set of reasons as to why my pain wasn’t going away.
I figured that if I could pinpoint the reasons my back wasn’t improving, then I could put together an action plan in order to reverse the pain. I compared my desired transformation to the film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” where Brad Pitt doesn’t grow old, he grows young. Well at this stage my back and neck were so bad that I felt as old as Mr. Pitt looked at the beginning of that movie and I was desperate to get my back to ‘grow’ young and healthy again. As this is the only time I can ever compare myself to Brad Pitt, I’m taking the opportunity 🙂.
Before my back could ‘grow’ young again, I had to list the reasons it had gotten so bad. I know I was injured in an accident but given the right environment the body should heal and I wanted to figure out why it wasn’t healing.
Reasons why my pain wasn’t budging
- Lack & Fear of Movement
I was going to work and sitting down all day without taking any breaks to stretch. I was actually moving as little as possible as I didn’t want to feel pain. I was scared to move because I didn’t want to experience how stiff I was. I tried to move less and less as days went by. This made things worse and worse. The lack of movement fed my fear of movement and I just got more and more fearful of activity. This was playing a major role in preventing me from ever making progress towards healing.
- Stress, Anxiety & Anger
I was waking up every morning furious with how stiff I was. I would be fuming going to work. I would constantly be thinking “why me?”. The pain was causing me to become so stressed that I felt I couldn’t enjoy my life. More and more negative thoughts would saturate my mind on a daily basis. On more than a hand full of occasions I would get so overwhelmed by it all that I would have a panic attack on the way to work. If you have never had a panic attack, it feels like you can’t breathe and as hard as you try you can’t get the air in. It is like somebody jumps out from behind a corner and gives you a fright and the feeling of terror lasts for a full 10 minutes or more. They are not fun. All this stress that I kept putting myself under made me feel like I was physically carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. This was another major factor in why I wasn’t shaking off the pain.
- Bad posture – Weak ass & abs and tight hips
I carried out research on this area and I also had confirmation from physiotherapists. The way I was sitting at work was contributing to the fact that my pain worsened throughout the day. Also in order to support and loosen the muscles in the lower back, you need a strong core, strong ass and loose hips. I had none of these things. A massively strong South African former rugby league player was one physio I went to who confirmed the above. He would beat the crap out of me for an hour and abuse me for having terrible abs and a soft ass. I was actually paying for this physical and emotional abuse 🙂, but it was what I needed to hear and I took his advice on board.
Action Plan – Curing the case of Benjamin Desk-back
From analysing the above reasons as to why my pain wasn’t budging, I developed my own action plan. If you have a bad back or any other pain I would absolutely recommend writing out a similar list to the above and then create your own action plan. Here is my action plan that I have lived by for the past 12 months and it has kicked ass to be honest.
- Embrace Movement
I slowly started getting back into exercise and the first thing I introduced was moderate cardio (cross trainer in the gym) and stretching. I would start with cardio exercise and once warmed up I would begin to stretch the body. It took me about three months but I had stopped fearing exercise and the more I did, the more my body enjoyed it. I just made sure to make progress gradually. After about 5 months I commenced my practice of yoga and I have kept going from there. Regardless of how stiff I was, I always felt better after exercise. Now I am doing spin classes, body pump, daily yoga classes and I’m playing golf. These are all things that I would have tensed up at the thought of 12 months ago as I was scared to try anything more than walking.
2. Distraction & Relaxation
My pain lead me to be so completely consumed with anger, stress and anxiety that I knew I had to reduce my stress levels and try to forget about how my pain could affect my day and my future. I developed a strategy of distraction. If I started to panic and think about my pain, I would focus my thoughts on something else. I would always have a relaxation meditation playing on my phone on the way to work and I would watch as much funny videos, movies and shows in order to get me relaxed and happily distracted. Who knew that YouTube had such an extensive portfolio of hilarious dog videos.
If I got overwhelmed I learnt to take a step back from the situation and just breathe. This was difficult to get used to but it helped so much. I began to believe that a lot of my pain was being developed by my high stress levels so I worked hard to reduce my stress levels so that I could keep my body and mind relaxed. Meditation, yoga and deep breathing techniques have been amazing for dissolving stress which in turn have been vital in dissolving my pain.
- Work it out
I began to work on fixing my posture and adjusting it accordingly when seated, standing and walking. At the beginning I was constantly adjusting myself but it gets easier. The pain in my neck started to disappear from making slight adjustments. The reality is, most of us sit incorrectly at work. Be conscious of your head tilting forward and always re-adjust your shoulders to make sure they are relaxed.
I also made a conscious decision to get up from my office desk and stretch every half hour for 30 seconds. You look at your phone for way longer than that every half hour so why not do this instead. The other weaknesses I had in my abs, ass and the tightness in my hips were all addressed by adopting a morning and evening routine that I still adhere to. This has worked really well in developing the areas of weakness and supporting my back.
Build your plan & results will come
I built the above action plan because I was focused on getting results. I achieved the results I wanted but the important thing to note is that I still live by this action plan because I want to keep improving. If you are suffering from chronic pain, stress or anxiety you should write down a list of reasons why you are feeling so bad and develop an action plan to improve your situation. The action plan I adopted was coupled with a strict daily routine. In order to stick to the plan, routine is vital!
Whatever your situation, there is always room to improve.
So, why not try the following if you need to get yourself on the right track;
- Write down the reasons your pain gets so bad (this can be any type of pain),
- Ask yourself ‘how can I influence the above reasons in order to make myself feel better?’,
- Develop a written action plan in based on the above finding,
- Stick to a strict daily routine that follows your action plan.
This has worked for me and it can work for you.
Thank you so much for reading.
Happy, determined, positive and focused healing to you all.
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