How to Handle Stress [for Back Pain Relief]

by | Sep 4, 2019

One of the physical symptoms of chronic stress is muscular tension and pain, particularly back pain.

Click the play button to listen to this episode now

Some stress is unavoidable, whether it’s from work or studying, maybe you find some of the people in your life difficult to deal with.

Priority Program

COMING SOON

I’m very excited to introduce a completely new program over the next few weeks of September 2019.

If you’re ready to make getting out of chronic back pain your priority then click the button to:

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This time we talk about how to handle the stress that you can’t get rid of.

So listen in for practical strategies on managing stress and anxiety for back pain sufferers.

 

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

“Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.”

Who said that?

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

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Full Episode Transcript – BPL35

Click for Transcript

Iain Barker

One of the physical symptoms of chronic stress is muscular tension and pain particularly back pain. Some stress is unavoidable whether it’s from work or studying, maybe you find some of the people in your life difficult to deal with.

This time we talk about how to handle the stress that you can’t get rid of. So stay tuned for practical methods and strategies on managing stress and anxiety for back pain sufferers.

Quote of the day ‘Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress unless tones the spirit just as exercise conditions, the body’ Who said that? Answer at the end of today’s show.

Thanks for joining me for Episode Number 35 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 third and final instalment of the kind of mini series about my journey, out of chronic back pain. And let me tell you, this journey was long, I got lost more than once.

So we’ve been talking about, essentially conflict, or mismatch between personality type and social environment. Because we’re all individuals. Where one person might thrive in, for example, a work environment on a large team with tight deadlines and it’s busy, busy busy all the time. This might be a nightmare for someone else. And a third person might enjoy the work, but still struggle with the stress.

If your system your body’s constantly full of stress hormones, your health will suffer. And this is well documented one of the many physical manifestations of chronic stress. Quite a common one is muscular tension, and pain, particularly back pain.

Last time, we talked about the importance of acknowledging the role of stress in health and well being and doing what you can to minimize the stress you experience. Of course, it’s not possible or even desirable, to eliminate all stress.

Today we talk about how to handle the stress that you can’t avoid, specifically how to handle stress and anxiety that manifests as back pain.

People who successfully end the chronic pain cycle share common characteristics. They’re open minded as to the cause of the pain. They’re proactive, instead of relying on doctors and therapists to fix them, and they make the process of improving their well-being a priority.

If this sounds like you, then you may be a good fit for a new program I’m releasing over the next few weeks of September 2019. More on this later in today’s show.

A launch like this takes plenty of time and attention. So I’ve had to change to a bi weekly podcasting schedule, which is a bit of a shame, because there’s so much to say, and so many interesting and knowledgeable guests to interview.

As I’ve mentioned before I do all the sound engineering and write the blog posts and everything else myself. And it’s this that takes the time, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do and need to do.

I guess I could get help with some of this stuff. But I think trusting someone else to do it right bit of an issue for me, maybe that’s something that I need to look at and find ways to get the result that I want with less stress.

So something for me to think about their.

Anyway, back to my story.

So I’d read somewhere that relaxation techniques might help back pain. without holding out too much hope I bought a relaxation tape from a record shop. So this is the mid 90s. And there was no internet, no music streaming, the only digital audio was on compact discs and we bought CDs as well as analogue recordings on vinyl cassette tape at a bricks and mortar store.

Imagine that. Or maybe you can remember that.

Around this time, my back would be stiff and tight when I was when I woke up in the morning, it would ease off as soon as I got up and about moving and then gradually start to ache more and more during the course of the day.

It seemed to be an issue with posture holding myself up right. standing for a long time was uncomfortable, which was obviously a problem at work. And I was glad to crawl into bed at the end of the day and take the load off. But the next morning the cycle would repeat.

several doctors including an orthopaedic surgeon had told me that there was nothing medically wrong with my back.

I found this hard to believe, as I was in pain literally every day. But I gave this relaxation tape a try one evening, and felt a noticeable reduction, in tension, discomfort and pain in my back.

It wasn’t a miracle cure, but being able to calm it all down myself simply by using the power of my own mind, shall we say opened my eyes to the possibilities.

So by this time, I was beginning to understand there were a couple of things that I could do myself to ease the pain where treatments and therapies hadn’t helped at all really, these being movements and relaxation.

The orthopaedic surgeons said that my back pain was caused by poor posture, which also tied in with the discomfort and pain I experienced when standing for long periods, but didn’t offer any advice or guidance on what I could do to improve my posture, which was kind of how it was working. At that time, I’d get little snippets of information from different sources. But there was no coherent plan of action. I didn’t know what to do for the best.

And by the way, I think this is where it’s even easier these days to get a bit lost.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s great information to be found online. But the nature of blog posts and web pages is that they’re very focused on a particular topic.

So as you research into back pain, you might find an article, for example on how it may be down to weak core muscles. And you might be led to believe, ‘Okay, if I do these three exercises to strengthen my core, then that’s going to fix my back.’

I find that, at the risk of sounding like some sort of hippie, a more holistic approach is required.

Of course a complete system and improve the way you use your mind and body to relieve tension, discomfort and back pain doesn’t lend itself to a 1000-word blog post. And therein lies the problem.

