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Bulging disc and annular tear, anyone?

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Old
12-03-2013, 09:42 AM
  #1
mzm119
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Bulging disc and annular tear, anyone?

I'm 32 and relatively healthy. Two years ago, I pulled my back out for the first time ever while bowling and it was so bad that I couldn't breath without paralyzing back spasms. Since then, I've pulled my back out a few more times but never as bad as the first time. I always have a dull pain in my lower back but nothing I can't deal with.

About 4 weeks ago, I turned the wrong way during a game and instantly felt the snapping sensation and knew it was a bad one. I got xrays and an MRI which confirmed that I have a bulging disc in L4/L5 and an annular tear.

I was wondering if anyone else has dealt with this and what the prognosis is. As much as I love hockey, playing on two beer league teams, my wife is not too pumped at the prospect of me not being able to bend or move for a week or so every few months.

The doctor's only advice was to strengthen my core and said it might get better, it might not, and that the annular tear will never heal. Am I looking at a lifetime of hockeylessness?

Any suggested treatments? Inversion table therapy, etc.?

Thanks in advance.

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12-03-2013, 09:54 AM
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I feel your pain. I've felt it all of my life.

I nearly herniated two discs in the L4/5 area when I was 15. Xrays revealed a form of spina bifida that I never knew I had.

A motorcycle accident in 2009 caused one of those discs to herniate. Acupuncture helped A LOT. I also see a naturopath chiropractor regularly (the non back cracking kind).

I deal with my back issues on a daily basis as arthritis also set in there a few years ago (I'm 37). Chiro and acu are the biggest help. Wearing a kidney/back support belt helps when physically exerting myself.

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12-03-2013, 09:57 AM
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Have you thought about seeing a chiropractor on a monthly basis? Are you over weight/carrying the big gut? Maybe get a second opinion with a back specialist? Doctors are pretty limited when it comes to the back, their profit margins are also limited since they really can't do any treatment other than surgery. Sadly, this is what it comes down to in modern medicine, I'd get a second opinion and then see a chiropractor for a 3rd opinion and go from there.

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12-03-2013, 10:33 AM
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mzm119
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Thanks for the replies. I actually saw a chiropractor the second night who adjusted me to where I could sit up on my own but my spin was still on a 45 degree angle to the right. It has since readjusted itself to straightish but I am still getting a lot of sciatic pain that makes me worry if I get back on the ice I'll end up back in bed.

I am about 15-20 pounds overweight so I need to lose a few pounds but I am not like some of the guys on my team whose bellies stick out from under their pads. Which is also annoying since these 5'8" 260 pounds guys are able to skate with no problems and I can't even turn around on the ice without pulling my back out, haha.

I saw a chiropractor regularly about 2 years ago when it was first happening but the stretching machine he put me on to realign my spine seemed to weaken my back to the point that I pulled it out just getting into the car a few days after a treatment which is why I worry about going regularly, again.

@BLNY, I was actually told by the chiropractor who took the xrays that I also have a minor form of spina bifida that I was born with. Would have never known!

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12-03-2013, 11:15 AM
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Mine is called Spina Bifida's Arch. Essentially, the affected disc is 'forked' or open on one side instead of being a complete 'donut' around the spinal cord. This creates inherent instability for the discs on either side.

I was told at 15 that contact sports were off limits from then on. I still played some recreational stuff, street hockey, bball, golf, but it never took much to cause pain or discomfort. It was easy to ignore when I was young lol. Improved core strength is always good, but unfortunately the structure is screwed.

I hurt myself at work this passed Summer. Sciatica, hip, etc. Acupuncture helped a lot with it. Seriously. My acupuncturist is in the same office as my chiro which is great. Chiro got me to a certain point, but wasn't 'healing' it enough. Acupuncture treatment got me back to some semblance of normal.

I'll never be 100%, as anyone with back issues can attest. Chiro has kept things at an even keel, along with knowing my limitations. The injury occurred when I over did it. My fault. As it stands now I can move about my daily duties pain free, but have nowhere near the stamina for labour that I had before the injury.

How old is your bed? A new bed will help a lot too.

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12-03-2013, 11:24 AM
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I'm actually not sure what else he told me about the spina bifida because I was in severe pain and couldn't concentrate but I'll have to follow up with him.

I will look into both a chiropractor and accupuncturist. Thanks for the tip.

