Back Pain at Work [Don’t Overlook This Common Cause]

by | Aug 21, 2019

Back pain at work, or related to work, is a common problem.

You spend a fair chunk of your waking hours at work, so your work environment has quite an impact on your life.

Click the play button to listen to this episode now

There’s a whole lot of advice, online and elsewhere, on how to relieve back pain at work.

Most of this advice is about ergonomics or lifting safely.

While this stuff is important, it’s easy to miss out on a major, even the main cause of work related back pain.

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In today’s show we continue to explore the themes of personality type and social environment in the work place.

Even if you love your job there can be stress that causes a build up of tension which leads to discomfort and pain.

 

Hi, I’m Iain Barker creator of Back Pain Liberation.

I got back pain young and it got worse over time. Like many others in this situation, I saw plenty of doctors and therapists – all to no avail.

In the end self-help worked best – it often does for bad backs. Now I train regularly, focus on what works, and don’t get back pain.

My goal is to share what I learned. To help you find a more effective way when treatment doesn’t hit the spot.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs”

Who said that?

Find out in today’s episode, listen by hitting play below, on iTunes or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

Click the play button to listen to this episode now

If you enjoy the show, please rate review and share from whichever podcast service you use.

I know people have been having problems with this on the iOS podcast app

Open this post on a computer for a link to the desktop version of iTunes that seems to work.

WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS AT WORK

I strongly suggest that you seriously consider the likelyhood of a link between tight, tense back muscles and your stress levels.

The work environment can be a major cause of stress-related back pain.

In this episode, I share some tips and tricks that worked for me to reduce stress in the work place.

Full Episode Transcript – BPL34

You spend a fair chunk of your waking hours at work. So your work environment has quite an impact on your life. There’s a whole lot of advice online and elsewhere on how to relieve back pain at work. Most of this advice is about ergonomics and safe lifting. While this stuff’s important, I think it’s easy to miss out on a major, even the main cause of work related back pain. In today’s show, we continue to explore the themes of personality type, and social environment in the workplace.

Even if you love your job, there can be stress that causes a build up a tension, which leads to discomfort, and pain. So quote of the day ‘TV is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.’ Who said that ‘TV is not real life? In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.’ Answer at the end of today’s show.

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Thanks for joining me for Episode 34 of the Back Pain Liberation Podcast. My name is Iain Barker here to help you find your way out of chronic back pain. So this is the second in a series of episodes with the themes of personality type, versus social environment, particularly the stress and pressure from interactions with other people that you just can’t avoid. I’m talking of course, about a work environment, you have to be there for usually at least eight hours a day and often much longer. I’m really telling my own story because I think it illustrates some important issues. Looking back some of the problems that I really struggled with seem kind of obvious now and I feel like a real slow learner. But I think I’m probably being a bit harsh on myself maybe we think we’re fairly logical with independent thoughts and make our own decisions. But often we base our worldview on a set of assumptions that we learn in our formative years. And these assumptions don’t always reflect reality. Anyway, some tips and tricks in today’s show that I learned the hard way, stick around to learn from my mistakes. If you enjoy the show, please rate review and share from whichever podcast service you use. I know people have been having problems with this on the iOS podcast app. To rate and review on iTunes from a computer instead just go to www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes and click the link to listen on Apple podcasts which then opens in iTunes, assuming you have it installed. just to the right of the handsome fella at the top of the page are three tabs, and you’ll see ratings and reviews in the middle. So a bit of a work-around there. If you can’t get to ratings and reviews in the iOS podcast app, that URL again, www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes or just follow the link in the show notes at www.backpainliberation.com slash episode34. So we left off last time with me borrowing Dr. Neil’s retrospectoscope to look back in time 26 years to 1993. And I can see that the back pain that came on gradually as I was doing recruit training at Hendon Police College was not due to any physical injury or illness. So in retrospect, that very real physical pain was due to excess tension, excess muscular tension caused by stress, the stress of being constantly assessed not wanting to fail. As I say I was fine on the formal assessments. So knowledge and fitness tests were not a problem. Where I really struggled was the stuff that most people, especially the ex military types seemed to find easy. Being in the right place at the right time with the right kit, thinking and working as part of a team within a uniformed disciplined organization instead of as an individual. And doing this all the time. Policing is a people oriented profession, extrovert personality traits are, or were, seen in a very positive light. We were expected to communicate confidently and at an appropriate level depending on the situation. This could mean talking to instructors, senior officers, fellow recruits or a Victim Witness or suspect in a role play. And of course, it was always in a group setting. So understanding social and team dynamics was a very useful skill that looking back I was lacking to some extent. Despite these difficulties, I loved my time at Hendon. My introvert side meant that I’d never gravitated to team sports. And for the first time ever, I felt a sense of actually belonging to a team. And that felt good. There was a sense of being part of something greater than yourself an organization with a clearly defined purpose and culture. I was smart enough to understand the social skills they were looking for. And, in a way, reinvented myself to become this more outgoing, engaging character. I guess I wanted to move on from the nerdy technical guy. Anyway, so really, this was part of the plan, I guess, I think I would have objected to being labeled an introvert. At that time,