People want a quick fix.

My experience is that there aren’t any quick fixes to chronic back pain. But if you’re prepared to invest a little time and effort, a proactive self-help approach can work wonders.

So back to the early days when I was trying to figure out what was the best self help approach for me. I’d heard that yoga was good for back problems. In recent years Yoga has become fairly mainstream.

It’s taught at gyms and there are cool pictures all over the net of beautiful people in trendy yoga pants doing asanas on tropical beaches. Back then yoga were in the UK anyway, was for New Age travellers in tie dye caftans or middle aged ladies in the church hall.

It was nothing I would have been attracted to as a young guy in the normal run of events. And I felt like a fish out of water on the yoga for low back pain, short course.

All the exercises, we were either sitting or lying down on the floor, and the stereotype was confirmed for me. As I found myself sitting cross legged going ‘Ommmmmmmmmmm’

Incidentally, I learned something interesting when I was looking into natural stimulation of the Vagus nerve for a recent episode of this podcast.

Now I’ve been using deep slow breathing to induce relaxation for many years. And I knew that this was linked to the Vagus nerve. What I didn’t know was that the Vagus nerve is also connected to the vocal cords and other ways to stimulate it up by singing, chanting, and you guessed it by going ‘Ommmmmmmmmmmmm’.

So not so stupid.

I remember that we learned the importance of the breath. And while there was no mention of chakras, we were told to relax and breathe down to the abdomen.

So it was a short course. But in the limited time available, they were able to get across some of the importance of an internal focus rather than just going through the Asanas.

As we said, Yoga has become quite popular mainstream, I do wonder how much of what is taught is authentic.

I suspect to someone usually takes spin classes or teach teaches people weight training, and then get trained up to be a yoga instructor to meet demand, then they’re going to be perhaps more focused on the externals of moving through the Asanas and working on flexibility. Rather than developing the mind body connection, which is so important.

By the way, I have no evidence to support this idea is just the impression that I get. That’d be something to think about if you’re looking for a teacher. So after the course is finished, I continued to do the routine, they showed us at home, the whole business including sitting on the floor, cross legged going ‘Ommmmmmmmmm’.

So I guess I decided that it was worth leaving my comfort zone to get the benefits of less tightness and discomfort and pain in the hips and lower back.

And I would suggest that you keep an open mind as well. If you’ve never done any mind body exercise, it can. Yeah, feel a bit weird at first. But as the saying goes, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.

So keep your goal of being pain free in mind, and do what you have to to get there. But that might not be the first thing that you try.

So I had this book on Tai Chi. And in it was the address of the Wu-Style Tai Chi Academy, which at this time was near Regent’s Park, right in the middle of London, so easy for me to get to. And I did an introductory course of maybe 10 or 12 sessions.

As with the yoga, I think I got lucky with finding a very high standard of authentic Tai Chi. And Qigong there. Because I didn’t know the difference at that time.

The different Tai Chi styles and named after the families that they come from.

The skill’s taught and passed down through generations, and the head of the family is the recognized authority, and correct form and practice in that particular style.

So the founder and chief instructor of Wu’s tai chi Academy in London is Gary Wragg. And he’s been teaching Tai Chi for many, many years and trained under the head of the Wu family. So he’s the real deal. And they teach proper Tai Chi at his club, which by the way, has moved to Bethnal Green in East London now.

So I did the introductory course and felt real improvement in my back. In Tai Chi and Qigong, you’re standing most of the time there are some seated exercises but mostly you on your feet.

Tai Chi is often described as an internal martial art, your focus is inside yourself.
‘Is my head up? Is my spine straight? Am I relaxed in the Tan-tien?’ which is the focus point in the abdomen, in Chinese medicine, and so on.

To practice properly, requires internal focus, and concentration. You can also think of Tai Chi and Qi Gong as awareness training. Just as a little aside, the difference between Tai Chi and Qi Gong is a broad term to encompass a wide variety of exercise within Chinese medicine. Tai Chi is a very specific focused version achieved on with much more complicated movements, which follow Qigong principles. And it’s also a martial art.

So that’s a very sort of broad strokes, explanation of the difference between the two.

Anyway, as I progressed, I developed better self awareness and was able to massively improve my posture, relaxation, and quality of movement.

So over time, I completed the beginners syllabus and moved on to the intermediate class.

I had a community contact job at this time, which was more or less office hours. And this meant I could get to the classes a couple of evenings a week, no problem. And I liked going, I was learning something interesting and positive. And there were good people there.

But then I changed back to shift work, which made getting to classes difficult. And I had a bit of a bust-up with one of the senior instructors, which wasn’t good.

One of my guests from the early days of the show, Suzanne Wilde said that she always gets her clients to start keeping a pain diary before she starts working with them. Because when the pain goes, they forget how bad it was. Or even that they had pain in certain parts of the body.

Being pain free becomes the new normal. And it’s easy to just take that for granted. And I think this is what I did.

On a side note, Suzanne was a great guest really good fun and interesting, you can listen to her if you go back to episode eight.

