In recognition of Back Care Awareness Week 2017, Posturite's Content Editor Zoe Thomas remembers how back pain left her feeling like an old lady...
I was twenty-one when I suffered an L5 disc prolapse due to the misguided belief that I could leg-press 125kg. I left the gym in a wheelchair.
I’d just graduated from university and I had my first ‘proper’ job interview in London the next day. Except now I couldn’t move. Even lifting my arm or turning my head slightly would send intense, nauseating pain from the top of my sciatic nerve (the biggest nerve in the body). I imagined that I’d spend a few days housebound hobbling about feeling sorry for myself.
In fact it stayed for twelve months. I spent my entire twenty-first year of life - an iconic year, a coming-of-age-year, the first step into the exciting world of adulthood - in constant, silent, lonely agony.
The excitement of moving out, starting my first job and making a life in a brand new place was blighted by constant pain. I’m not exaggerating when I say that some days I could hardly walk. This was a problem because I couldn’t drive either, and the bus to work was an hour away. I was embarrassed too. I was young and trying to keep it together - trying to prove that I could make it on my own.
It felt like it would never end.
But it was my first job: I was fresh and ambitious. I didn’t mope about in bed. I learnt to work around it and found ways to move that didn’t hurt, like cycling to work, joining the gym and spending my evenings on the cross-trainer (throwing bitter looks at the leg press). As well as all that I swam, I started pilates, made new friends and made an effort.
Getting treatment from the NHS was a challenge. I had tears of pain in my eyes even hobbling down the corridor to the doctor’s room but for some reason - perhaps because I was young and polite and I didn’t like to complain, he didn’t even prescribe me painkillers. The waiting list for the MRI scan was long. The wait for my results was long. The wait for my epidural appointment was long. By the time the appointment finally came along almost a year after the initial injury, I was virtually pain-free and training for my first half marathon. Although it’s impossible to tell for sure, I still believe it was the exercise that healed me (or was it the fear of long needles?).
Six years later I haven’t had any problems since (touch wood). But my whole outlook has completely changed. I'm more careful with exercise - I focus on cardio and core strength, and keep my routine varied (instead of going straight in for the heavy weights). I am lucky enough to work for a company that understands the impact of pain. We have sit-stand desks, walking meetings and great advice sheets (which you can browse here). We also have DSE assessments on tap and the best ergonomic equipment money can buy.
I was lucky. Millions of Brits are still in pain every single day, struggling through work or unable even to make it to work. Maybe you’re one of them?
If you would like to share your back pain story and feature on our blog, please email it to Zoe.
It’s our job at Posturite to encourage employers to not just fulfill their duties under DSE regs but to go above and beyond to protect their employees. Not only does a good health, safety and wellbeing strategy keep employees happy, healthy and productive at work, but it also fosters greater loyalty and effort.