Instrumental to having a life... again
Laura and Ian are the founders of Mend my Back. We like to think that we were meant 'by design' to put together the Mend My Back Programs. We wanted to get better faster. To move without pain. To improve our recovery time. Eventually doing the right things became a necessity for maintaining a happier back! Read on to find out why...
We share tips, tricks and techniques we applied in Ian's post-surgery recovery and Laura’s back care maintenance.
Today Ian feels like he is much more in control of his well-being than he ever was. He did what seemed at the time like trivial exercises and also found the help he needed to get him out of back pain crisis mode. The protocol that followed is what made all the difference for him. We want to share it with you. Below are our journeys and stories.
Imagine a life without back pain… we've imagined it for you!
Laura Warf is a movement specialist and the founder of the School of Happiness, She is a healthy living advocate, passionate wellness educator and mind-body-spirit specialist offering retreats, classes and workshops live and online. For more information about Laura please visit www.LauraWarf.com and www.SchoolofHappiness.ca
I remember the first time I felt back pain. I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at McGill University in Montreal, Canada and was working part-time as a fitness trainer for a club on the West Island of the city. I consulted one of the osteopaths at our center and he suspected that my tight hip flexors were part of the problem that contributed to my back pain. I worked out often and taught numerous spinning classes per week. These fitness activities were beneficial for my physical performance and for managing my stress but the combination of long hours sitting at my desk, many cycling hours during the week without enough stretching, proper breathing and relaxation, muscular imbalances developed within my body.
Other factors also contributed to my discomfort and needed to be addressed. In the early days of my fitness management career along with being a student, I often felt nervous and lived with chronic low levels of anxiety. The constant nervousness I felt inside of me was mostly due to the self-imposed pressure while studying full time at University and working part time to make ends meet.
Today, research has confirmed the direct link between our thoughts, emotions and how we feel in our bodies. Being too busy in our heads and living with chronic symptoms of stress gradually breaks down the body leading to fatigue, an inability to concentrate and may cause various forms of body pain. I didn’t have all the coping tools back then as I do now. Over the years, I sought out guidance from numerous specialists and experts in the field of fitness, wellness and back care to gain the tools I needed to help myself and others be fit and healthy.
Unknowingly, the Mend my Back program has been an active work in progress for the past 25 years! If we are to be well, we need to look at the whole person mind-body & spirit. I have learned over the years as a fitness professional and wellness professional how to care for my body; physically- through proper movement and nutrition, mentally- through yoga, coherent breathing, meditation and a variety of healing methods and spiritually- through the exploration of mindfulness meditation, self-awareness, self-realization, and tapping into who I am at a soul level to liberate myself from struggle, anguish and pain.
I love to move, especially in nature. My favourite activities include: skiing and snow shoeing in the winter and hiking trails or swimming in the lake in the summer with my family and our energetic Golden Retriever, Shiva. I want to have the freedom to do the activities I enjoy without feeling limited by back pain. I still at times live with low grade tension or discomfort if I have over done it physically or if I am worried about something, my back reminds me to slow down and breathe!
I rely on my body to work. I prefer feeling great, I believe it is important to keep a positive vibe as a fitness specialist, yoga teacher and conference presenter. The exercises included in this program have all been my favorites over the years and most effective movements to keep me at my best. I am inspired to share them with you. I look forward to meeting you on your back care journey.
Ian Reid has an undergraduate degree in science, mainly business, and he has a Master's degree in Strategic Foresight and Innovation. He is in the process of becoming certified as a personal trainer.
In 2014, on a Monday morning, Ian got out of bed and fell to the floor. His legs gave out when he tried to stand. He felt excruciating pain in his lower back and numbness in his legs. This episode was more then not wanting to go to the office that day! It had been a full-on weekend prior to that Monday; vigorous digging around the house to prepare for the installation of a new drain, an intense hilly 75 km bike ride with a friend and some mental preoccupations about work.
At 6 foot 3, the constant bending over during yard work and cycling combined with a sedentary office job sitting all day wreaked havoc on Ian's back over the course of several years. He was also informed that five disk herniations was rare and that it was possible that part of his back instability could have stemmed from a genetic predisposition. Both parents had back issues in their younger years as well. Yet through the implementation of proper lifestyle habits, correct movements and a commitment to his own self-care he would be back on his feet and functional within the year.
In the initial phases of his back crisis, Ian consulted with his medical doctor, osteopath and physiatrist to try to find a solution for the excruciating back pain he was living with. The radiating pain he was experiencing kept him awake at night and didn’t allow for any comfortable position sitting or standing. He walked hunched over and had to swing his left leg out to the side with every slow step he took to avoid jabbing pains in his back and legs.
This painful and limiting way of living endured for six long months until Laura's father intervened and referred him to his friend and emergency doctor who was associated with neuro-surgeons at McGill University in Montreal. Within a week Ian had an appointment with one of the top sports neurosurgeons in Montreal. He brought his paperwork of prior medication prescriptions, along with x-ray and MRI results he had gathered from the previous months.
Ian was diagnosed with having 5 herniated lumbar discs. The herniation between L4 and L5 was so severe it was pressing upon the nerves that communicated with his legs which is why he was having difficulty walking and had fallen to the floor on that Monday morning. The doctor informed him that some disc herniations can be reabsorbed by the body with proper intervention, movement and rest. However, his herniation was so severe there was no guarantee of reabsorption in the short term. The large bulge was creating constant irritation and inflammation. The doctor informed Ian that he could potentially lose urinary and sexual functioning if left untreated. Decision made. He was booked the following week for discectomy surgery to remove the massive disk herniation in his lumbar spine between L4 and L5.
Six months of intense physical rehabilitation followed which included twice weekly physiotherapy and home exercises to regain his mobility and stability. Ian was unable to move very much the first few weeks and was prohibited from lifting anything that forced his spine, including a pot of water. He was on heavy pain medication and rested most of the time. The extent of his daily activity consisted of walking around in the house, any more than that was exhausting. Even getting dressed was a chore and he needed help to put on his socks in the early stages. Ian began to regain his endurance and energy over the weeks that followed, he started doing light exercises and more full body movement. He remembers what a challenge it was one-month post surgery just to walk to the end of our hallway, and then our driveway towards the neighbors house. Sixty feet of baby steps and foot shuffling was as much as he could handle, and he admits having felt a bit discouraged.
Perseverance paid off and two years later he was back on the ski hill! Now Ian is gliding on his roller blades, kayaking and hiking the trails to his heart’s content. Many of the exercises you will find in The Mend my Back Program are the ones Ian practiced to get him back on his feet. The experience was a life changer, he now works from a home office using a standing desk, stretches his back, legs and hips daily, develops his posture with stability exercises and gratefully walks our dog twice per day. Ian hopes his story will help inspire others to get the help they need and benefit by understanding his process and protocol.
Choosing healthy living habits each day enhances our quality of life. We wish the best of well-being for you too.
We've got Your Back!