it always had negative associations. In my mind, the shy, awkward person was definitely not what I wanted to be. It’s getting pretty deep here, huh? Anyway, the working week was Monday to Friday, and on the weekends, I would go and visit my girlfriend at the time who lived in a small town in Yorkshire. So I’d get on the train, leave London, and we’d hang out just the two of us for a couple of days. We’d maybe walk on the moors during the day, and go out for dinner in the evening, all very relaxing. I noticed something interesting. I’d get back pain during the working week, but it disappeared at the weekends. So I noticed this pattern, but I didn’t appreciate the significance of it at the time. Looking through the retrospectoscope, it all makes perfect sense the pressure of going through training school with all that entails the constant assessment rules and regulations, and always having to be social. So there was no space or time for my introvert side just stressed me out, I guess. You could think of it as over-stimulation maybe. And when I was in a relaxed environment, just my girlfriend and me the stress stopped, and so did the tension, discomfort and pain in my back. So life isn’t often black and white. It’s usually shades of grey. As we said most people are somewhere on the scale between fully extrovert and completely introvert. So when Abby was talking about the mixed personality type the extroverted introvert, I knew exactly what she meant, because I recognized it in myself. And by the way, if you haven’t heard the interview with Abby, go back to the starts at Episode 30. And you can hear it there. So when I was at Hendon, all those years ago, I loved that sense of direction and purpose and belonging, but at the same time trying to fit into that environment. 24 seven caused me stress and actual physical pain coming from that tension for sure. So what can we do about this? The first thing with any health issue, of course, is to visit your your GP or primary physician, whatever you call him or her, often with back pain, your doctor won’t be able to give you a concrete diagnosis. But they should check for the red flags that might signify one of the serious medical conditions which are very occasionally the cause of back pain. Maybe that’s the wrong word suffering chronic pain is of course, a serious problem. But for most people, the pain doesn’t mean that they have any dangerous medical medical condition. And rather than rely solely on doctors and therapists to fix you, you’ll do better by taking a more proactive approach. You’ll need to develop some self awareness, particularly around the areas of your life that cause you stress. Could it be a conflict or mismatch between your environment and your personality type, or some other source of stress and anxiety that’s making you unconsciously tense up. I’m pretty sure that my younger self would have scoffed, scoffed at the very idea of suffering with stress. I think my attitude would have been along the lines of life’s tough suck it up Buttercup. But then my younger self suffered from unexplained back pain and at 50. I am pain free. So being in good shape isn’t all about how much you can bench press. I’m thinking about wellness, which again, is a concept I would probably have laughed at as a young guy. But let’s just assume that you are much more open minded than that. And in tune with yourself, your mental and emotional states and your reactions to your environment into your environment. And you realize, okay, I’m getting stressed by x, whatever x might be, or it might be x, y and Zed multiple issues. But let’s stay with the work example because that’s quite a common source of stress. And it was a real problem for me. So I know a little bit what I’m talking about here.

So fast forward from Hendon, and I’m a newbie cop on a central London division. Islington police station was a big new building, hundreds of police officers and civilians worked from there. So about maybe eight of us turned out with their nice new uniforms. For the 10 week street duties course where we’d patrol with experienced tutors to deal with real world incidents. We’d investigate allegations of crime, missing persons, sudden deaths, you name it. And we’d make arrests, give out tickets, and of course file reports administration being the bane of a police officers life. So we were expected to think and act like police officers control interactions with the members of the public who who, in fairness, just saw a uniform, and had no idea that we were learning on the job. And we were expected to establish facts and decide the appropriate course of action, the whole business. Again, I loved the clear role and purpose. This is what we’d been training for. And here I was doing it. I was definitely taken out of my comfort zone. I remember seeing my reflection in shop windows on my first day out in uniform and feeling like a total imposter. But I quickly kind of grew into the role, I suppose. But the same issues that I’d always struggled with continued to sort of come out. I guess I found theory in the classroom easier than practice. For example, the Hendon role plays usually came to an end at the decision to arrest and I think I got stuck in that mindset. In reality, of course an arrest, initiate an administrative process that has to be followed, with all the i’s dotted and all the T’s crossed. And I struggled a bit with the practicalities of all these administrative processes, and they were many and varied. It was serious business now, I wanted to do it right and do it well. But of course everyone makes mistakes in a new job. And I probably made more mistakes than most. And these mistakes were pointed out very directly feelings were not spared, shall we say? I was still in character as this sort of extrovert street cop, which was generally well received. Not always but often. But my in a way inability to adjust to that almost military environment lead to problems. The more savvy and I guess mature guys would just say, you know, yes, Sarge, no sarge, and be sure not to make the same mistake again, which is pretty much all that’s required. Probably they did this, even if they thought Sarge was talking nonsense. I stupidly rubbed the instructors up the wrong way, but trying to maybe explain or defend myself. So I came under more scrutiny got more criticism, talk about making it hard for yourself. So I had a single room in what was called a section house together with dozens of other single young police officers. So it was in a way, an extension of training school accommodation was cheap, with no responsibility for upkeep or bills it was right in the middle of town and convenient for for work and socializing and all the amenities. So in a lot of ways life was easy. But looking back, I really felt that pressure to perform and to fit in. And I was in the police environment 24 hours a day. So my, I guess introvert side had no chance, there was no me time. And I just lacked the self awareness to really understand that this was a you know what was going on and what a problem the stress factors were, and how that stress affected my health. My back problems were getting worse. Holding on to all that tension physically, in the muscles had become a habit. My back was tense all the time, even on my days off at this stage, which was depressing. I remember my first ever acute episode, which was triggered by of all things getting out of the car. I couldn’t stand up straight for days and had to go sick. Even if I’d understood the cause of my back problems, what could I have done to address that cause. The only way to eliminate all that stress and constant.

