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Let Me Save You the Pain

Let Me Save You the Pain

By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

 Many years ago, I had a crushing injury to my back while playing football. This led me down a healing path to reconstruct my own body and rid myself of a nasty Vicodin habit. It was one of the most difficult times of my life, dealing with the physical pain and the mental and emotional depressive state it left me in constantly. Although I was only 25-years old at the time, this part of my life’s journey was an extremely IMPACTFUL one.

Sixteen years later, I think about how these earlier events of my life led me to what I do today. WHO I am today. Pain became part of my story. The nurse coming to my condo twice a day to shoot me up with painkillers. The bed I laid in for four weeks before being able to crutch around the streets of Cannes, France (where the injury happened), in order to go to physical therapy just a half-mile away. The Vicodin. The loss of muscle mass. The loss of my dream to play in the NFL. The fear that I might need back surgery while in another country. The fear of the unknown.

The other day I was reflecting on my injury and how it still IMPACTS me today. I was thinking of all the various treatments and modalities I used then and, how they compare to what we do and have now.

Back then, I tried everything available to me. I really wanted to do all I could to avoid surgery on my three herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and degenerative back disease. You name it, I tried it. Acupuncture, chiropractic, osteopathy, energy medicine, physical therapy, massage therapy, visualization. And yes, pain killers. I popped the “Vike” just to manage my pain. And I did that for nine months.

Then I met my man, Dub Leigh (a gruff old man about 77-years old), who introduced me to his bodywork that he called “Zen Bodytherapy.” It combined Rolfing, Feldenkrais, and energy work. Within six sessions, I had a serious detox, rid myself of my Vicodin habit (haven’t popped one of those since 1996), and locked in on a new dream for my future.

Dub changed my philosophy on healing and performance training. He also changed my life.

This short journey down memory lane is a reminder to me that in some ways we are all just one-step away from injury. From pain. From fear. From change. And for some, from a NEED so great we would try anything to fix the problem, including drugs.

And when this happens, we FINALLY turn to others for help. Doctors. Chiropractors. Personal Trainers. Physical Therapists. Massage Therapists. Yogis. Pilates Instructors.  Trainers specializing in corrective exercise. Nutritionists. Acupuncturists. The list goes on.

They were always there. Always available to us. Ready and waiting with knowledge and tools to strengthen us. To teach us how to take better care of ourselves. To prevent injury. To prevent pain. To live strong, healthy and well.

But most of us wait for an emergency. And then we call for help. Help to heal us – body and mind. And we pray it’s not too late.

You see, we live in a traditional system that is predominately REACTIVE but we need to be PROACTIVE. And so I ask, “Why Wait?” Why wait for a need so great?

My friend, LET ME SAVE YOU THE PAIN. Read the signs. Don’t wait to make a call.

  • Maybe your hips are tight.
  • Maybe your back is locked and it’s affecting your sleep, your energy, and your mood.
  • Maybe you have sciatica pain down your leg and it’s affecting your activities of daily living.
  • Maybe your range of motion is lessened due to tightness in the rotator cuff.
  • Maybe you’re overweight and the excess fat is hurting your joints. Or your heart.
  • Maybe you’re depressed right now.
  • Maybe your hormones are raging and all over the place.

My friend, enough is enough. Today is the first day of your new plan to restore, re-energize and recover. Today you will change your direction away from injury toward wellness. Today, you become the captain of your health and begin your plan to FEEL YOUR BEST.

Permit me to make some professional recommendations that will help you improve your performance and everyday living. Your LIFE. These are methods, tools and modalities that will help you live and feel extraordinary. I will cover a few in this article and will save some others for a later edition.

Note:  And if you are currently in a high-intensity interval training program (like the ones I prescribe), then these restorative measures are even more important to help you recover and re-energize. Together, it’s an ideal combination to help you BE YOUR BEST.

Yoga. It’s over 2,000 years old and a great form of exercise. While there are hundreds of different types of yoga, find a flow that works for you. Hatha. Iyengar. Asthanga (power). Bikram (hot) yoga. Vinyasa. Kundhalini. While traditional forms of strength training often shorten muscle and fascia, yoga helps lengthen the fasica and restore balance. The breath work alone is therapeutic as it calms the central nervous system. Remember, you do not need to be Gumby to do yoga. The purpose of yoga is to help you open your body, creating balance and strength.

Pilates. I love when my athletes incorporate Pilates into their program even when only once a week. Pilates provides full body conditioning to build flexibility, lengthen muscles, and strength legs, abdominals, arms, hips, and back. There are some very specific, unique exercises for the feet, for ankle mobility, for hip mobility, and core strengthening. While Pilates is a great form of strength training for most, I love it for the restorative aspect as well.

Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. Ahhhh. Why do we wait until something hurts to get a massage? Despite hundreds of different forms of bodywork, the bottom line is that soft tissue work manipulates fascia to help restore balance and alignment. A great goal is one hour of massage each week. A minimum goal is one hour of massage a month. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Massage also allows you to disconnect with the “busyness” of life. There’s a lot to be said for that. Simply put, I believe folks who get regular massage are just happier human beings.

Chiropractic and Physical Therapy. Alert. Alert. Alert. You do NOT need to be hurt to see a chiropractor. As a matter of fact, I’m going to encourage you to visit a skilled chiropractor BEFORE you get hurt. Chiropractors can really help your neuro-muscular system as well as your skeletal system. They do far more than adjust the spine.

Nowadays, many chiropractors infuse highly touted progressive protocols as part of their treatment services:  A.R.T. (Active Release Technique), cold-laser therapy, Graston, Kinesiology taping, etc.

Chiropractors and physical therapists can play a pivotal role in helping you perform and feel your best. Their services should not only be associated with recovery from injury.

Foam Rolling. Some call it “poor man’s massage.” I say it’s a “smart ADDITION to massage.” Foam rolling creates self myo-fascial release (myo = muscle; fascia = connective tissue enveloped around every tendon, ligament, nerve, muscle, bone, and organ of the body). You can do this practically anyplace, anywhere. Purchase an inexpensive foam-roller or Grid for less than $40 and use it EVERYDAY. Just 10-15 minutes on the mid-thoracic region, glutes, IT-Band, calves, quads, and lats will go a long way toward soft tissue pliability. This is a GREAT thing.

One of my original mentors, Tom House, taught me something so important when he said, “you are as strong as your weakest link and as efficient as your worst movement.” That means if your hips are tight, you can’t perform your best. If your back is hurting, you need to find out WHY and do something about it. LISTEN to your body and change your routine to address your weaknesses.

You see, I’m convinced that my back injury was the “final straw that broke the camel’s back.” When I was playing football, I didn’t stretch much. I didn’t do much yoga. I certainly didn’t foam roll or get regular massage and bodywork. I didn’t RECOVER. I didn’t RESTORE.

What I did do was a ton of heavy lifting. Power cleans, squats, bench press. Lots of reps. Lots of weight. I did very little core training. Very little rotational training. Very little joint integrity work. Most of my training was uniplanar, despite my position (quarterback), being a multi-planar and rotational activity. I never focused on recovery until I was hurt, and then ALL I THOUGHT OF WAS RECOVERY. Where was the yin to my world of yang?

Today, I wonder what could have been had I done things differently back then. I will never know the answer to this, but I know for sure that the experience of injury and recovery made me a much better coach and trainer.

I share this story for one reason: To save you the pain I experienced. Please don’t wait and learn this lesson the hard way. Take it from me. Take action TODAY. Restore, recover and re-energize to start feeling your best.

Peace and love,



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