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Emily’s Triumph Over Chronic Back Pain: A Mother’s Victory

Back Pain Limited Emily's Mobility

Emily could not pick up her daughter—her back pain would not allow it. She had been having constant pain following a canoeing trip to the boundary waters the summer prior. She’d been dealing with pain for three to four months, and it had progressed to interrupting her sleep, limiting her ability to exercise, and even impacting how she played with her child.

Emily's back pain is gone!

She tried different approaches to fixing her back, but nothing was getting lasting results, and then bills started adding up. “I’m coming to you because I can’t afford to keep paying visit costs at other clinics,” she told Dr. Alex on her first consultation. She wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but she knew the approach she had been taking wasn’t financially sustainable and wasn’t working.


Low back pain impacts almost all aspects of life. Walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, and bending over hurts. Our spine and back muscles are involved in almost all our daily movements, so it’s not easy to ignore when our back hurts. In fact, back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide.


Here's What We Did

For Emily, we first needed to figure out why her back was hurting. Back pain is not all the same, and exercise and treatment approaches are very different depending on the nature and cause of pain.


When we did our first video visit, here were the key features of Emily’s pain:

  • It hurt (a lot) to bend forward

  • It hurt to activate her back muscles into an arch

  • It didn’t hurt much to passively arch her back (think cobra pose)

  • Her legs were strong

  • Her core was weak

  • She had no pain in her glutes or legs


With those findings, we could confidently diagnose Emily with a strain of her spinal extensors. In other words, one of the muscles in Emily’s back had been injured. Muscle tissue in our backs is surprisingly thick, so sometimes the strain happens deep in the back, close to the spine, buried under layers and layers of other muscle tissue. 


Two things are common following this kind of injury. 

  1. Muscles throughout your back become tight and guarded. Sometimes, this starts as a protective mechanism, and our body tries to limit and restrict spinal motion. This can help for a brief period, but it often lasts much longer than necessary and often needs help to calm back down.

  2. Muscles on the outer back start getting overworked and sore. These muscles are meant to be power muscles; we might use them to get up off the floor, pick up something heavy, etc. They aren’t meant to be endurance muscles, and when they start acting as such, pain, soreness, and stiffness follow.


With Emily, our initial exercise focused on introducing light stretching to that area while starting stability training. The key in this phase is how much stress you give the area. Stress can come from stretching something or activating/strengthening it. For Emily, starting light was necessary to help her back know it was okay to relax. We could then gradually and safely move into deeper stretches and actual strengthening of the back muscles.


Emily's back pain is no longer a problem.

And Emily improved. She used to describe a history of her back “going out” a couple of times a year, which would leave her suffering for 10 days at a time. Emily has not had any such episodes of this since starting with motivPT a few months back. She now gets in and out of bed without hurting. She is returning to biking and jogging and even completed a big ski race, the Kortelopet. But here’s the best part–she can finally pick up her daughter.


Emily, For the Win!

One of the happiest achievements we can celebrate at motivPT is a mom's ability to carry her daughter. We’ve had patients climb mountains, run marathons, win dance competitions, you name it, but this simple act of mom-daughter connection takes the cake for us.


This is why we do what we do, and this is why Dr. Alex is so passionate about helping people live whatever kind of lives they want. Goals do not need to be achieving superhuman feats–the best goals are those that allow you to continue living life how you want. 


Emily, we are so proud of you and so happy for you. Way to go, mom!


At motivPT, we'll get you moving in a healthy way. If you have pain, weakness, or imbalance, consider booking an online Physical Therapy routine customized to fit your individual needs. Book your free 15-minute consult to talk with Dr. Alex about your concerns and learn more about how we work!

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