Back Pain Liberation
I’m glad that you are here
I’m Iain Barker, host of the Back Pain Liberation Podcast
I started getting back problems at the age of 24.
Now, in my 50s, I don’t get back pain any more, in fact it’s been years since I last had back issues.
I created backpainliberation.com because I’d like you, whatever your age, to join me in living back pain-free.
I’m here because I want to give you the information (and the inspiration) you need to start a joyful new chapter in your life – without the misery of chronic back pain.
Because I want you to be free to focus your time, your energy and your attention on the things that really matter – family, friends, work and free-time activities.
Everything in life that brings you happiness and fulfilment.
My journey started in 1993.
And I was pretty excited to be starting a new career, in the Metropolitan Police Service in London, which kicked off with the 5 month residential recruit training course.
Not long into the course, I started to get some aches and pains in my back.
We did PT every day and, although I couldn’t pin it down to a particular occurrence or injury, I just assumed that it must have been a strain or sprain and thought it would get better in time.
But that’s not what happened; quite the opposite.
Over time it got worse; the back pain came on more often, stayed for longer and hurt more intensely.
First Medical Advice
After a while I got my doctor to check it out.
She ruled out any dangerous medical conditions and advised me to keep active and use pain relief if necessary.
What I now know to be a fairly standard primary health care response to so-called non-specific back pain.
And so it continued, over the following months and then years.
As I passed out from training school and started real world policing in Central London, with all the stress and pressure that entailed, back pain became an ever present fact of life.
By this time I was also suffering acute episodes. These were very painful and my back would be locked up for days or even a week or more.
And I was embarassed. It felt wrong, as a young guy, having to call in sick from work because I’d thrown my back out.
Like many other people in this situation, I got to the point where I was using pain medication regularly.
And, desperate to find the cause of the problem, I saw a whole bunch of different doctors, therapists and alternative healers.
So when I got a referral to an orthopaedic surgeon I thought ‘Well, this is it – A specialist who’ll be able to tell me what’s actually wrong with my back to cause all this pain.’
But I left that consultation disappointed and angry because he didn’t seem to be taking my back problems seriously.
He refused all treatment and just told me ‘Your back pain is caused by poor posture’
It felt as if he was blaming me for the pain that I was suffering.
And I just couldn’t believe that there was actually nothing wrong with my back and all this pain was somehow down to the way I was standing.
As far as I knew I stood perfectly normally.
Unfortunately he didn’t tell me what was wrong with my posture or what steps I could take to improve it, which would have been helpful.
My hopes and expectations of finding the cause of my back pain, which would then lead to an effective treatment, were dashed.
Trial and Error
But even as I hit the lowest point, there were some glimmers of hope.
The exercises I got from a physiotherapist (that’s a physical therapist in the US) helped a bit, as did some of the warmup drills we did in PT in the police.
This tied in, in my mind, with the generic advice that exercise was good for back problems and I decided to hit the gym more often.
So I’d do weight training routines with lots of exercises specifically aimed at back muscles, for instance lat pull downs, bent over dumblell rows, this kind of thing.
And do you know what? The pain got worse.
It got so bad that in the end I stopped all weight training and only did exercises that actually helped my back. These tended to be light to moderate intensity and foused on quality of movement rather than building strength and muscle mass.
Leaving the Comfort Zone
I’d read somewhere that relaxation techniques were good for back pain.
So, with a healthy degree of scepticism, I put on some headphones one evening, lay out flat on my back and followed the instructions on a relaxation tape (I told you I’ve been doing this a long time – this was the mid 90s, and we’re talking about an audio cassette tape here!)
To my suprise. Something kind of amazing happened.
I found that, just by using the power of my own mind, I could achieve something, for myself, that all the doctors and therapists that I’d visited had not been able to do.
And that was to ease the pain – without medication.
Mind and Body
I began to realise that the ‘mind-body connection’ was real and relevant to back pain.
Often chronic back pain can be the result of poor posture, with habitually tight muscles, and goes hand in hand with chronic stress.
So, for most people with chronic back pain, the pain doesn’t mean that you have some serious medical condition that’s going to disable you.
