[Guest blogger Shea Brock shares her advice for back pain sufferers.]
There are quite a few statements I don’t like to hear people say in regards to hooping, but the one that tops my list has to be: “I can’t hoop because I have back problems.” Yes you can. I am living proof that’s just not true. Two years ago I woke up in excruciating pain, barely able to get out of bed. Having been a nurse for close to 16 years, I chalked it up to a pulled muscle. When the usual ice, rest, and ibuprofen didn’t work though, I started seeing doctors. Many, many doctors. All of them claiming I had “pulled a muscle” or “torn a ligament”. After four months without answers I finally saw a specialist, had an MRI and was told I had 3 bulging discs, a pinched nerve and degenerative disc disease. I was not a candidate for surgery and I would never get better, only slowly worse.
Devastated by the news, I tried drugs, acupuncture, physical therapy, massage therapy and spinal injections. Nothing totally got rid of my pain. In fact, I was in pain constantly. Sometimes the gnawing ache would wake me in the middle of the night. I hobbled around hunched-over like an old lady at 34-years-old. I couldn’t work more than a day or two at a time and even then I could barely move by the time I got home. I sat back and listened to people continuously tell me what my limits were and watched as things I loved were slowly taken from me. I started to spiral into a deep depression. I don’t know what happened or why, but one day I decided I had had enough.
Coming to terms with my diagnosis, I made a strange peace with it. I knew that pain was going to be something I’d have to deal with the rest of my life, but it was up to me how I dealt with it. While I mourned my old life, I decided it could still rock. I decided to fight and to tell you the journey was easy would be a lie. It was hard and it’s a challenge I face everyday. Here are my tips for hooping in spite of back pain.
1) Talk To Your Doctor: Make sure it is ok with your doctor. Most doctors will tell you that being sedentary makes your back feel even worse so do some activity, get moving, do something. Even if they say waist hooping is off limits you can probably still hoop with your hands.
2) Stretch Stretch Stretch: I never knew the importance of stretching till I made it apart of my practice. It helps me go longer and with less pain. It really limbers up your muscles and increases your flexibility, thereby making you a stronger hooper. Hooping without stretching is like jumping into a freezing cold shower.
3) Take It Slow: When you are first starting out take it slow. Don’t immediately try to rock it out for an hour. Start in 5 minute increments and work your way up. Slow and Steady. Be the tortoise. I personally have to go slow and even then I can only do certain moves for a few minutes or I will pay for it later. I work on something for a few minutes and then I back off. I can always come back to it later. Little increments are progress.
4) Recognize Your Limits and Forgive Yourself: You’re not going to being able to do everything and that is just okay. I love to watch Anah and Brecken move. I try not to be envious, but sometimes it sneaks in. I love to watch people do barrel rolls, booty bump their hoop and do vertical chest rolls. When it comes to these moves though I really have to know when to draw the line. Know your limits and try not to judge yourself against anyone else.
5) Keep It Equal: Don’t forget to practice on your non-dominant side as well, especially when waist hooping. For those of us living with back pain it is important to work our spine in both directions. You want to make sure you lube up that spinal column real good with all that mushy fluid.
6) Be Open Minded: Focus on moves that won’t involve your back and you can hoop even more. Legs, arms, almost anything off body is good to work on. I like my mini-hoops when it’s an upper body kind of day. If you’re having a sore back kind of day work on your arms. Fling those hoops in the air, throw em in the trees. Find some awesome go-to moves to work on during an off day. Always give yourself options, challenge yourself.
7) Stop If It Hurts: Remember, hooping shouldn’t cause you pain. Occasional bruises, yes, but pain? NO. If it hurts stop, don’t do it. While that might be common sense, it is hard to remember when you are really feeling the flow to stop, but stop you must. Listen to your body and treat it nice. I try and take some ibuprofen or Tylenol before I hoop and afterwards I try and ice my back to decrease inflammation. Take your vitamins. Drink lots of water. Eat a balanced diet. Treat your body to a nice massage or a pedicure every once in awhile as a big thank you.
My hoop practice is not perfect, but it is mine and mine alone. I can’t hoop the way I want some of the time, but I can still hoop. I am becoming the best hooper that I can be, wonky back and all.