If you like social demand, would have involved major life changes life changing accommodation, or even quitting the job, neither of which would have been what I wanted. And for people with maybe family responsibilities to think of these kinds of changes probably wouldn’t even be an option. If stress is a problem for you, and I strongly suggest that you seriously consider the likelihood of a link between tense and tight back muscles and your stress levels. You have to find ways to minimize the stress in your life. And also to cope with the stress that you can’t get rid of. Don’t ignore it, think it doesn’t apply to you. Or imagine that it’s not a serious health and wellness issue. Turned out that over time, I stumbled across ways to both reduce and handle stress. But as I hadn’t fully grasped the problem, I didn’t really understand the value of these solutions and let them slip through my fingers. It wasn’t until much later in life that I really understood in my gut if you like that I had to make this stuff top priority if I was going to be in good health without suffering chronic pain.

If you enjoy the show, please rate review and share from whichever podcast service you use. I know people have been having problems with this on the iOS podcast app. To rate and review on iTunes from a computer instead just go to www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes and click the link to listen on Apple podcasts which then opens in iTunes, assuming you have it installed. just to the right of the handsome fella at the top of the page are three tabs, and you’ll see ratings and reviews in the middle. So a bit of a work-around there. If you can’t get to ratings and reviews in the iOS podcast app, that URL again, www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes or just follow the link in the show notes at www.backpainliberation.com slash episode34

So I’d already been on the circuit, the merry go round of doctors, therapists and alternative practitioners, none of whom had really being able to help me with my back problems. The only small improvement had been from doing exercises that I’d got from my physiotherapist that’s a physical therapist, I’m sure my transatlantic friends will have already figured out for themselves. Of course, I knew that training was supposed to be good for backs and I tried weight routines specifically aimed at the back muscles with exercises like lat pull downs, dumbbell rows, back extensions, this kind of stuff, but these just made the tension and pain. worse. The difference with the physio exercises was that they weren’t so much about building muscle and gaining strength. They were more about moving freely. Most of them were aimed at the lower back, for instance, supine hip hitches and rotations. It wasn’t life changing, but doing these exercises definitely freed up the hips and lower back as I was doing them and for a while afterwards. The other exercises that I found beneficial were the warm ups we always did before any PT in the police, which involves transitions between an easy run, sidestepping and Carioca drill with lots of big arm movements. And by the way, if you don’t know what Carioca drill is, check out the link in the show notes for episode number 34. It’s a great hip loosener. So give that a try. Anyway, the first two years of police service was a probationary period. If you didn’t make the grade, you would be let go. Fortunately, I didn’t irritate my supervisors too much, and was allowed to stay. So being confirmed as a PC police constable opened the door to other jobs within the organization. And I got a six month posting Not long afterwards to the vice unit in Kings Cross, which is a, was a fairly notorious part of town, but I think it’s undergone a bit of regeneration. So it’s a little bit more up-market now. But in those days it was a well known red light district. So a few days before I was due to start there, I went to introduce myself to my new boss, I was used to the response team environment, they were fairly large teams, maybe 25 or more PCs, four or five sergeants, and an inspector who always worked with us, the work was all about getting the calls dealt with on time, and moving on to the next thing. So I knocked on the door of the vice unit and strode in to the office and positioned myself in front of my new boss’s desk and said something like ‘morning, Sergeant I’m Iain Barker, I’m gonna be joining your team on Thursday’, and asking about the details of parade time and all this kind of stuff in quite a formal way. And he just sort of looked up and smiled, waited for me to finish and said, ‘Call me Steve’, and made a relaxed gesture to the chair beside me. Thereby setting the tone for how things were going to be for my time on that unit. We were a small team, maybe four or five PCs with one Sergeant being Steve. And we generally work lates and nights being a vice unit. And the inspector usually worked office hours, so we didn’t see him very much. And as long as we did what we were supposed to be doing got our work done, he was happy. So all in all, this allowed a much more relaxed way of working. And after this, I always noticed that smaller teams were less formal, more relaxed, and closer knit. So if you are in a large organization as I was, maybe you’d be able to move to a role or working environment that suits your temperament a little better. Maybe something to think about. Something else I noticed over the years is that some teams were just fantastic. It was a pleasure being at work, the atmosphere was great, and people just got on with the job and tried to help each other out. There’d always be some sort of banter and teasing. But on a good team, it would be good natured, and people knew when you know when to stop. Other teams were just toxic. It was lots of backbiting and nastiness, personality clashes. I often noticed that this behavior correlated with dysfunctional leadership, strong leadership and clear direction just doesn’t leave much room for these little power struggles. If you end up on a team full of haters, your best bet is probably to get a move, if at all possible.