So anyway, my back had stopped hurting. And I forgot, really, how bad it had been, how desperate I was to find a way to make the pain, stop. And just get back to a normal life.

Looking back, I understand that with a bit of effort and creativity, I could still have made it to most of those classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. By this time I’d moved out to the suburbs and was commuting into town.

So it would have been a case of hanging around for a few hours after an early turn, which finished at 2.30 in the afternoon, or going to class before night duty, which started at 10:30pm. Maybe taking some time off on a late turn, if there were enough people to cover the bases.

Looking back, the obvious answer would have been to try and get a couple of hours overtime, every time we early turn on the Tuesday or Thursday to reduce the wait before class.

In the police, you can choose whether you want to be paid for any overtime you work, or you can take the time off at a later date instead.

Often the younger officers love being at work and earning as much as possible. So the idea of turning their money seems a bit nuts to them.

I think I was in that mindset at time.

Later in my career, when I had family commitments to juggle, I’d take over time as time on a regular basis to make the schedule work.

So really, it’s about working out your own personal priorities, deciding what’s important to you, and overcoming the difficulties and making it happen.

And I was struggling suggested looking after your own health and well being should be one of your top priorities.

If you throw your back out so that you can’t stand up straight or move, then you’re useless to your colleagues and loved ones. That may sound harsh, but I’ve been there and I understand what it’s like.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’re not being selfish by investing time to look after yourself. Rather that by keeping yourself in good shape, you can be there for the people who rely on you.

So don’t neglect yourself.

The mistake I made then, was I thought the problem was fixed and moved on. Or perhaps more accurately forgot about my back issues when they stopped bothering me. I suppose I shouldn’t feel too bad about this because I’m in good company here.

This phenomenon phenomenon. This phenomenon of forgetting the pain after it’s gone seems to crop up fairly regularly. Even very smart people seem to make the same mistake.

One of the most popular episodes, or actually the most listened to episode of the back pain abortion podcast is Episode 14. How to fix a thrown out back with Dr. Jeremy James.

Now Dr. Jeremy is a very clever guy. It’s clear that he’s really knowledgeable and switched on when you listen to him.

He got back pain as a young man and invested a whole lot of time and effort to understand the source of the pain and find ways to fix it.

Years later, he was working on a start-up which meant long hours hunched over the computer, resulting in a really bad episode of acute back pain.

So Jeremy will be the first to admit that he did something dumb, by neglecting his own health and allowing a serious problem to develop for a second time that he knew very well how to prevent just by losing focus on what’s really important.

So yeah, it’s not just me.

Anyway, I stopped going to classes. And it wasn’t that I immediately started getting back problems again. It crept up on me gradually.

I still trained at home now and again, but it’d be less and less often. And eventually I lost momentum and stop training completely. And I just let this skill that I’d worked so hard to acquire and a change my life. Sort of drift away.

And sure enough, I started to feel a bit of tension in the back now and again. So over time, this tension became pain. And in the long run a serious problem again, with acute episodes putting me out of action.

I remember I threw my back out at work, I managed to get home and up the stairs to my bedroom. But I just couldn’t get back downstairs again.

I knew it would free up in a day or two but the muscles were completely locked in spasm at that point, which is so painful, as I’m sure many of you will fully understand.

It makes moving pretty much impossible.

So I was fairly confident I could wait it out without food, but I knew I’d need water.

So I’m made my poor sister drive the hour and a half round trip to stock me up with bottles of water in the bedroom, while I just waited for the muscle spasms to ease off.

So as this deterioration was progressing, and I returned to the bad old days of really nasty, debilitating back pain, I decided that the thing to do would be to get back into training Tai Chi.

By this time I was living way out of town and commuting into West London. My old club. As I said, had moved to the East End which would have been a three hour round trip by car train, and tube. So that’s the underground London Underground.

So I looked for classes that were easier to get to. I guess at this point, I assumed that one club would be pretty much the same as another, I didn’t want to compete in form or pushing hands, I just wanted to train and stop my back from hurting.

So I started training a different style of Tai Chi at a club near where I lived. But somehow I just didn’t get the same benefit.

The movement helped to a certain extent in the way that any moderate exercise did. But the pain wasn’t reduced in the way I was expecting based on my previous experience.

So I tried a different teacher in a third style close to work with similar results.

It seemed to me that other styles of Tai Chi and Qi Gong training just weren’t as effective for my back problems as the Wu-style that I’d started with years previously.

So I bit the bullet and rejoined my old club.

The travel wasn’t fun, but I got up to speed again fairly quickly. With time and regular training, I stopped getting back pain for a second time.

So what is it about Wu-style which sets it apart from the rest?

Actually, I don’t think it’s the style of Tai Chi that made that huge difference in the result I experienced. Much more important was the style of teaching.

Authentic Tai Chi and Qigong practice is the epitome time of mind-body exercise.

Getting your feet in the right position and moving your hands and arms correctly are important. But what I learned from Sifu Gary Wragg, and the style of teaching at his club, is the fundamental necessity of inner focus and awareness.

Without the attention to correct posture, proper relaxation and quality of movement, you’re literally going through the motions.

For example, we want to get as close as possible to an ideal posture, upright head held high spine extended, but not rigid and stiff, rather relaxed, comfortable and free to move.