Our bed is only about 7 months old. We got a memory foam bed that is comfortable for watching tv or whatever but I know that I've been waking up with more pain than usual the last few months. Not sure if that's the bed or just me falling apart, slowly.

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12-03-2013, 11:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mzm119 View Post
I'm actually not sure what else he told me about the spina bifida because I was in severe pain and couldn't concentrate but I'll have to follow up with him.

I will look into both a chiropractor and accupuncturist. Thanks for the tip.

Our bed is only about 7 months old. We got a memory foam bed that is comfortable for watching tv or whatever but I know that I've been waking up with more pain than usual the last few months. Not sure if that's the bed or just me falling apart, slowly.
I got my new bed through Sears. If you buy a hypo-allergenic mattress cover from them you get a year to determine whether or not you like the mattress. Was an easy $60 insurance policy imo. The new bed is firm, but a pillow top. So far it's good. I'd wait to cast judgement until you've had some more treatment though. Get yourself to a good baseline and go from there.

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12-03-2013, 02:09 PM
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Thanks. I'll definitely look into that!

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12-03-2013, 02:46 PM
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I have a badly bulging disc in my L4/L5 with an annular tear, as well as three bulging discs in my neck. I had my back go out 3-4 times over the course of a few years when I was playing baseball, and then once while playing goalie. The pain is deafening, as I'm sure you know.. literally couldn't move my trapezius. I went to a chiropractor who didn't do any xrays or testing, and it ended up hurting me way more than helping. I would leave the place on the edge of my back going out, and it simply wasn't helping.

After years of ignoring the mild pain, it started getting worse again. I went to my doctor who did x-rays (mild scoliosis from sports), and he sent me to a specialist who had an MRI done and they found the above.

I went to two months of PT, which was basically going on a decompression bed that LITERALLY made it so I couldn't get up and walk (freaked out my PT at first), and then I finally hobbled over to the massaging table for a heat pack and slight massage. It seemed to have some positive effect on me at first, but eventually it wore off and I was back to pain, and I wasn't confident in my physical therapist.

The best thing I ever did? I got an elliptical. Now when I have back pain I spend 10-15 minutes on the elliptical, and it all opens up and feels fantastic.

Now, that said, I was on an anti-inflammatory for the last two months for my elbow, and my back felt fantastic, lol. Unfortunately I can't take the medicine again (something about internal bleeding, lol), so I'm back to a stiff and slightly hurt back. I need to keep doing the elliptical, which I have no doubt will help, though I'm slightly concerned that I'm starting to get slight numbness in my left butt cheek, which apparently can be a sign of the problem getting worse.

If they could guarantee me that I could continue playing goalie after surgery, I'd get the damn stuff removed already.

Anyway, good luck to you, and I hope it works out.

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12-03-2013, 03:21 PM
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I too feel your pain. I ruptured L4/L5 two years ago, as well as another a few vertebrae up. Two years later and it's finally coming around but it's something I'll always be aware of and have to live around especially if I don't end up getting surgery. Driving is a killer and I just resumed playing sports like golf although I haven't tried squash yet. Ironically I was able to go back playing hockey (just rec) within two months after it happened as standing and skating wasn't really an issue. Shooting and agility aren't the same but that's life. Definitely should have waited longer but I got through it so whatever.

They say you should wait two years before looking into surgery if you are still "functional" as it sometimes takes that long for the ruptured disc to harden enough to support the vertebrae properly. With mine I can feel a strong click every once in a while which obviously isn't good. Back support belts can help a lot for sports that don't require a ton of endurance (restrict the lung capacity).

The strong snap you felt was the same for me. I assume mine was the rupture and release of the disc fluid.

I've been looking into disc replacement surgery which is looking like an interesting option as it's supposedly something they do with marines, athletes, etc... I suggest you look into it but I am not an expert on anything other than my own experience.

I wish you you good luck, and a speedy recovery as I know it's hell. On the bright side as people like to tell me "it could be worse."

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12-04-2013, 07:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by intangible View Post
I went to two months of PT, which was basically going on a decompression bed that LITERALLY made it so I couldn't get up and walk (freaked out my PT at first), and then I finally hobbled over to the massaging table for a heat pack and slight massage. It seemed to have some positive effect on me at first, but eventually it wore off and I was back to pain, and I wasn't confident in my physical therapist.
Exact same thing happened to me on the decompression table. I am trying to figure out if an Inversion table would be helpful without so much straining.