Try to be on good terms with your co workers. If you can, even the ones you don’t really like. You don’t have to be best buddies professional courtesy will do. Avoid the office politics, and getting on with your job is also a good policy. Another good way to reduce stress is to really know what you’re doing. Most jobs have rules and procedures that have to be followed to achieve the result that you want to achieve. My instinct would always be to reach for the policy document or law book and work from that authoritative source. Early on, I was probably less likely than most to ask for help, which was not a good thing. I learned that if you spot someone who does something well, whether it’s a particular task, or even better, a role that you you’ve just started or aspire to, then you should really try to learn everything you can from that person. Most people love being acknowledged as experts and will happily share what they know. And you’ll learn how to apply that policy in practice. Some people fear losing the status that they derive from their specialist knowledge, and they won’t help you. So the only thing you can do from that is just move on. Best case scenario, you get a mentor, and maybe a friend and ally into the bargain. To be clear, I’m not saying that I figured out how to be successful at work, and how to do that. without stress. Quite the opposite. I suffered stress induced tension and back pain precisely because I sucked at this stuff. But I picked up a trick or two over the years. And maybe you can also learn from my mistakes. Yeah, mistakes. Some people seem to get genuinely angry when a coworker or even a spouse or a friend makes a mistake. Even if it’s with the best of intentions. I tend to have quite a forgiving attitude, to honest mistakes because Heaven knows I’ve made some right howlers in my time. If you can avoid making mistakes at work, your life will be less stressful. In the military, they talk about the seven P’s. In the original version. The fifth P is a rude word. And I like to keep things clean on the show. So here’s my certificate U version. It goes proper planning and preparation prevents pathetically poor performance. So failing to plan and prepare is a really good way to give yourself unnecessary stress at work and in life generally. Again, this is a practical skill that didn’t come naturally to me. In school. I was the kid who always forgot his gym kit. And the police equivalent to gym kit was public order kit. Those of us who volunteered for public order training and duties were issued with a complete set of body armor. So they were pads for your shoulders, your forearms, your hips, shins, ballistic and stab proof vests, NATO helmet, flameproof coveralls, head overs. And the whole outfit was accessorized with matching belt, gloves, steel toe cap boots, baton, and various other bits and pieces. And we were issued with a massive kit bag for all this stuff. And these kit bags were routinely left on top of lockers, because they took up so much space inside. Of course, turning up at a public order deployment without your kit had more serious consequences than the trouble that I used to get into with the school sports teacher. So I just got in the habit of preparing a day or two, before any public order duty by heading to the locker room, dumping all of that kit out of the bag onto the floor, repacking it, making sure that I had every single item. And I would then jam that big old kit bag into the locker so that I knew that it was secure. And I would have everything that I needed. So 10 minutes of preparation, in peace and quiet to avoid extra stress on the day. So there was a two day public order training course once a year, with teams turning up from all over London. The training center was a two hour drive from us from our home Borough in West London. First thing on the agenda before training was an equipment check. And we had to have everything on the list. It wasn’t that unusual for someone to be sent back,

because they were missing something not really the professional standard required, and definitely an avoidable source of stress. Something else you’d see now and again, was someone opening up a nice new kit bag and take out each individual pad still in its plastic bag. They hadn’t even tried it on. Why not give yourself a bit of a head start when you’re learning something new, by at least familiarizing yourself with the equipment in advance so that you understand what goes where and how to use all the straps and fasteners. One of my abiding memories of that place is being in a changing moving maybe 30 or 40 guys, and getting out of public order kit. And there was the sort of joking and the grumbling. And the background was the constant sound of ripping Velcro. So it was a good idea to get to know how all that equipment worked before turning up on your first ever course one less thing to worry about when the pressure’s on. So these poor guys, were taking their new kit out of the packets and looking at each piece bewildered with a pile of wrapping on the floor next to them, like a kiddie trying to figure out how to build a model airplane on Christmas Day. While all around them, everyone was just getting ready with practiced movements. And eventually, someone would take pity on them and help them. But again, you don’t want to be the child on the team needing help with stuff that you could have and should have figured out yourself. Some people are naturally competent like this. And if you’re one of these people, then I’m sorry for trying to teach you to suck eggs. As we said in the last episode, knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. Recognizing and understanding what stresses you is a hugely important first step in self help for back problems. And work stress is a common issue. If you do struggle with the social environment, or cause yourself unnecessary problems by not being as good and as prepared as you can be. Then you can acknowledge this and think about ways to improve your situation. Thanks for listening to Episode 34 of the Back Pain Liberation Podcast. If you’re thinking about how to relieve back pain at work, then definitely think outside the box. Ergonomics and getting up from your desk to walk around this kind of stuff is important. But equally important is the impact of stress in the work environment. Quote of the day it was principal founder of Microsoft and co chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William Henry Gates III, aka Bill Gates, who said, ‘TV is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.’ Just a reminder, If you enjoy the show, please rate review and share from whichever podcast service you use. I know people have been having problems with this on the iOS podcast app. To rate and review on iTunes from a computer instead just go to www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes and click the link to listen on Apple podcasts which then opens in iTunes, assuming you have it installed. just to the right of the handsome fella at the top of the page are three tabs, and you’ll see ratings and reviews in the middle. So a bit of a work-around there. If you can’t get to ratings and reviews in the iOS podcast app, that URL again, www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes or just follow the link in the show notes at www.backpainliberation.com slash episode34. That’s it for today. Thanks again for listening. This is the Back Pain Liberation Podcast. I’m in Barker. All the best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

THANKS FOR LISTENING

Do you get back pain from doing your job?

How do you relieve back pain at work?

More next time on personality types and environment and my own, I guess, journey of discovery for want of a better expression.

All the best

Iain

PS here’s the link to the Carioca Drill demo I mentioned this episode

Post title featured image background photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

 
This website is for your information only. Consult your own doctor for medical advice.

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Back pain at work, or related to work, is a common problem.

You spend a fair chunk of your waking hours at work, so your work environment has quite an impact on your life.