And of course this ideal is aspired to in the other mind body exercise mentality is not just Tai Chi.

Visualization of this ideal posture is commonly used as an effective training tool.

In Alexander Technique for example, students are often taught to imagine that there’s a string attached to the top of their head, lifting them upwards.

My first ever guest on the podcast Pilates Teacher and Author Gillian Greenwood, had a beautiful one. She said, ‘imagine that your heads of ping pong ball balanced on top of a fountain of water.’

In the Back Pain Liberation system I like to use the idea that your head is a helium balloon floating up towards the ceiling, lengthening and straightening the spine. Which is the very first item in a kind of posture checklist at the start of every training session.

So why did I develop the Back Pain Liberation System instead of just teaching Tai Chi?

The answer is that authentic Tai Chi Chuan is complicated.

For example, to learn 108 movements of the Wu-Style hand form typically takes about a year. And that’s going to two classes a week of three hours each.

On top of that, there’s pushing hands San Sou, which are sparring drills that you do with a partner. And as you progress, there are weapons forms spear, sabre, and sword. The list goes on.

It’s a huge subject, a lifetime’s study, really.

Don’t get me wrong, proper Tai Chi is great for backs.

And if you want to learn a complete system for robust, good health and self defence, together with the Taoist philosophy and culture that underpins it, and you can get to a club, where they teach the real thing, then go for it, you won’t regret it.

The Back Pain Liberation System by contrast, is designed to address one specific problem. And to do that in the most practical and accessible way possible, wherever you live.

Of course, it draws heavily on my years of training and instructing in mind body methods, particularly Tai Chi and Qigong.

While keeping the essential Mind Body principles of internal focus and awareness, I’ve stripped out all the complicated stuff that you don’t need.

And this makes the training routines much quicker and easier to learn and short enough to fit into your busy schedule. Also, you don’t need much space or any special equipment

Put that all together, and you have a training system that you can learn in your own home, by video call. And go on to easily incorporate into your life.

I’ve been teaching this system exclusively for three years. And this is the only training that I do now to keep my own back in good shape, and pain free.

So I know that it works.

Right now I’m not taking on any new clients. But I’m very excited to tell you about a new program that I’ll be launching within the next few weeks.

Think about a time in your life, when you succeeded at something difficult, it can be anything at all.

Studying in school or college and going on to get good grades in exams, delivering on a project at work, or maybe building a successful business as an entrepreneur.

Whatever it is, you have to decide what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there. And then you have to commit to that process.

Just doing a bit here and there. When you feel like it, well, it’s just not going to cut it.

You have to make working through the process top priority.

To overcome my back problems. For instance, this meant that instead of going home, at the end of the working day, I’d get on a central line train in the opposite direction, travel across London to do a three hour class and not get back to the house until close to midnight.

And I’d do this two or three times a week, as well as train at home on days when there was no class.

And there were many times of course, when I didn’t want to do any of this stuff. It would have been so easy to just head home or go to the pub.

But I knew that I had to prioritize this training if I was going to get out of chronic back pain.

So that’s the mindset that enables me to live pain free.

It’s the mindset that I’m looking for in potential clients for the back pain liberation priority program. Because I know that making the training top priority is essential to success.

I’m going to enrol a very small number of people who are ready, who finally reached the point where they decided enough’s enough, I can’t go on like this, with chronic back pain, ruining my quality of life. I’m going to do whatever it takes leave my comfort zone, do the work necessary, make getting out of chronic back pain, my priority.

So what I’m talking about is an exchange of value.

And from my side, working with a small number of highly motivated clients means that your success as an individual on the program is my priority.

So a little bit on the specifics; the Back Pain Liberation Priority Program is an eight week course to eliminate or significantly reduce chronic back pain through Mind Body training. And you commit to train every day.

Routines aren’t overly demanding physically and their 30 minutes up to a maximum of 45 minutes long. So this is do-able, especially when you’re training from home.

Of course, I realize that people get sick or there’s some emergency that’s to be taken care of. But generally when I talk about making the training your priority, this is what I mean – train every day.

And if this is a deal-breaker for you, I totally understand and you know straight away that the Priority Program is not for you.

If on the other hand, you have the mindset because mindset is the most important factor with chronic pain. So if you’re thinking and feeling okay, it’s right now it’s my absolute priority to get out of chronic back pain. then head over to https://www.backpainliberation.com/priority/ and pre register for more information.

So there you have it. Mind-body exercise is a very effective way to overcome chronic back pain without treatments or medication.

Whether you train with me or another teacher, whatever the discipline, make sure your training focuses on improved posture, proper relaxation, and quality of movement. So an inner focus is essential.

Quote of the day it was none other than the Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said ‘Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit, just as exercise conditions the body’.

That’s it for today. Thanks for listening to the Back Pain Liberation Podcast.

I’m in Barker.

All the best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

THANKS FOR LISTENING

Hope you enjoyed listening to Episode 35 of the Back Pain Liberation Podcast.

What is your experience of the link between stress and back pain?

