Back pain- Scaremongering health professionals and well intentioned friends

Apr 12, 2021

My MRI revealed a spondylolisthesis. Various health care professionals told me to stop impact, avoid arching the back, take care with bending as disc herniation was also present, reduce activity, and strengthen my core because it was weak and my spine was unstable! One physio even told me I was ‘broken.’

I was not happy with this future that was predicted for me. I didn’t get a wheelchair. I kept searching. I found movement specialists, personal trainers, faith healers,  trainers, osteopaths and chiropractors and physiotherapists, — some with great reputations and great promises of what they could do for me. But I was not any better, probably worse.

As a result of seeing the JSSC team I learned that a spondylolisthesis did not have to mean pain. I was not broken. My core was not weak. My spine was robust and strong, not unstable. I learned that my habits, had in part contributed to my pain. I had been following advice to sit straight, stand tall, stabilise, draw in the belly, splint my broken back. I was scared to bend, squat, or move quickly, so avoided it. My breath was shallow and ragged. I was scared about the future. This ongoing fearful situation had ramped up my body’s defences and jacked up the tension in my nervous system, splinting me more than the exercises I had been doing.

Lisa said that the words that some of the doctors had used were more damaging than what was actually going on in my spine.  Some of the advice I had been given, the words that had been said, the beliefs I had taken on from society, magazines, and through my own learning had turned out to have a detrimental effect on my health and well-being.

The constant bracing of my core, the co-contractions, the fear, the movement avoidance — these had been huge factors in the pain experience. I learned about pain, the brain, movement and the nervous system. I learned to let go of my belly and back, and create space in my body; move with fluidity and ease; breathe fully into a soft, yielding belly; slouch and relax at the same time. I learned that I could contract my muscles with control, but also release them FULLY; that I could bend safely; squat in a relaxed way without ‘proper form’ and technique; run, jump; ride a bike with a rounded back. I learned my spine and body were strong, and that I could get better. Jacqueline R