Click the play button to listen to this episode now

There’s a whole lot of advice, online and elsewhere, on how to relieve back pain at work.

Most of this advice is about ergonomics or lifting safely.

While this stuff is important, it’s easy to miss out on a major, even the main cause of work related back pain.

In today’s show we continue to explore the themes of personality type and social environment in the work place.

Even if you love your job there can be stress that causes a build up of tension which leads to discomfort and pain.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs”

Who said that?

Find out in today’s episode, listen by hitting play below, on iTunes or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

Click the play button to listen to this episode now

If you enjoy the show, please rate review and share from whichever podcast service you use.

I know people have been having problems with this on the iOS podcast app

Follow this link from your computer for a link to the desktop version of iTunes that seems to work.

Click to ‘Listen on Apple Podcasts’, which then opens in iTunes, assuming you have it installed.

Just to the right of the handsome fella at the top of the page are 3 tabs and you’ll see ratings and reviews in the middle.

So a bit of a work around there if you can’t get to ratings and reviews in the iOS podcast app.

WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS AT WORK

I strongly suggest that you seriously consider the likelyhood of a link between tight, tense back muscles and your stress levels.

The work environment can be a major cause of stress-related back pain.

In this episode, I share some tips and tricks that worked for me to reduce stress in the work place.

 

Hi, I’m Iain Barker creator of Back Pain Liberation.

I got back pain young and it got worse over time. Like many others in this situation, I saw plenty of doctors and therapists – all to no avail.

In the end self-help worked best – it often does for bad backs. Now I train regularly, focus on what works, and don’t get back pain.

My goal is to share what I learned. To help you find a more effective way when treatment doesn’t hit the spot.

 

Full Episode Transcript – BPL34

You spend a fair chunk of your waking hours at work. So your work environment has quite an impact on your life. There’s a whole lot of advice online and elsewhere on how to relieve back pain at work. Most of this advice is about ergonomics and safe lifting. While this stuff’s important, I think it’s easy to miss out on a major, even the main cause of work related back pain. In today’s show, we continue to explore the themes of personality type, and social environment in the workplace.

Even if you love your job, there can be stress that causes a build up a tension, which leads to discomfort, and pain. So quote of the day ‘TV is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.’ Who said that ‘TV is not real life? In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.’ Answer at the end of today’s show.

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Thanks for joining me for Episode 34 of the Back Pain Liberation Podcast. My name is Iain Barker here to help you find your way out of chronic back pain. So this is the second in a series of episodes with the themes of personality type, versus social environment, particularly the stress and pressure from interactions with other people that you just can’t avoid. I’m talking of course, about a work environment, you have to be there for usually at least eight hours a day and often much longer. I’m really telling my own story because I think it illustrates some important issues. Looking back some of the problems that I really struggled with seem kind of obvious now and I feel like a real slow learner. But I think I’m probably being a bit harsh on myself maybe we think we’re fairly logical with independent thoughts and make our own decisions. But often we base our worldview on a set of assumptions that we learn in our formative years. And these assumptions don’t always reflect reality. Anyway, some tips and tricks in today’s show that I learned the hard way, stick around to learn from my mistakes. If you enjoy the show, please rate review and share from whichever podcast service you use. I know people have been having problems with this on the iOS podcast app. To rate and review on iTunes from a computer instead just go to www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes and click the link to listen on Apple podcasts which then opens in iTunes, assuming you have it installed. just to the right of the handsome fella at the top of the page are three tabs, and you’ll see ratings and reviews in the middle. So a bit of a work-around there. If you can’t get to ratings and reviews in the iOS podcast app, that URL again, www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes or just follow the link in the show notes at www.backpainliberation.com slash episode34. So we left off last time with me borrowing Dr. Neil’s retrospectoscope to look back in time 26 years to 1993. And I can see that the back pain that came on gradually as I was doing recruit training at Hendon Police College was not due to any physical injury or illness. So in retrospect, that very real physical pain was due to excess tension, excess muscular tension caused by stress, the stress of being constantly assessed not wanting to fail. As I say I was fine on the formal assessments. So knowledge and fitness tests were not a problem. Where I really struggled was the stuff that most people, especially the ex military types seemed to find easy. Being in the right place at the right time with the right kit, thinking and working as part of a team within a uniformed disciplined organization instead of as an individual. And doing this all the time. Policing is a people oriented profession, extrovert personality traits are, or were, seen in a very positive light. We were expected to communicate confidently and at an appropriate level depending on the situation. This could mean talking to instructors, senior officers, fellow recruits or a Victim Witness or suspect in a role play. And of course, it was always in a group setting. So understanding social and team dynamics was a very useful skill that looking back I was lacking to some extent. Despite these difficulties, I loved my time at Hendon. My introvert side meant that I’d never gravitated to team sports. And for the first time ever, I felt a sense of actually belonging to a team. And that felt good. There was a sense of being part of something greater than yourself an organization with a clearly defined purpose and culture. I was smart enough to understand the social skills they were looking for. And, in a way, reinvented myself to become this more outgoing, engaging character. I guess I wanted to move on from the nerdy technical guy. Anyway, so really, this was part of the plan, I guess, I think I would have objected to being labeled an introvert. At that time,