If only dealing with the every day pain was an option, I would be fine since I've lived with it for years. I am always worried about pulling out my back though because of missing work, having to lay in bed, etc.

Anyway, thanks everyone.

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12-04-2013, 08:58 AM
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Here are some thoughts...

First of all, it is going to take a long time. Second, it will get better, but not by just making the pain go away. Getting the pain and spasm under-control is job one, but the second part is trying to correct the underlying issues that gave you the vulnerability in the first place.

Dr. Stuart McGill believes that disc injuries are overuse injuries brought on over time, so your twist on the ice was just the proverbial 'straw that broke the camels back' (not that I am calling you a camel).

My best advice is to find a good sport physiotherapist who can help you recover. I would not even think of going back on the ice until you are 100% pain free, you could create even more damage.

I am not saying you have done this, but some others reading the post may have a 'crunch' routine they use in an attempt to strengthen their 'core' and reduce their risk of injury, but this repeated flexion can lead to disc injury.

Once you are pain free or for anyone who is currently doing crunches to try and prevent these injuries, here is are a couple videos that may give you a few ideas...

Part One - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYLlDuyOaKY

Part Two - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLybovl_S0g

I hope that helps a little - take your time to heal, you should be able to get back to playing, but it will take time.

Cheers,
Maria

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12-04-2013, 09:39 AM
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Look into Magnetic Therapy and Acupuncture. Magnetic Therapy is something I recently stumbled upon and is being used by some of the worlds best athletes. I do not know much on it, just that they use magnetic fields to release some toxins in your body off of cell walls and what not. I know it helps with recovery. I do not know much more on that, but look into it.

Acupuncuture is mostly for the nerves. Why not also look into it.

If your constantly doing this to your back then I will have to say that your not very mobile. For example, when doing MMA consistently you may experience bad wrists. The general conception is that you hurt it and that you have to just let it heal until you can do it again. Problem is that most people go back and hurt it again and again even after a full recovery from it.

The issue is that the joints and muscles within our wrists and forearms and everywhere else for that matter is extremely tight and lacks mobility. Mobility is a bit different than flexibility so look into it further.

There are Mobility Work outs you can find on Youtube or Google that could be great for your hips, back and everything else you may or may not have issues with. Try them all. So I do this one for my wrist and within a few days I can already see my range of motion when I do front squats be far greater and thus putting less stress on my wrists and causing any sort of damage.

By "unlocking" these parts of your body, your far less likely to cause any sort of damage.

I mean, if you are doing this from bowling than I have to assume that your not stretching daily and your very immobile. Dont take that as a bad thing really, some of the biggest named athletes of all time had many issues with mobility and flexibility. Just continue to work at it and youll see a difference in your athletics and your overall physical health.

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12-04-2013, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by mzm119 View Post
Exact same thing happened to me on the decompression table. I am trying to figure out if an Inversion table would be helpful without so much straining.

If only dealing with the every day pain was an option, I would be fine since I've lived with it for years. I am always worried about pulling out my back though because of missing work, having to lay in bed, etc.

Anyway, thanks everyone.
Yeah, your case sounds almost exactly like mine. Scary similar.

I was thinking of getting an inversion table, but let's be honest: if we both couldn't get up after the decompression table, what happens if we do the inversion table and then REALLY can't get up? You might be stuck there upside down for hours or worse.

Honestly, what I'd do if I were you is go to a gym and do the elliptical for 10-15 (or 30, if you can stand it) and see if that helps. Most gym places have a free trial thing for a day.. wouldn't hurt to go in there, try it, and see how it feels the rest of the day. Then if that worked get an elliptical for home use. It has worked wonders for my back pain.

Since you also had your back go out, did they do a full back MRI or just the lumbar? They did a full back on mine, where they found my thoracic spine was perfect, but below were the results of cervical and lumbar (I don't mind sharing -- plus, it reminded me that I have three degenerating discs in my neck, not bulging, sorry):

Quote:
Cervical: The posterior fossa is negative. The cervical cord is negative
intrinsically. There are no lesions. The cord has normal size and
contour.

Minimal degenerative disc disease changes are seen at C2-C3, C3-C4
and C4-C5 disc levels. At C5-C6 there are small degenerative spurs.
The disc spaces otherwise are normal. The C6-C7 and C7-T1 disc
spaces are negative. The paraspinal structures are negative. There
is no evidence of lateralizing disc herniation or protrusion. There
is no evidence of spinal canal stenosis.