All the best

Iain

Post title featured image background photo by Jay Castor on Unsplash

Music courtesy: Jahzzar www.betterwithmusic.com/

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

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One of the physical symptoms of chronic stress is muscular tension and pain, particularly back pain.

Click the play button to listen to this episode now

Some stress is unavoidable, whether it’s from work or studying, maybe you find some of the people in your life difficult to deal with.

This time we talk about how to handle the stress that you can’t get rid of.

So listen in for practical strategies on managing stress and anxiety for back pain sufferers.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.”

Who said that?

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

Priority Program

COMING SOON

I’m very excited to introduce a completely new program over the next few weeks of September 2019.

If you’re ready to make getting out of chronic back pain your priority then click the button to:

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.

 

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 – BPL35

Click for Transcript

Iain Barker

One of the physical symptoms of chronic stress is muscular tension and pain particularly back pain. Some stress is unavoidable whether it’s from work or studying, maybe you find some of the people in your life difficult to deal with.

This time we talk about how to handle the stress that you can’t get rid of. So stay tuned for practical methods and strategies on managing stress and anxiety for back pain sufferers.

Quote of the day ‘Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress unless tones the spirit just as exercise conditions, the body’ Who said that? Answer at the end of today’s show.

Thanks for joining me for Episode Number 35 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 third and final instalment of the kind of mini series about my journey, out of chronic back pain. And let me tell you, this journey was long, I got lost more than once.

So we’ve been talking about, essentially conflict, or mismatch between personality type and social environment. Because we’re all individuals. Where one person might thrive in, for example, a work environment on a large team with tight deadlines and it’s busy, busy busy all the time. This might be a nightmare for someone else. And a third person might enjoy the work, but still struggle with the stress.

If your system your body’s constantly full of stress hormones, your health will suffer. And this is well documented one of the many physical manifestations of chronic stress. Quite a common one is muscular tension, and pain, particularly back pain.

Last time, we talked about the importance of acknowledging the role of stress in health and well being and doing what you can to minimize the stress you experience. Of course, it’s not possible or even desirable, to eliminate all stress.

Today we talk about how to handle the stress that you can’t avoid, specifically how to handle stress and anxiety that manifests as back pain.

People who successfully end the chronic pain cycle share common characteristics. They’re open minded as to the cause of the pain. They’re proactive, instead of relying on doctors and therapists to fix them, and they make the process of improving their well-being a priority.

If this sounds like you, then you may be a good fit for a new program I’m releasing over the next few weeks of September 2019. More on this later in today’s show.

A launch like this takes plenty of time and attention. So I’ve had to change to a bi weekly podcasting schedule, which is a bit of a shame, because there’s so much to say, and so many interesting and knowledgeable guests to interview.

As I’ve mentioned before I do all the sound engineering and write the blog posts and everything else myself. And it’s this that takes the time, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do and need to do.

I guess I could get help with some of this stuff. But I think trusting someone else to do it right bit of an issue for me, maybe that’s something that I need to look at and find ways to get the result that I want with less stress.

So something for me to think about their.

Anyway, back to my story.

So I’d read somewhere that relaxation techniques might help back pain. without holding out too much hope I bought a relaxation tape from a record shop. So this is the mid 90s. And there was no internet, no music streaming, the only digital audio was on compact discs and we bought CDs as well as analogue recordings on vinyl cassette tape at a bricks and mortar store.

Imagine that. Or maybe you can remember that.

Around this time, my back would be stiff and tight when I was when I woke up in the morning, it would ease off as soon as I got up and about moving and then gradually start to ache more and more during the course of the day.

It seemed to be an issue with posture holding myself up right. standing for a long time was uncomfortable, which was obviously a problem at work. And I was glad to crawl into bed at the end of the day and take the load off. But the next morning the cycle would repeat.

several doctors including an orthopaedic surgeon had told me that there was nothing medically wrong with my back.

I found this hard to believe, as I was in pain literally every day. But I gave this relaxation tape a try one evening, and felt a noticeable reduction, in tension, discomfort and pain in my back.

It wasn’t a miracle cure, but being able to calm it all down myself simply by using the power of my own mind, shall we say opened my eyes to the possibilities.

So by this time, I was beginning to understand there were a couple of things that I could do myself to ease the pain where treatments and therapies hadn’t helped at all really, these being movements and relaxation.

The orthopaedic surgeons said that my back pain was caused by poor posture, which also tied in with the discomfort and pain I experienced when standing for long periods, but didn’t offer any advice or guidance on what I could do to improve my posture, which was kind of how it was working. At that time, I’d get little snippets of information from different sources. But there was no coherent plan of action. I didn’t know what to do for the best.

And by the way, I think this is where it’s even easier these days to get a bit lost.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s great information to be found online. But the nature of blog posts and web pages is that they’re very focused on a particular topic.

So as you research into back pain, you might find an article, for example on how it may be down to weak core muscles. And you might be led to believe, ‘Okay, if I do these three exercises to strengthen my core, then that’s going to fix my back.’

I find that, at the risk of sounding like some sort of hippie, a more holistic approach is required.

Of course a complete system and improve the way you use your mind and body to relieve tension, discomfort and back pain doesn’t lend itself to a 1000-word blog post. And therein lies the problem.

