Getting Back to Your Fitness Routine in the New Year

Authored by: Dr. Christopher Good

You can’t get ‘back’ to your health and wellness goals if you have major back pain and more people have that now than ever. The pandemic has led to increased back and neck pain between the challenges of working from home, getting to the gym and handling increased stress.

In our history of 30 years in practice at Virginia Spine Institute, we treated the highest volume of new patients in 2021 than ever before (a 25% increase compared to last year). But we’re also witnessing a fear factor: many patients are afraid to seek help and undergo treatment because they’re worried about how active they can be following treatment or back surgery. 

Heather Williams is an example of what’s possible when you seek help. She had back pain for 9 years – but was able to manage it with steroid injections, physical therapy and other measures until 2018, when it became so debilitating, she couldn’t even walk at times. When she was living in California, some doctors  suggested a spinal fusion. But when she came to see me, I didn’t believe that was the right option for her. 

I suggested trying stem cell therapy at a time when she ranked her pain at an 11 on a 1-10 scale. Stem cell therapy is a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure that utilizes the body’s natural healing process. This safe and effective treatment rebuilds damaged tissue, eliminates pain and heals injuries by taking your body’s own stem cells directly from your body’s bone marrow, and then injecting them into the area of your body that is injured or damaged, I am able to create a natural environment for healing. 

I did one round on Heather in 2018 – treating several locations. This type of therapy doesn’t produce overnight success – but within two weeks she says her pain started to lessen. In a few more weeks, she was able to slowly return to exercise, starting with simple workouts and working her way up to ab and core strength training. Within six months, her pain was down to a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. Now, several years later, she remains pain free. 

A competitive swimmer in college, Heather, now 40, is back to swimming – even in open water. Once concerned her back couldn’t handle cardio, today Heather is kickboxing and doing an intense boot camp three days a week. She’s become a fast runner and even set a personal record in her most recent 5K. Most importantly, she says, her back didn’t hurt at the end of the race at all. 

“If you asked me in 2008 if I would ever return to this level of exercise, I couldn’t have even dreamed it given the intense pain I was in,” Heather says. “My life has taken such a positive turn. I really do credit the stem cell that kickstarted me on this path. My life is so different. I’m doing stuff I couldn’t even do in my late 20s. It’s amazing and I can’t tell you how happy I am.”

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