Lumbar:
The patient has a normal lower conus that is at the T11-T12 disc
level. T11-T12, T12-L1, L1-L2, L2-L3 and L3-L4 disc levels are
negative. These disc spaces show normal signal intensity and normal
intervertebral disc space height. These findings are against the
possibility of significant disc degeneration. At L4-L5 there is
evidence of moderate disc degeneration. There is some loss of disc
space signal intensity. There is mild degenerative retrolisthesis of
L4 on L5. There is mild bilateral facet osteoarthritis at L4-L5. A
small central disc protrusion is seen at L4-L5. This protrusion is
associate with some high T2 signal in the annulus fibrosis and this
is likely secondary to an annular tear.

The L5-S1 disc space is negative. This disc space has normal signal
intensity and normal height.
If they didn't do a full back MRI, I would recommend you at least get the cervical MRI. I think I have two very distinct issues with my back: obvious pain and some loss of motion due to the problems in my lumbar spine, AND then my back going out occasionally thanks to the problems in my cervical spine.

In addition, along with the fact that the pain first happened with bowling, it seems arm actions make this happen more frequently. I eventually stopped playing competitive baseball, only playing vintage base ball now, which is a bit less stressful on my body. I also stopped carrying my goalie bag on my back.. which was stupid to begin with (I did it because the wheels broke). Now I use a wheel goalie bag all the time, though still use a regular bag for skating out.

Anyway, those are my recommendations. Keep updating the thread as you seek treatment and hopefully get better.. I'm interested to hear how your progress goes.

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12-04-2013, 02:27 PM
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@mmountain

Good advice. I will see if I can find a sport physiotherapist covered by my insurance.

@Thesensation19

I'm not immobile, haha, but I am not very flexible. I have large and very tight leg muscles that make it hard to stretch. I don't stretch daily but do stretch for 10-15 minutes before hockey games or if I am about to go for a run or something. I guess I will have to stretch more often, though.

@intangible

I'm not sure if they took a full back MRI. I was in the full body machine but I only discussed the results over the phone with the doctor. I will need to pick them up soon when I find some sort of therapy.

The elliptical stuff would be fine. As it stands now, I can run, if I needed to, walk, sit, etc. with the constant dull pain I have all day but nothing that impedes functionality. This is how it always goes.. dull pain, full functionality, pull back out, lay down for 5 days, pain subsides, repeat cycle. But now I need some more permanent treatment.

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12-04-2013, 02:50 PM
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Like you I am also suffering from a herniated disc, but this is my second go around. When I was 16 I threw my back out reeding on a wrench while trying to help dad change a tire on a tractor, then again when I hurt when my moms car got a flat. The disc (L4-L5) pinched the cyatic nerve and cause a debilitating pain down my right leg. We tried everything you could think of chiro, message, reflexology and even seen a surgeon but they didn't fix the problem. Finally we got a referral to physio and after a summer of strengthening my core and traction (stretching out the back to suck the disc back in) we managed to correct it. Up until last December I had been fine, with only small flair ups, but now another nerve is pinched and I am back in physio. Been there for the last couple months and even thought it isn't fixed yet, I feel infinitely better then I was before and I don't need to rely on antiinflamatories any more.

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12-04-2013, 11:16 PM
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That reaffirms the earlier advice for physical therapy.

I only took the anti inflammatory meds and flexeril after the first night. I try not to take pills, even for headaches. After all, my chubby body is a temple except for pizza and beer.

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12-05-2013, 11:50 AM
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I get a sharp pain in my lower back just to the right of my spine is this kind of what you are feeling? Mines be doing that for a few years now and it's getting bad now. Sometimes when I stand up i cant stand up straight because of the pain and it almost takes me to my knees. I still play and it doesn't bother me when I play. I am thinking about going to a Chiropractor very soon to get adjusted I have never been to one and I'm sure it will help. Wondering if anyone could help or if this is what you are going through.

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12-05-2013, 12:23 PM
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Blue, that's exactly right, though mine is to the left. Skip the chiro and go see a doctor first. Maybe his/her plan will involve chiro, but it's important to diagnose accurately first before treating. Trust me.. I've had this pain for about 10 years now, and I'm only 30.. you don't want this to get worse.