it always had negative associations. In my mind, the shy, awkward person was definitely not what I wanted to be. It’s getting pretty deep here, huh? Anyway, the working week was Monday to Friday, and on the weekends, I would go and visit my girlfriend at the time who lived in a small town in Yorkshire. So I’d get on the train, leave London, and we’d hang out just the two of us for a couple of days. We’d maybe walk on the moors during the day, and go out for dinner in the evening, all very relaxing. I noticed something interesting. I’d get back pain during the working week, but it disappeared at the weekends. So I noticed this pattern, but I didn’t appreciate the significance of it at the time. Looking through the retrospectoscope, it all makes perfect sense the pressure of going through training school with all that entails the constant assessment rules and regulations, and always having to be social. So there was no space or time for my introvert side just stressed me out, I guess. You could think of it as over-stimulation maybe. And when I was in a relaxed environment, just my girlfriend and me the stress stopped, and so did the tension, discomfort and pain in my back. So life isn’t often black and white. It’s usually shades of grey. As we said most people are somewhere on the scale between fully extrovert and completely introvert. So when Abby was talking about the mixed personality type the extroverted introvert, I knew exactly what she meant, because I recognized it in myself. And by the way, if you haven’t heard the interview with Abby, go back to the starts at Episode 30. And you can hear it there. So when I was at Hendon, all those years ago, I loved that sense of direction and purpose and belonging, but at the same time trying to fit into that environment. 24 seven caused me stress and actual physical pain coming from that tension for sure. So what can we do about this? The first thing with any health issue, of course, is to visit your your GP or primary physician, whatever you call him or her, often with back pain, your doctor won’t be able to give you a concrete diagnosis. But they should check for the red flags that might signify one of the serious medical conditions which are very occasionally the cause of back pain. Maybe that’s the wrong word suffering chronic pain is of course, a serious problem. But for most people, the pain doesn’t mean that they have any dangerous medical medical condition. And rather than rely solely on doctors and therapists to fix you, you’ll do better by taking a more proactive approach. You’ll need to develop some self awareness, particularly around the areas of your life that cause you stress. Could it be a conflict or mismatch between your environment and your personality type, or some other source of stress and anxiety that’s making you unconsciously tense up. I’m pretty sure that my younger self would have scoffed, scoffed at the very idea of suffering with stress. I think my attitude would have been along the lines of life’s tough suck it up Buttercup. But then my younger self suffered from unexplained back pain and at 50. I am pain free. So being in good shape isn’t all about how much you can bench press. I’m thinking about wellness, which again, is a concept I would probably have laughed at as a young guy. But let’s just assume that you are much more open minded than that. And in tune with yourself, your mental and emotional states and your reactions to your environment into your environment. And you realize, okay, I’m getting stressed by x, whatever x might be, or it might be x, y and Zed multiple issues. But let’s stay with the work example because that’s quite a common source of stress. And it was a real problem for me. So I know a little bit what I’m talking about here.

So fast forward from Hendon, and I’m a newbie cop on a central London division. Islington police station was a big new building, hundreds of police officers and civilians worked from there. So about maybe eight of us turned out with their nice new uniforms. For the 10 week street duties course where we’d patrol with experienced tutors to deal with real world incidents. We’d investigate allegations of crime, missing persons, sudden deaths, you name it. And we’d make arrests, give out tickets, and of course file reports administration being the bane of a police officers life. So we were expected to think and act like police officers control interactions with the members of the public who who, in fairness, just saw a uniform, and had no idea that we were learning on the job. And we were expected to establish facts and decide the appropriate course of action, the whole business. Again, I loved the clear role and purpose. This is what we’d been training for. And here I was doing it. I was definitely taken out of my comfort zone. I remember seeing my reflection in shop windows on my first day out in uniform and feeling like a total imposter. But I quickly kind of grew into the role, I suppose. But the same issues that I’d always struggled with continued to sort of come out. I guess I found theory in the classroom easier than practice. For example, the Hendon role plays usually came to an end at the decision to arrest and I think I got stuck in that mindset. In reality, of course an arrest, initiate an administrative process that has to be followed, with all the i’s dotted and all the T’s crossed. And I struggled a bit with the practicalities of all these administrative processes, and they were many and varied. It was serious business now, I wanted to do it right and do it well. But of course everyone makes mistakes in a new job. And I probably made more mistakes than most. And these mistakes were pointed out very directly feelings were not spared, shall we say? I was still in character as this sort of extrovert street cop, which was generally well received. Not always but often. But my in a way inability to adjust to that almost military environment lead to problems. The more savvy and I guess mature guys would just say, you know, yes, Sarge, no sarge, and be sure not to make the same mistake again, which is pretty much all that’s required. Probably they did this, even if they thought Sarge was talking nonsense. I stupidly rubbed the instructors up the wrong way, but trying to maybe explain or defend myself. So I came under more scrutiny got more criticism, talk about making it hard for yourself. So I had a single room in what was called a section house together with dozens of other single young police officers. So it was in a way, an extension of training school accommodation was cheap, with no responsibility for upkeep or bills it was right in the middle of town and convenient for for work and socializing and all the amenities. So in a lot of ways life was easy. But looking back, I really felt that pressure to perform and to fit in. And I was in the police environment 24 hours a day. So my, I guess introvert side had no chance, there was no me time. And I just lacked the self awareness to really understand that this was a you know what was going on and what a problem the stress factors were, and how that stress affected my health. My back problems were getting worse. Holding on to all that tension physically, in the muscles had become a habit. My back was tense all the time, even on my days off at this stage, which was depressing. I remember my first ever acute episode, which was triggered by of all things getting out of the car. I couldn’t stand up straight for days and had to go sick. Even if I’d understood the cause of my back problems, what could I have done to address that cause. The only way to eliminate all that stress and constant.