People want a quick fix.

My experience is that there aren’t any quick fixes to chronic back pain. But if you’re prepared to invest a little time and effort, a proactive self-help approach can work wonders.

So back to the early days when I was trying to figure out what was the best self help approach for me. I’d heard that yoga was good for back problems. In recent years Yoga has become fairly mainstream.

It’s taught at gyms and there are cool pictures all over the net of beautiful people in trendy yoga pants doing asanas on tropical beaches. Back then yoga were in the UK anyway, was for New Age travellers in tie dye caftans or middle aged ladies in the church hall.

It was nothing I would have been attracted to as a young guy in the normal run of events. And I felt like a fish out of water on the yoga for low back pain, short course.

All the exercises, we were either sitting or lying down on the floor, and the stereotype was confirmed for me. As I found myself sitting cross legged going ‘Ommmmmmmmmmm’

Incidentally, I learned something interesting when I was looking into natural stimulation of the Vagus nerve for a recent episode of this podcast.

Now I’ve been using deep slow breathing to induce relaxation for many years. And I knew that this was linked to the Vagus nerve. What I didn’t know was that the Vagus nerve is also connected to the vocal cords and other ways to stimulate it up by singing, chanting, and you guessed it by going ‘Ommmmmmmmmmmmm’.

So not so stupid.

I remember that we learned the importance of the breath. And while there was no mention of chakras, we were told to relax and breathe down to the abdomen.

So it was a short course. But in the limited time available, they were able to get across some of the importance of an internal focus rather than just going through the Asanas.

As we said, Yoga has become quite popular mainstream, I do wonder how much of what is taught is authentic.

I suspect to someone usually takes spin classes or teach teaches people weight training, and then get trained up to be a yoga instructor to meet demand, then they’re going to be perhaps more focused on the externals of moving through the Asanas and working on flexibility. Rather than developing the mind body connection, which is so important.

By the way, I have no evidence to support this idea is just the impression that I get. That’d be something to think about if you’re looking for a teacher. So after the course is finished, I continued to do the routine, they showed us at home, the whole business including sitting on the floor, cross legged going ‘Ommmmmmmmmm’.

So I guess I decided that it was worth leaving my comfort zone to get the benefits of less tightness and discomfort and pain in the hips and lower back.

And I would suggest that you keep an open mind as well. If you’ve never done any mind body exercise, it can. Yeah, feel a bit weird at first. But as the saying goes, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.

So keep your goal of being pain free in mind, and do what you have to to get there. But that might not be the first thing that you try.

So I had this book on Tai Chi. And in it was the address of the Wu-Style Tai Chi Academy, which at this time was near Regent’s Park, right in the middle of London, so easy for me to get to. And I did an introductory course of maybe 10 or 12 sessions.

As with the yoga, I think I got lucky with finding a very high standard of authentic Tai Chi. And Qigong there. Because I didn’t know the difference at that time.

The different Tai Chi styles and named after the families that they come from.

The skill’s taught and passed down through generations, and the head of the family is the recognized authority, and correct form and practice in that particular style.

So the founder and chief instructor of Wu’s tai chi Academy in London is Gary Wragg. And he’s been teaching Tai Chi for many, many years and trained under the head of the Wu family. So he’s the real deal. And they teach proper Tai Chi at his club, which by the way, has moved to Bethnal Green in East London now.

So I did the introductory course and felt real improvement in my back. In Tai Chi and Qigong, you’re standing most of the time there are some seated exercises but mostly you on your feet.

Tai Chi is often described as an internal martial art, your focus is inside yourself.
‘Is my head up? Is my spine straight? Am I relaxed in the Tan-tien?’ which is the focus point in the abdomen, in Chinese medicine, and so on.

To practice properly, requires internal focus, and concentration. You can also think of Tai Chi and Qi Gong as awareness training. Just as a little aside, the difference between Tai Chi and Qi Gong is a broad term to encompass a wide variety of exercise within Chinese medicine. Tai Chi is a very specific focused version achieved on with much more complicated movements, which follow Qigong principles. And it’s also a martial art.

So that’s a very sort of broad strokes, explanation of the difference between the two.

Anyway, as I progressed, I developed better self awareness and was able to massively improve my posture, relaxation, and quality of movement.

So over time, I completed the beginners syllabus and moved on to the intermediate class.

I had a community contact job at this time, which was more or less office hours. And this meant I could get to the classes a couple of evenings a week, no problem. And I liked going, I was learning something interesting and positive. And there were good people there.

But then I changed back to shift work, which made getting to classes difficult. And I had a bit of a bust-up with one of the senior instructors, which wasn’t good.

One of my guests from the early days of the show, Suzanne Wilde said that she always gets her clients to start keeping a pain diary before she starts working with them. Because when the pain goes, they forget how bad it was. Or even that they had pain in certain parts of the body.

Being pain free becomes the new normal. And it’s easy to just take that for granted. And I think this is what I did.

On a side note, Suzanne was a great guest really good fun and interesting, you can listen to her if you go back to episode eight.

So anyway, my back had stopped hurting. And I forgot, really, how bad it had been, how desperate I was to find a way to make the pain, stop. And just get back to a normal life.

