Those of you who have been regular visitors to OCG will know that I came to cycling because I was no longer able to run or do high impact exercise activity because of spinal issues. Cycling was a way of being active whilst managing back pain. I have degenerative disc disease resulting in three lots of surgery to date and the insertion of spinal rods and plates in my lumbar spine.
More back pain
In 2016, I had yet another disc prolapse. When I visited my surgeon, he advised that surgery was not a feasible option due to scar tissue from previous surgeries. Instead, as a means of managing back pain without going down the road of surgery, he offered me spinal blocks and facet joint injections, and advised me to look at doing yoga to strengthen the deep paraspinal muscles. At this point, I was 32 with two children. The quality of my life was not great. I was in a lot of pain daily. I couldn’t bend, I had nerve pain in my left leg and I wasn’t sleeping. The thought of more surgery, which may or may not be successful, was absolutely the last thing I wanted. So, I happily took the offer of the injections and made a pact with him to do yoga.
If the HoMedics STRETCH Back Stretching Mat at this point had been available, I would have definitely invested in one. The muscles in my back were tight, my spine felt compressed and due to the chronic pain I was experiencing, I was tense. Doesn’t it look fantastic? Inspired by yoga-style stretches, the new HoMedics STRETCH Back Stretching Mat is pre-programmed with four sequences which you combine with deep, slow breathing to unlock and enhance relaxation. Sadly, I’ve not had the opportunity of trying this, but inspired by yoga, every treatment has been designed by the HoMedics’ own yoga pro. The air chambers inflate gently to encourage your lumbar to stretch, release and relax.
I think it looks amazing. Wouldn’t it be a great addition to a regular and consistent yoga practice?
Managing my back pain
So, I had the injections and once they kicked in and the nerve pain was no longer ruling my life, I found a yoga class with a teacher who was very anatomy focused. I spoke to him at the start of the class and explained the issues I had…a fusion, metal rods and plates, and the tightest of hamstrings. I was stiff, my hamstrings and hips were not especially happy but I listened to my body, worked with it and found my edge (quite quickly in a lot of the postures).
I remember walking out of that first class, feeling like I was walking on air. My legs felt lengthened, my hips more open and my spine felt ten feet tall. Aside from the physical benefits I felt, I remember feeling like I was on cloud nine emotionally. As a teacher I talk about that yoga glow a lot, and I’ll never forget how I felt after that fist class. I felt amazing. Chilled, happy, floaty…it’s that use of the breath that gives yoga its magic. The abdominal breath used in yoga switches on the parasympathetic nervous system and automatically calms everything down. I felt amazing. And I fell in love with that feeling.
A consistent and regular yoga practice
So that’s what led me to a regular and consistent yoga practice. Three classes a week, whenever I could. Some self practice at home in the form of using a few of the class postures I had learned…cat-cow, legs up the wall pose and some supine twists, all of which are great for easing back pain and creating some space through the spine.
The injections I had typically last around three months. And three months after having them I didn’t notice when they had worn off. My pain had virtually gone. Well, certainly to a point where it was manageable. I had been so stiff before taking up yoga due some arthritis in my spine and facet joints…and this had vastly improved.
I had another scan of my spine at the start of this year and an examination by the consultant. He couldn’t believe the difference in the quality of the deep paraspinal muscles. Previously they had appeared white on the scan, like a fatty slab of steak. This time, after taking up yoga, they were black meaning they are strong and healthy. And my range of movement was markedly improved. Back pain truly is miserable but yoga practice is an absolute tonic. It can offer real value to anyone who has had back trouble; and I can say that from experience!
And now? Well, I absolutely wouldn’t be without yoga. Yoga has changed my life in so many ways. The quality of my life has vastly improved. I’m a qualified RYT 200 hours Yoga teacher now (I really did fall in love with yoga that much), so yes, I am practicing a lot of yoga, but honestly, if you have back trouble, I can’t recommend enough for you to incorporate some yoga into your life. It will strengthen those deep core muscles, bring some length to your spine, open your hips, bring flexibility, agility, strength and balance.
And, doing all those great things to your body will of course only benefit your cycling.
Please note: I am not a qualified medical professional. I recommend checking with your doctor before starting a yoga practice. And checking the support manual if you have a medical condition before purchasing or using HoMedic STRETCH Mat.
Thank you to HoMedic for collaborating on this post.