If you like social demand, would have involved major life changes life changing accommodation, or even quitting the job, neither of which would have been what I wanted. And for people with maybe family responsibilities to think of these kinds of changes probably wouldn’t even be an option. If stress is a problem for you, and I strongly suggest that you seriously consider the likelihood of a link between tense and tight back muscles and your stress levels. You have to find ways to minimize the stress in your life. And also to cope with the stress that you can’t get rid of. Don’t ignore it, think it doesn’t apply to you. Or imagine that it’s not a serious health and wellness issue. Turned out that over time, I stumbled across ways to both reduce and handle stress. But as I hadn’t fully grasped the problem, I didn’t really understand the value of these solutions and let them slip through my fingers. It wasn’t until much later in life that I really understood in my gut if you like that I had to make this stuff top priority if I was going to be in good health without suffering chronic pain.

If you enjoy the show, please rate review and share from whichever podcast service you use. I know people have been having problems with this on the iOS podcast app. To rate and review on iTunes from a computer instead just go to www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes and click the link to listen on Apple podcasts which then opens in iTunes, assuming you have it installed. just to the right of the handsome fella at the top of the page are three tabs, and you’ll see ratings and reviews in the middle. So a bit of a work-around there. If you can’t get to ratings and reviews in the iOS podcast app, that URL again, www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes or just follow the link in the show notes at www.backpainliberation.com slash episode34

So I’d already been on the circuit, the merry go round of doctors, therapists and alternative practitioners, none of whom had really being able to help me with my back problems. The only small improvement had been from doing exercises that I’d got from my physiotherapist that’s a physical therapist, I’m sure my transatlantic friends will have already figured out for themselves. Of course, I knew that training was supposed to be good for backs and I tried weight routines specifically aimed at the back muscles with exercises like lat pull downs, dumbbell rows, back extensions, this kind of stuff, but these just made the tension and pain. worse. The difference with the physio exercises was that they weren’t so much about building muscle and gaining strength. They were more about moving freely. Most of them were aimed at the lower back, for instance, supine hip hitches and rotations. It wasn’t life changing, but doing these exercises definitely freed up the hips and lower back as I was doing them and for a while afterwards. The other exercises that I found beneficial were the warm ups we always did before any PT in the police, which involves transitions between an easy run, sidestepping and Carioca drill with lots of big arm movements. And by the way, if you don’t know what Carioca drill is, check out the link in the show notes for episode number 34. It’s a great hip loosener. So give that a try. Anyway, the first two years of police service was a probationary period. If you didn’t make the grade, you would be let go. Fortunately, I didn’t irritate my supervisors too much, and was allowed to stay. So being confirmed as a PC police constable opened the door to other jobs within the organization. And I got a six month posting Not long afterwards to the vice unit in Kings Cross, which is a, was a fairly notorious part of town, but I think it’s undergone a bit of regeneration. So it’s a little bit more up-market now. But in those days it was a well known red light district. So a few days before I was due to start there, I went to introduce myself to my new boss, I was used to the response team environment, they were fairly large teams, maybe 25 or more PCs, four or five sergeants, and an inspector who always worked with us, the work was all about getting the calls dealt with on time, and moving on to the next thing. So I knocked on the door of the vice unit and strode in to the office and positioned myself in front of my new boss’s desk and said something like ‘morning, Sergeant I’m Iain Barker, I’m gonna be joining your team on Thursday’, and asking about the details of parade time and all this kind of stuff in quite a formal way. And he just sort of looked up and smiled, waited for me to finish and said, ‘Call me Steve’, and made a relaxed gesture to the chair beside me. Thereby setting the tone for how things were going to be for my time on that unit. We were a small team, maybe four or five PCs with one Sergeant being Steve. And we generally work lates and nights being a vice unit. And the inspector usually worked office hours, so we didn’t see him very much. And as long as we did what we were supposed to be doing got our work done, he was happy. So all in all, this allowed a much more relaxed way of working. And after this, I always noticed that smaller teams were less formal, more relaxed, and closer knit. So if you are in a large organization as I was, maybe you’d be able to move to a role or working environment that suits your temperament a little better. Maybe something to think about. Something else I noticed over the years is that some teams were just fantastic. It was a pleasure being at work, the atmosphere was great, and people just got on with the job and tried to help each other out. There’d always be some sort of banter and teasing. But on a good team, it would be good natured, and people knew when you know when to stop. Other teams were just toxic. It was lots of backbiting and nastiness, personality clashes. I often noticed that this behavior correlated with dysfunctional leadership, strong leadership and clear direction just doesn’t leave much room for these little power struggles. If you end up on a team full of haters, your best bet is probably to get a move, if at all possible.