Looking back, I understand that with a bit of effort and creativity, I could still have made it to most of those classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. By this time I’d moved out to the suburbs and was commuting into town.

So it would have been a case of hanging around for a few hours after an early turn, which finished at 2.30 in the afternoon, or going to class before night duty, which started at 10:30pm. Maybe taking some time off on a late turn, if there were enough people to cover the bases.

Looking back, the obvious answer would have been to try and get a couple of hours overtime, every time we early turn on the Tuesday or Thursday to reduce the wait before class.

In the police, you can choose whether you want to be paid for any overtime you work, or you can take the time off at a later date instead.

Often the younger officers love being at work and earning as much as possible. So the idea of turning their money seems a bit nuts to them.

I think I was in that mindset at time.

Later in my career, when I had family commitments to juggle, I’d take over time as time on a regular basis to make the schedule work.

So really, it’s about working out your own personal priorities, deciding what’s important to you, and overcoming the difficulties and making it happen.

And I was struggling suggested looking after your own health and well being should be one of your top priorities.

If you throw your back out so that you can’t stand up straight or move, then you’re useless to your colleagues and loved ones. That may sound harsh, but I’ve been there and I understand what it’s like.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’re not being selfish by investing time to look after yourself. Rather that by keeping yourself in good shape, you can be there for the people who rely on you.

So don’t neglect yourself.

The mistake I made then, was I thought the problem was fixed and moved on. Or perhaps more accurately forgot about my back issues when they stopped bothering me. I suppose I shouldn’t feel too bad about this because I’m in good company here.

This phenomenon phenomenon. This phenomenon of forgetting the pain after it’s gone seems to crop up fairly regularly. Even very smart people seem to make the same mistake.

One of the most popular episodes, or actually the most listened to episode of the back pain abortion podcast is Episode 14. How to fix a thrown out back with Dr. Jeremy James.

Now Dr. Jeremy is a very clever guy. It’s clear that he’s really knowledgeable and switched on when you listen to him.

He got back pain as a young man and invested a whole lot of time and effort to understand the source of the pain and find ways to fix it.

Years later, he was working on a start-up which meant long hours hunched over the computer, resulting in a really bad episode of acute back pain.

So Jeremy will be the first to admit that he did something dumb, by neglecting his own health and allowing a serious problem to develop for a second time that he knew very well how to prevent just by losing focus on what’s really important.

So yeah, it’s not just me.

Anyway, I stopped going to classes. And it wasn’t that I immediately started getting back problems again. It crept up on me gradually.

I still trained at home now and again, but it’d be less and less often. And eventually I lost momentum and stop training completely. And I just let this skill that I’d worked so hard to acquire and a change my life. Sort of drift away.

And sure enough, I started to feel a bit of tension in the back now and again. So over time, this tension became pain. And in the long run a serious problem again, with acute episodes putting me out of action.

I remember I threw my back out at work, I managed to get home and up the stairs to my bedroom. But I just couldn’t get back downstairs again.

I knew it would free up in a day or two but the muscles were completely locked in spasm at that point, which is so painful, as I’m sure many of you will fully understand.

It makes moving pretty much impossible.

So I was fairly confident I could wait it out without food, but I knew I’d need water.

So I’m made my poor sister drive the hour and a half round trip to stock me up with bottles of water in the bedroom, while I just waited for the muscle spasms to ease off.

So as this deterioration was progressing, and I returned to the bad old days of really nasty, debilitating back pain, I decided that the thing to do would be to get back into training Tai Chi.

By this time I was living way out of town and commuting into West London. My old club. As I said, had moved to the East End which would have been a three hour round trip by car train, and tube. So that’s the underground London Underground.

So I looked for classes that were easier to get to. I guess at this point, I assumed that one club would be pretty much the same as another, I didn’t want to compete in form or pushing hands, I just wanted to train and stop my back from hurting.

So I started training a different style of Tai Chi at a club near where I lived. But somehow I just didn’t get the same benefit.

The movement helped to a certain extent in the way that any moderate exercise did. But the pain wasn’t reduced in the way I was expecting based on my previous experience.

So I tried a different teacher in a third style close to work with similar results.

It seemed to me that other styles of Tai Chi and Qi Gong training just weren’t as effective for my back problems as the Wu-style that I’d started with years previously.

So I bit the bullet and rejoined my old club.

The travel wasn’t fun, but I got up to speed again fairly quickly. With time and regular training, I stopped getting back pain for a second time.

So what is it about Wu-style which sets it apart from the rest?

Actually, I don’t think it’s the style of Tai Chi that made that huge difference in the result I experienced. Much more important was the style of teaching.

Authentic Tai Chi and Qigong practice is the epitome time of mind-body exercise.

Getting your feet in the right position and moving your hands and arms correctly are important. But what I learned from Sifu Gary Wragg, and the style of teaching at his club, is the fundamental necessity of inner focus and awareness.

Without the attention to correct posture, proper relaxation and quality of movement, you’re literally going through the motions.

For example, we want to get as close as possible to an ideal posture, upright head held high spine extended, but not rigid and stiff, rather relaxed, comfortable and free to move.