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12-05-2013, 12:27 PM
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When I'm not fresh off of a pulled back, I generally have a dull pain throughout the day, especially bad when I first wake up. If I sit in a car for more than 15 minutes or so, I'll start to get sciatic pain (shooting pain down one or both legs as a result of pressure on the sciatic nerve).

Now that it's been a few weeks, I feel the dull, kind of raw pain more intensely. The only way I can describe it is that it feels like somewhere in my lower back, two dry bones are always rubbing against each other with no fluid or anything to prevent a painful friction.

As far as pain bringing you to your knee, I only have that when I pull my back out and I'm having back spasms which can be paralyzing. When I was at the chiropractor the day after I last pulled my back, I had to have two of the chiropractors there turn me over on the table because I couldn't do it myself. Now that was humbling!

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12-05-2013, 12:36 PM
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The absolute best thing anybody with back pain / back issues can do, and it took me 10 years of throwing my back out 3 or 4 times a year before i learned this, is to get into really good shape, especially your core muscles. Do P90X. Get your abs poking out. The back can only take the strain and pressure for so long. If you want to take the strain off, you have to build up the supporting muscles in the back, and the ab muscles in the front that counter them. That, flat out, is the only way to actually fix the problem. You can take pills, go the chiropractor, and flip upside down on an inversion table. I did all of them and it helps to manage the pain. Couple years ago i had enough, said **** this, i'm done living like an 80 year old in my early 30's, dropped weight, did P90x, started lifting, got into really good shape, and what used to be a 4 times a year problem i haven't had since.


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12-05-2013, 12:52 PM
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That's awesome, pig.. I needed to hear that. My back problems have, as expected, gotten worse as I've gotten bigger. Most of my back problems started at around 200 lbs in college (I'm 5'11", but I was a more athletic 200), and I'm at 230 now. I need that extra motivation to get back down and stop eating crap foods. Good to hear losing weight really would help my back issues, too.

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12-05-2013, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by pigpen65 View Post
The absolute best thing anybody with back pain / back issues can do, and it took me 10 years of throwing my back out 3 or 4 times a year before i learned this, is to get into really good shape, especially your core muscles. Do P90X. Get your abs poking out. The back can only take the strain and pressure for so long. If you want to take the strain off, you have to build up the supporting muscles in the back, and the ab muscles in the front that counter them. That, flat out, is the only way to actually fix the problem. You can take pills, go the chiropractor, and flip upside down on an inversion table. I did all of them and it helps to manage the pain. Couple years ago i had enough, said **** this, i'm done living like an 80 year old in my early 30's, dropped weight, did P90x, started lifting, got into really good shape, and what used to be a 4 times a year problem i haven't had since.
This. But core is not abs via situps.

I've had back problems my whole life. I found Mark Verstegen's book in Oct 2012. It's right in line with Gary Roberts and other hockey trainers, all about functional fitness. After I started doing the exercises in the book (and working on pelvic stability with my PT) my back pain went completely away. Gone.

In May of this year I near herniated myself lifting a heavy box. I got it a foot off the ground and this huge huge pain shot through my body so I immediately put it back down. It took 2 months to get better. Funny thing is, my pain was all in my front ab muscles. I had zero pain in my back. Maybe I'm wrong, but I attribute that to the way my core had developed: Because my core muscles were engaged while lifting the box, they were the muscles that took the brunt of the injury and my back was thankfully spared.

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12-06-2013, 12:38 PM
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@pigpen65.. I followed P90X and ate decently back in 2011 right before I went back to school for my MBA. I was in the best shape of my life and if I had some beers or bad food, it wasn't too big of an issue.

I gained about 30 pounds with my ridiculous grad school schedule, have since married my then girlfriend who has stuck with me through thick and thin (get it?) and now have a more demanding schedule than I had prior to grad school with work, my 6 year old step son, etc. which makes it much easier to eat bad and not find the time to work it off.

I guess it's time to start getting up at 5:30am to work out!

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12-08-2013, 09:27 PM
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I had herniated a disc in my accident in 09. Acupuncture did wonders.

Posture is a big thing too. I wear orthotics when I know I'm going to be on my feet a lot.

Hockey is murder on posture. Pure and simple. Being hunched over has a big impact on hips and pelvis by tilting the pelvis forward (and thus putting even more strain on the lower back). It's so much the norm it's called "hockey player's pelvis" by orthopedic doctors in many circles.

Chiropractic work can improve alignment, being healthy helps too, but keeping that posture and alignment in check between visits is helped A LOT by wearing orthotics.

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