“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” — Charles R. Swindoll
As you may have read in my previous post I’ve Got your Back, I struggle with low back pain. I recently went to a spine specialist, Dr. John P. Kafrouni who helped me in a very unexpected way. He suggested that fear was holding me back way more than the pain associated with my flare-ups. I started to cry from frustration as I argued, “But when my back goes out I am frozen. It is like I am in jail.” I was angry because I went to this guy hoping for a magic pill to make this all go away. This coming from someone who won’t even take Advil shows how beaten down I was! I asked him to refer me to the best physical therapist he knows. I was shocked when he told me no. He told me that I have done enough research on what is “wrong” with my back and that I clearly understand how to rehabilitate it at barre3. He had a point.
Instead, he handed me a list of his favorite (and scary) mountain biking trails. I shook my head and told him I don’t do high-risk activities because I am too afraid I will get injured. He responded, “Exactly why you should do this!” When you are flying down a hill you don’t have time to worry about your back and being “frozen” or “in jail”. You have to trust that your body will be there for you and will do just the right thing. Well, anyone who tells me to exercise to solve a problem is my kind of healer! He also had me order P90X to do the Plyometrics DVD. For those of you taking my classes recently, you definitely have heard me channel a bit of Tony Horton. Now you know why!
Long story short, I took his advice and honestly it worked like a charm. In the past when I would start to feel low back pain, I would literally freeze and start a negative cycle of fret and worry. Now when I feel my back start to tighten I shrug it off and do something that empowers me. This mindset shift is working better than anything I have tried.
Now, I am not suggesting that biking and jumping is the cure for injuries or getting through pain. It is important to note that Dr. Kafrouni DOES refer people to physical therapists and more invasive treatments. He studied my MRI, had me do a bunch of exercises and took the time to understand me. He explained to me that out of his 25,000+ patients the ones who do poorly are the ones who wallow in fear and based on his assessment this was my biggest problem.
What I am suggesting is that we all consider how fear drives our decisions and how those decisions undermine our potential. Does it ever really help to make decisions based on fear or does it hold us back? Did you ever not study for a test because if you did poorly you would have an excuse? This decision was driven by a fear of failure versus a love of learning. Fear is connected to an imagined outcome and takes us away from being present.
On the other side of fear we can learn so much about ourselves. I learned earlier this year that my back issues are real. I have a couple of bulging discs. But more importantly, I learned that those pesky discs do not define me. I just got back from a 9-hour flight with my kids in tow. Is my back sore after all that sitting and stress? You bet. Same back problems. The difference is how I am dealing with them. Time to hit the trails!