And of course this ideal is aspired to in the other mind body exercise mentality is not just Tai Chi.

Visualization of this ideal posture is commonly used as an effective training tool.

In Alexander Technique for example, students are often taught to imagine that there’s a string attached to the top of their head, lifting them upwards.

My first ever guest on the podcast Pilates Teacher and Author Gillian Greenwood, had a beautiful one. She said, ‘imagine that your heads of ping pong ball balanced on top of a fountain of water.’

In the Back Pain Liberation system I like to use the idea that your head is a helium balloon floating up towards the ceiling, lengthening and straightening the spine. Which is the very first item in a kind of posture checklist at the start of every training session.

So why did I develop the Back Pain Liberation System instead of just teaching Tai Chi?

The answer is that authentic Tai Chi Chuan is complicated.

For example, to learn 108 movements of the Wu-Style hand form typically takes about a year. And that’s going to two classes a week of three hours each.

On top of that, there’s pushing hands San Sou, which are sparring drills that you do with a partner. And as you progress, there are weapons forms spear, sabre, and sword. The list goes on.

It’s a huge subject, a lifetime’s study, really.

Don’t get me wrong, proper Tai Chi is great for backs.

And if you want to learn a complete system for robust, good health and self defence, together with the Taoist philosophy and culture that underpins it, and you can get to a club, where they teach the real thing, then go for it, you won’t regret it.

The Back Pain Liberation System by contrast, is designed to address one specific problem. And to do that in the most practical and accessible way possible, wherever you live.

Of course, it draws heavily on my years of training and instructing in mind body methods, particularly Tai Chi and Qigong.

While keeping the essential Mind Body principles of internal focus and awareness, I’ve stripped out all the complicated stuff that you don’t need.

And this makes the training routines much quicker and easier to learn and short enough to fit into your busy schedule. Also, you don’t need much space or any special equipment

Put that all together, and you have a training system that you can learn in your own home, by video call. And go on to easily incorporate into your life.

I’ve been teaching this system exclusively for three years. And this is the only training that I do now to keep my own back in good shape, and pain free.

So I know that it works.

Right now I’m not taking on any new clients. But I’m very excited to tell you about a new program that I’ll be launching within the next few weeks.

Think about a time in your life, when you succeeded at something difficult, it can be anything at all.

Studying in school or college and going on to get good grades in exams, delivering on a project at work, or maybe building a successful business as an entrepreneur.

Whatever it is, you have to decide what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there. And then you have to commit to that process.

Just doing a bit here and there. When you feel like it, well, it’s just not going to cut it.

You have to make working through the process top priority.

To overcome my back problems. For instance, this meant that instead of going home, at the end of the working day, I’d get on a central line train in the opposite direction, travel across London to do a three hour class and not get back to the house until close to midnight.

And I’d do this two or three times a week, as well as train at home on days when there was no class.

And there were many times of course, when I didn’t want to do any of this stuff. It would have been so easy to just head home or go to the pub.

But I knew that I had to prioritize this training if I was going to get out of chronic back pain.

So that’s the mindset that enables me to live pain free.

It’s the mindset that I’m looking for in potential clients for the back pain liberation priority program. Because I know that making the training top priority is essential to success.

I’m going to enrol a very small number of people who are ready, who finally reached the point where they decided enough’s enough, I can’t go on like this, with chronic back pain, ruining my quality of life. I’m going to do whatever it takes leave my comfort zone, do the work necessary, make getting out of chronic back pain, my priority.

So what I’m talking about is an exchange of value.

And from my side, working with a small number of highly motivated clients means that your success as an individual on the program is my priority.

So a little bit on the specifics; the Back Pain Liberation Priority Program is an eight week course to eliminate or significantly reduce chronic back pain through Mind Body training. And you commit to train every day.

Routines aren’t overly demanding physically and their 30 minutes up to a maximum of 45 minutes long. So this is do-able, especially when you’re training from home.

Of course, I realize that people get sick or there’s some emergency that’s to be taken care of. But generally when I talk about making the training your priority, this is what I mean – train every day.

And if this is a deal-breaker for you, I totally understand and you know straight away that the Priority Program is not for you.

If on the other hand, you have the mindset because mindset is the most important factor with chronic pain. So if you’re thinking and feeling okay, it’s right now it’s my absolute priority to get out of chronic back pain. then head over to https://www.backpainliberation.com/priority/ and pre register for more information.

So there you have it. Mind-body exercise is a very effective way to overcome chronic back pain without treatments or medication.

Whether you train with me or another teacher, whatever the discipline, make sure your training focuses on improved posture, proper relaxation, and quality of movement. So an inner focus is essential.

Quote of the day it was none other than the Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said ‘Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit, just as exercise conditions the body’.

That’s it for today. Thanks for listening to the Back Pain Liberation Podcast.

I’m in Barker.

All the best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

THANKS FOR LISTENING

Hope you enjoyed listening to Episode 35 of the Back Pain Liberation Podcast.

What is your experience of the link between stress and back pain?

All the best

Iain

Post title featured image background photo by Jay Castor on Unsplash

Music courtesy: Jahzzar www.betterwithmusic.com/

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

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