MindsetSpine Strengthening

Celebrate your suffering…and don’t waste it!

By on December 3rd, 2017

This morning I was enjoying my post-spin class high and sipping my protein drink. Only a few minutes ago, I was struggling to keep up my cadence at high resistance, lungs and legs suffering. I knew that the suffering I had just endured was worth it – efficiently stressing both my anaerobic and aerobic capacity with interval training. In the midst of this endorphin high, I contemplated the importance of suffering in promoting growth and advancement in life.

I see many patients who have recurrent bouts of back pain every few months. They often look for quick fixes, and feel that they are healed once their back pain subsides. I have a stark warning for these patients – don’t ignore this roller coaster of pain. The regular recurrence of these symptoms is telling you something is wrong. Most patients who eventually require surgery have ignored these symptoms, only to have pain more frequently and with more intensity. With proper posture and strengthening, this pain will likely go away and accelerated degeneration of the back will be prevented.

Once you have taken the first step of paying attention to your recurrent pain, it’s important to realize that your improvement will likely require some suffering. You will need to build up atrophied core muscles. These muscles won’t strengthen without stressing the muscle to temporary failure (meaning doing the exercise until the muscular burn is no longer tolerable). Just the same as my spin class was designed to use music, motivational instructor, and smooth bikes to push the comfort of my aerobic limit, it’s important to partake in a spine rehabilitation program that most efficiently strengthens the core in the least amount of time, with the least risk of injury to spinal structures.

To address your chronic pain, you will also need to address the emotional component by developing mindfulness. This will also likely bring some suffering. Repressed, internalized, or unexpressed emotion can cause bodily symptoms. Facing some of these demons will be uncomfortable. However, taking the alternative ‘easy’ route of leaving these issues unexpressed and unaddressed will cause much more long term pain and suffering. Additionally, pre-existing personal health beliefs and poor coping strategies may be hampering your recovery. If you are anxiety-prone or expect the worst in situations, you will be feeding this pain cycle. Although not easy, it is important to use the impetus of relief from pain to live fully in the NOW. To release the regrets and self-pity of the past and stop the fear and anxiety of the future. To be fully mindful and present.

Don’t expect to create real change without discomfort – celebrate the pain, the pain that if correctly channeled will fuel your improvement.

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Kamshad Raiszadeh, M.D.

Dr. Raiszadeh's completed medical school at UC San Francisco, orthopedic surgery residency at UC Davis and his Pediatric and Adult Spine Fellowship at the Hospital for Joint Diseases/NYU in New York City. He has 20 years of experience with the broad range of spine surgery including minimally invasive surgery, complex spinal disorders such as scoliosis and kyphosis, and cervical spine disorders. During this 20 years he has noticed a dramatic increase in patients turning to surgery for treatment of neck and low back pain, but many of them not getting their desired long-term result. He therefore became increasingly interested in improvement and standardization of non-operative treatment. By developing the best aspects of non-operative treatment in an atmosphere of empowerment to maximize the body’s own healing capacity, he noticed that many fewer patients required surgery, and the ones who underwent surgery had much better long term results.

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