*Nothing in this blog post should be considered medical advice, as I am in no way qualified to dispense medical recommendations!*
I was nominally involved in a twitter conversation recently with a couple of people talking about pain.
One was a chiropractor, one seemed to be a strength coach/personal trainer or something along those lines.
The strength coach shared a link to this article on Barbell Medicine.
The chiropractor made a remark about how he wouldn’t ever go see an MD about pain.
I just offered up the fact that I was familiar with the 2 doctors on the Barbell Medicine site and know that they are very good lifters, and probably understand quite a bit about this topic.
The chiropractor was having none if it, and proceeded to call everyone who disagreed with him “gym bros” and gave anecdotal evidence of a patient who he said would not have benefitted from barbell training.
I’ve been heavy and light multiple times throughout my adult life.
At 6’3″, I’ve weighed anywhere from 185 to 280.
Unfortunately, I’ve also yoyo’d quite a bit over the years.
At my heaviest (and most out of shape), knee pain was a constant companion,
Losing weight fixed that.
Back pain was a different story, however.
From late 2015-early 2016, I embarked on a nutritional experiment involving Bulletproof Coffee.
I did what amounted to a quasi-fast, based on the principles that Dave Asprey laid out in his Bulletproof Diet book.
(I’m not linking the book, because I’m not sure it’s the best idea at this point. Just my opinion.)
This was basically a type of Intermittent Fasting, but instead of actually fasting, you drink Bulletproof Coffee in the morning and then don’t eat until later in the afternoon (like regular IF).
That was pretty much it, I didn’t really work out during this time (other than maybe taking walks with the family).
To make an already long story short, I lost a lot of weight doing this.
Like ~50lbs, and dropped from roughly 275 to 225.
But… Because it was purely through diet that I lost all the weight, I wound up skinny-fat.
Sloped shoulders, no muscle definition, flabby chest, the works.
Also, I wasn’t really that strong.
And that’s where I think my problems started.
At some point in there, I developed some really annoying (and occasionally debilitating) pain in my lower back.
I couldn’t sit in a chair for too long or I wouldn’t be able to stand up.
Even a 20 minute drive would result in at least 5 minutes of trying to loosen up my back to the point that I could stand back up to my full height.
Making the wrong move would result in my doubling over and having to sit down, which then made the pain worse!
People were starting to pity me, which is one of the worst things that can happen to a man!
So here I am, at a very reasonable body weight, having recently achieved a weight loss that lots of people would kill for.
A weight that made my doctor very happy.
But my body still wasn’t working right.
I was about 36 years old and had the mobility of an 80 year old.
The first thing that I did was go to my primary care physician.
He suggested some supplements and some basic exercises to stretch out my back.
My wife said that chiropractic care worked for her, so I went to a church friend who had his own practice.
This was another one of those times where the 20+ minute car ride to his office meant that I had to stretch out my back before I could even get out of the car and walk inside.
I did a consultation and then handed over about $1500 for a plan that allowed me a certain number of adjustments over a period of weeks and months.
I used all of them, and though I sometimes felt a little better after the treatments/adjustments, ultimately did not provide any long-term benefit.
So I went back to my doctor, and he gave me a referral to an orthopedic specialist in the area.
I remember sitting in that waiting room with a crowd of people more than twice my age.
Thankfully he wasn’t in a rush to recommend surgery, but couldn’t help me either.
So he gave me a referral to a physical therapist.
She was very nice and gave me a routine of exercises designed to work all the little, teeny tiny muscles in my back, using a series of leg lifts, bridges and stuff with little rubber bands.
I did those exercises religiously.
I still remember a trip we took to Atlanta, where we went to the gym, but before my workout, I would spend 20 minutes doing these PT exercises.
They didn’t help either.
So now what?
At this point I had been to a doctor, a chiropractor, a more specialized doctor and a physical therapist over the course of several months, and I still had this back pain.
By that point I had been dabbling in weightlifting for a little while (and off and on over the years), though nothing serious and I wasn’t really making any kind of noticeable progress (partially due to poor programming and partially out of fear of my back.)
And one day in the gym I had finally had enough.
I had been reading various things about lifting and a lot about back pain and it was like a lightbulb went off.
I said to myself, “If nothing else has worked, then I’m just going to try getting as strong as possible.”
Even though I wasn’t sure exactly how to do it, I decided I was going to try to bulletproof my back by making it strong.
And how was I going to do this?
I’m not going to say that it was all smooth sailing after my gym revelation.
I stumbled through some crappy programming and had to work really hard on my form before things really started to come together.
The best thing I did was discover the Starting Strength program.
The sole focus of this program is building strength.
It is a great place for beginners to start.
Again, everything wasn’t perfect, I tweaked my back a few times as I worked on my form.
But I set all kinds of deadlift PRs (and Squat, Bench and Press as well) along the way.
I signed up for their online coaching program and, over time, built my deadlift to the point where I was doing over 400lbs for reps.
And I have not experienced that back pain since.
This experience prompted me to go earn my CSCS so that I could start introducing people to barbell training in my local gym.
Of course, as I mentioned at the top, this is not medical advice.
I don’t know your situation, I don’t know what’s going on with your body, injuries etc.
I don’t necessarily think that chiropractors are bad, it just didn’t really do anything for me and I have trouble recommending it to other people for that reason.
Also, I spent at least a couple of years worth of gym dues on it!
What I do think is that a properly designed strength training program is something that would greatly benefit a lot of people.
I think it’s important to have your workouts programmed properly, and even more so to do the exercises with proper form.
This was where my online coach was so helpful.
For a primer on deadlift form, I highly recommend this video (also this link):
If you have questions on this, please feel free to reach out to me as well (comment here or DM on Twitter), I’ve helped coach a bunch of people through this lift.
I think physical strength is a must for all men, particularly husbands and fathers.
The way Ryan Michler of Order of Man puts it is “Protect, Provide, Preside”.
You can’t protect well if you’re weak and/or out of shape.
This doesn’t mean becoming a bodybuilder, or spending your whole life in the gym to the exclusion of family (these are B.S. excuses men make, or accusations thrown at them by jealous family members when they start improving themselves… don’t succumb to either).
You can spend an hour, three times a week at the gym and get super strong… if you do it right.
But if you’re weak, soft and out of shape, you’re setting a crappy example for your children, and no feminine woman is going to be attracted to a man who is her physical equal.
So get in the gym, trust me, training will make a big difference, not just physically, but mentally also.