Of course common sense dictates that, as with any health issue, you should see your doctor in the 1st instance.
So with hindsight I thank my lucky stars the orthopaedic surgeon that I saw was very firm in his opinion that I was not a candidate for surgery.
Because, at that time I was convinced that there must be something structurally wrong with my back and I was so desperate that I think I would have gone along with whatever he recommended.
As it was I started looking at other exercise and training modalities that were supposed to be good for bad backs.
Swimming was OK while I was in the pool. The water supported my body weight and allowed me to move freely but when I got out of the pool the pain returned, so it wasn’t a solution.
I did a short course called Yoga for low back pain which helped and I thought I’d try some similar training methods to see how they would work out.
I had a book on Tai Chi which had the address of Wu’s Tai Chi Academy in central London and did an introductory course there.
I really got into the training and my back pain started to ease off.
So I signed up for regular classes and, I guess it was a gradual process, over the following months the pain continued to diminish until it faded away to nothing and I was completely back pain-free.
Of course this was a game-changer for me as I began to understand, not just in my mind but at a gut level, that there was no structural defect causing my back problems.
In time I completed instructor training at the academy and started helping others to get the benefit of mind-body exercise.
So if you take one thing away from my experience, it should be this. Back pain, in the vast majority of cases, doesn’t equal significant damage.
After a proper medical investigation doesn’t take you forward, resist the temptation to keep looking for a structural or medical cause that just doesn’t exist.
And don’t get frustrated. Non-diagnosis is actually the best possible news. It’s not a hardware problem, you just need to update your software.
A Common Misconception
Something that people know about back pain that just isn’t so, is that it doesn’t really matter what exercise you do as long as you are active.
Maybe you’ve heard people say stuff like ‘The best workout is the one you actually do’ or ‘Just do what you enjoy’
I’m here to tell you that not all exercise is created equal, so don’t let this popular misconception hold you back.
Take it from someone who’s tried a whole lot of different exercise methods and experienced a whole range of different results.
Starting from ‘I have to stop doing this because it’s making my back pain much worse’
All the way up to ‘Do you know, I can’t remember the last time I had back pain’.
The way you train is of crucial importance.
Case in point. Hitting the gym and pumping weight to try and strengthen my back was a disaster.
Because, as I know now, I was deliberately targeting muscles that were already sore from being tense all the time and making those poor over-worked muscles work even harder.
Result: more pain. My body telling me to stop.
Go With What Works
In my experience, there’s a clear difference between exercise systems that work to improve back pain and those that don’t have good results.
To be effective, it has to be authentic mind-body exercise.
What that means is, as well as doing the exercises correctly, with proper form, you also have an internal focus on improving posture, on developing proper relaxation and on training quality of movement.
And this is when the magic starts to happen.
When you train regularly with this attention on your own well-being rather than some arbitrary external goal (like how much weight you can bench press or how fast you can run 10k).
Without the proper internal focus, even if you’re doing yoga or tai chi stances, it’s not authentic mind-body exercise and you are literally just going through the motions.
Let me tell you; if you’ve tried an exercise program to improve your back pain, and it hasn’t worked, this is what’s missing.
The Back Pain Liberation System
The mind-body connection is where it’s at and it’t at the heart of the BPL System.
I’ve been teaching the system for several years now and it’s how I personally, live pain free.
It’s core training.
And when I talk about core training, it’s not about tensing the abdominals – which is a terrible idea and if you do this my advice is to stop.
What I mean is the essential training that you do every day to keep your back in good shape so that you can do all the other stuff that you want to do in life.
This might be your favourite sport, free time activity or just getting stuff done around the house.
Now I’ve refined and condensed everything I’ve learned over nearly 3 decades into the Back Pain Liberation System which I’ve been teaching successfully in 1-on-1 coaching for several years.
Of course I want to help as many people as possible out of the misery of chronic back pain, which is why I am now introducing new group training sessions at a very affordable price.
And don’t worry!
It’s about not boot camp, no pain no gain workouts, there are no weights, bands or other special equipment.
Almost anyone can do it.
You train in your own home by live stream video and each session lasts around 30 minutes