Try to be on good terms with your co workers. If you can, even the ones you don’t really like. You don’t have to be best buddies professional courtesy will do. Avoid the office politics, and getting on with your job is also a good policy. Another good way to reduce stress is to really know what you’re doing. Most jobs have rules and procedures that have to be followed to achieve the result that you want to achieve. My instinct would always be to reach for the policy document or law book and work from that authoritative source. Early on, I was probably less likely than most to ask for help, which was not a good thing. I learned that if you spot someone who does something well, whether it’s a particular task, or even better, a role that you you’ve just started or aspire to, then you should really try to learn everything you can from that person. Most people love being acknowledged as experts and will happily share what they know. And you’ll learn how to apply that policy in practice. Some people fear losing the status that they derive from their specialist knowledge, and they won’t help you. So the only thing you can do from that is just move on. Best case scenario, you get a mentor, and maybe a friend and ally into the bargain. To be clear, I’m not saying that I figured out how to be successful at work, and how to do that. without stress. Quite the opposite. I suffered stress induced tension and back pain precisely because I sucked at this stuff. But I picked up a trick or two over the years. And maybe you can also learn from my mistakes. Yeah, mistakes. Some people seem to get genuinely angry when a coworker or even a spouse or a friend makes a mistake. Even if it’s with the best of intentions. I tend to have quite a forgiving attitude, to honest mistakes because Heaven knows I’ve made some right howlers in my time. If you can avoid making mistakes at work, your life will be less stressful. In the military, they talk about the seven P’s. In the original version. The fifth P is a rude word. And I like to keep things clean on the show. So here’s my certificate U version. It goes proper planning and preparation prevents pathetically poor performance. So failing to plan and prepare is a really good way to give yourself unnecessary stress at work and in life generally. Again, this is a practical skill that didn’t come naturally to me. In school. I was the kid who always forgot his gym kit. And the police equivalent to gym kit was public order kit. Those of us who volunteered for public order training and duties were issued with a complete set of body armor. So they were pads for your shoulders, your forearms, your hips, shins, ballistic and stab proof vests, NATO helmet, flameproof coveralls, head overs. And the whole outfit was accessorized with matching belt, gloves, steel toe cap boots, baton, and various other bits and pieces. And we were issued with a massive kit bag for all this stuff. And these kit bags were routinely left on top of lockers, because they took up so much space inside. Of course, turning up at a public order deployment without your kit had more serious consequences than the trouble that I used to get into with the school sports teacher. So I just got in the habit of preparing a day or two, before any public order duty by heading to the locker room, dumping all of that kit out of the bag onto the floor, repacking it, making sure that I had every single item. And I would then jam that big old kit bag into the locker so that I knew that it was secure. And I would have everything that I needed. So 10 minutes of preparation, in peace and quiet to avoid extra stress on the day. So there was a two day public order training course once a year, with teams turning up from all over London. The training center was a two hour drive from us from our home Borough in West London. First thing on the agenda before training was an equipment check. And we had to have everything on the list. It wasn’t that unusual for someone to be sent back,

because they were missing something not really the professional standard required, and definitely an avoidable source of stress. Something else you’d see now and again, was someone opening up a nice new kit bag and take out each individual pad still in its plastic bag. They hadn’t even tried it on. Why not give yourself a bit of a head start when you’re learning something new, by at least familiarizing yourself with the equipment in advance so that you understand what goes where and how to use all the straps and fasteners. One of my abiding memories of that place is being in a changing moving maybe 30 or 40 guys, and getting out of public order kit. And there was the sort of joking and the grumbling. And the background was the constant sound of ripping Velcro. So it was a good idea to get to know how all that equipment worked before turning up on your first ever course one less thing to worry about when the pressure’s on. So these poor guys, were taking their new kit out of the packets and looking at each piece bewildered with a pile of wrapping on the floor next to them, like a kiddie trying to figure out how to build a model airplane on Christmas Day. While all around them, everyone was just getting ready with practiced movements. And eventually, someone would take pity on them and help them. But again, you don’t want to be the child on the team needing help with stuff that you could have and should have figured out yourself. Some people are naturally competent like this. And if you’re one of these people, then I’m sorry for trying to teach you to suck eggs. As we said in the last episode, knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. Recognizing and understanding what stresses you is a hugely important first step in self help for back problems. And work stress is a common issue. If you do struggle with the social environment, or cause yourself unnecessary problems by not being as good and as prepared as you can be. Then you can acknowledge this and think about ways to improve your situation. Thanks for listening to Episode 34 of the Back Pain Liberation Podcast. If you’re thinking about how to relieve back pain at work, then definitely think outside the box. Ergonomics and getting up from your desk to walk around this kind of stuff is important. But equally important is the impact of stress in the work environment. Quote of the day it was principal founder of Microsoft and co chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William Henry Gates III, aka Bill Gates, who said, ‘TV is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.’ Just a reminder, If you enjoy the show, please rate review and share from whichever podcast service you use. I know people have been having problems with this on the iOS podcast app. To rate and review on iTunes from a computer instead just go to www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes and click the link to listen on Apple podcasts which then opens in iTunes, assuming you have it installed. just to the right of the handsome fella at the top of the page are three tabs, and you’ll see ratings and reviews in the middle. So a bit of a work-around there. If you can’t get to ratings and reviews in the iOS podcast app, that URL again, www.backpainliberation.com slash iTunes or just follow the link in the show notes at www.backpainliberation.com slash episode34. That’s it for today. Thanks again for listening. This is the Back Pain Liberation Podcast. I’m in Barker. All the best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

THANKS FOR LISTENING

Do you get back pain from doing your job?

How do you relieve back pain at work?

More next time on personality types and environment and my own, I guess, journey of discovery for want of a better expression.

All the best

Iain

PS here’s the link to the Carioca Drill demo I mentioned this episode

Post title featured image background photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash
 
 
This website is for your information only. Consult your own doctor for medical advice.

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