Just keep moving, even if it's only a few steps. That's what Robert learned is a key to helping his low back pain.
"I discovered that what you have to do is this: You do as much as you can."
Robert has been suffering with low back pain for more than 15 years. There have been several times when his back went out and he couldn't move off the couch for a while.
But over the years he's learned that getting active helpsâ€”a lot. And that's important, because he's a drug counselor, and his clients need him to be there for them.
The last time his back went out, he went to a friend who is a chiropractor.
"He was really good about getting me to do some strengthening exercises for the lower abs and lower back," Robert, now 45, says. "And he got me to the point where I could manage it at home."
Exercise was the key
Robert hasn't been back to the chiropractor for almost 3 years, not even after he hurt his back mowing the lawn last summer. He was out of commission for a few days, but "I got back into shape within about a week and a half," he says.
"I started out with icing my back, and alternating ice and heat, because that's what my chiropractor had me do before. Plus I'd do some stretches and some of the exercises that he had given me," Robert says.
"I did a couple days of that. On day three, I started to add some walking and some more exercise into my routine again. And then I really recovered quickly."
When his back starts to bother him, he realizes that he's been slacking off on his exercise routine. "So I start doing them again and then I'll feel better."
One step at a time
Now Robert is trying to make exercising a daily habit. His goal is to do his exercises every morning before breakfast and to take a half-hour walk every evening. But on the days he just doesn't feel like it, he doesn't beat himself up.
"I think it's all about taking it one step at a time, one day at a time. If I get up in the morning and I just don't feel like facing those exercises, I tell myself I'm just going to do one of them and then go down to breakfast. Usually that gets me into the swing of things, and I just keep going until I've finished all of them."
He does the same thing with his evening walk. "Sometimes I just tell myself I only have to walk to the end of the block tonight. I'll just do as much as I can. And lots of times I just keep going because I'm out in the fresh air and I'm walking, and it just feels good."
Robert says he was frustrated at first, knowing that he had to make a change in his lifestyle to make exercising and walking a daily habit.
"But I see now that it does make a difference. And that is always in the back of my mind now. My brain says, 'Do it or you'll regret it, buddy.'"
This story is based on information gathered from many people facing this health issue.