My Physiotherapy Process
This post is centred around my back healing process (which was triggered by a parkour injury to my lower back) but the underlying issue was actually chronic back stiffness/soreness/tightness due to poor posture.
Even before I had the injury, I frequently had tightness in my back and shoulders - according to my physio, likely due to a build up of poor posture over the years. However, because I was young and my body was able to cope with it, the poor posture never resulted in chronic back pain. But then when I had the parkour injury, it acted as a trigger to the area, 'inflaming' it such that the build up of stiffness really began to show. Perhaps if the injury had not happened, I would have continued with my poor posture and many years down the track, began to feel the repercussions.
This post is part mental-notes to myself so I can remember the physiotherapy process and part sharing in case anyone else ever has back pains / sprains / etc and are going to see a physio.
The best part of doing physiotherapy
The best part has been having clarity - on what is going on with my back, what I can do to fix it and also having a clear set of steps on how much exercise I can do each week.
In the worst phases of my injury, I frequently felt frustrated at the health care system and at my back injury. I felt like the doctors didn't care and everything required so much money and I was just confused on what to do. I would rest and then start training and then accidentally go overboard.
Now, it's been great to be able to have a professional I can ask all my questions to. I like having a clear structure of fixing it and also the structure of how much parkour I can do every week (e.g. this week only 30cm jumps, next week 1 meter).
Without this structure, it was quite hard to heal just by myself.
The Injury process
I felt continuous back pain from my back injury for 11 weeks before I started physiotherapy.
Week 0 - 3: Parkour back injury occurs. Continued doing light parkour. However, started practicing backflips and underbars, which severely aggravated injury to the point where coughing, sitting, standing, etc was painful.
Week 3 - 7: Saw a doctor at start of Week 3, doctor recommend resting it for 3 - 4 weeks. Rested back for 4 weeks, doing very easy, no-impact parkour (e.g. balancing). Back pain was minimised, however doing many movements was scary as they could suddenly flare pain in my back (to the point where I'd get dizzy or one time I was trying to stretch my back in the shower, got dizzy, blacked out and fell).
Week 8: Began doing lightweight parkour (e.g. tiny jumps) however did one session where I went sliightly overboard and did a few high-impact jumps. Back pain was reaggravated.
physio first consultation
Isolating the problem:
Physio asked me a series of questions about the back injury and back pain. A few example questions:
- How did it occur?
- Where do you feel the pain?
- On a scale of 1-10, can you rate the pain?
- Do you feel pain radiating into your legs?
- When do you feel the pain?
- Do you ever wake up during the night of have difficulty sleeping due to the pain?
After this, he got me to do a few different movements with my back (e.g. touch my toes) to see what influenced the problem area.
The physio diagnosed the problem as underlying back stiffness (likely from poor posture during uni years, continuous impact from training parkour and travelling in a van for a year) where pain was triggered by the parkour injury. And due to the underlying stiffness, my back was having a hard time healing quickly to 100%
The physio began massaging and putting pressure all along the back. During this process, I gave him feedback on what was feeling particularly tight and bad. He was also able to feel where the stiffness in my back was.
Mobilising is where he would press into the joints along my spine, putting pressure to loosen the joints.
Assigned me some simple, easy exercises to do to help stretch out my back.
Discussed what I could do in terms of parkour/sports for the week. For the first week, I was to hold off doing any parkour until we could be more certain the back was in okay shape.
The full physiotherpy Process
Week 0 - Researching
Researched a few physios in my area. Wrote down a couple, read reviews, called them all to ask about pricing. Chose the one which I felt gave the best response of price and professional.
Week 1 - 8th August
First physio session on Tuesday. Did a thorough assessment first to understand the problem area.
Then did some massaging and pressing upon the problem area to identify with touch what was going on.
Exercises: 3 exercises to do each day and night (10 reps x 2 sets). No parkour/impact allowed that week.
Second session on Thursday, 2 days after. See how exercises went, I asked questions to clarify the process and what was happening. Massaging and mobilising. Felt quite in pain and weak after. Still no sports/impact. Exercise 10 reps x 2 sets.
Week 2 - 17th August
Physio session. Massage and mobilisation.
Exercises: Increased 20 reps x 2 sets. Added new exercises with the rolled towel (targets upper back).
Parkour: Allowed to start small, 30cm jumps.
Week 3 - 24th August
Physio session. Discussed exercises, how the back was feeling. Discussed how exercise was causing pain in a different area so reduced reps. Massage and mobilisation, back felt very mobile and good after!
Exercises: Reduce to 5-10 reps x 2 sets. Changed up exercises to have oscillation side to side.
Parkour: Allowed to go a little bigger, about 1m jumps.
Additional: Did swimming and some yoga during week.
Week 4 - 31st August
Physio session. Massage and mobilisation. Back felt more mobile after but overall back has been feeling increasingly better.
Exercises: Maintain current exercises. New exercises with the tennis ball against glutes.
Parkour: Allowed to continue at current pace and begin to go back to 100%.
Tips I have learnt
Fastest way to heal
The fastest way to heal is to progressively use the problem area until you reach 100% full-weight bearing load. A bad habit people have is to begin avoiding using a problem area because they feel pain when using it. This results in a very slow healing process and may also affect other parts of the body which would have to compensate.
Strengthening your joints
If you'd like to strengthen a particular joint, do exercises which will work on the muscle groups ABOVE the joint. For example, to strengthen the ankle, work out the calf and shin muscles. To strengthen the knees, work out the thigh muscles (quads and hamstrings).
This is what good posture looks like, people. Posture is important!
Anyways thanks for reading and hopefully share with you all soon some of my progress in parkour! :)