Written by Abbe Ciulla
Introduction: Back Pain on the Rise
To say "back pain is common" is an understatement. It is the most common cause of job-related disability and one of the leading contributors to missed work days (second only to the common cold). According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 84 percent of adults will experience back pain or injury at some point in their lifetimes. For some, it will be temporary and mild to moderate. For others, it will be something that we are mindful of through the rest of our adult lives.
With such prevalent statistics, you would think back injury discussion would be commonplace in the practice space. Ah, no. In fact, in all my years of attending classes- only one, yes one, teacher asked me if I had a history of back injuries or current back pain, which I did. And it was at the Back Pain and Scoliosis Center in NY.
Don't Ask. Don't Tell.
So, why aren't we talking about back pain and injury in the classroom?
As I said before, in my years of attending fitness or yoga classes, the subject was rarely brought up by either myself or the instructor. It was like this unspoken agreement- You're not going to ask me about my back pain, and I'm not going to tell you about my back pain and we can just pretend everything is hunky dory.
Being a student with a back injury, it can be hard to speak up. We don't want to stand out or be labeled as the injured student. Students, transparency is key when it comes to injury prevention and maintenance. Teachers, talking about back pain is scary, I get that. We often we just feel that back pain is too complex a situation. We don't want to put our students at risk, we don't want to mislead them.
But here's the bottom line- students are showing up to your classes with injuries. They are coming to your class with real pain. They are looking to you for care.
We need to start learning how to have a honest and intelligent conversations about back pain, and then how to modify and variate our movements to accommodate pain or injury.
Three Honest Conversations: