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Overcoming Degenerative Disc Disease

I’m not a doctor, consult your physician before beginning any exercise or nutrition program.

Here is how I went from being in pain 24 hours a day to completely pain-free!

My Story

My back started hurting when I was 11 years old, and it was difficult to sit at my school desk all day. I went to a chiropractor and started cracking my back several times per day.

At 20, my back hurt all the time. With work, school, and commuting, I was sitting 13 hours per day on average.

I went to a spine specialist on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and the doctor looked at my X-ray for 10 seconds and said I have degenerative disc disease.

With great desire to improve, I asked, “How can I make it better?”

The doctor responded, “Don’t run, jump, or lift weights and it shouldn’t get worse.”

“How long should I do that?” I asked naively.

“The rest of your life” was his cold response.


The Journey

For months I was devastated.

A specialist with many years of education and experience told me I was screwed.

What else could I do but believe him?

For six months I had given up completely on my health and future.

I’m not sure what caused the turning point, but I began looking for a solution.

With YouTube I learned that the hip flexors get tight from sitting. I found the couch stretch and started to feel some relief.

There were setbacks where the pain would get worse for a few days, but I was determined to improve.


The Solution

The solution to my pain was the following:

  1. Stretch

  2. Overcome sedentary lifestyle

  3. Strengthening


Every morning and night I performed the couch stretch for 2 minutes per side.

It took several months for this stretch to open up my hips.

I learned that there must be balance above and below the lower back, and that I also needed to stretch my lats by performing the prayer stretch.

The couch stretch opened up the area below my lower back and the prayer stretch opened up the area above my lower back!


Overcome Sedentary Lifestyle

I avoided sitting as much as possible and applied movement snacks throughout my day.

At my desk job I spent less time sitting and more time in a half-kneeling position or standing.

I also set a timer so the maximum time sitting would not exceed 45 minutes.

When I waited for the train I sat in a deep squat position with my heels elevated, and I avoided sitting on my commute when possible.

At home I spent more time on the ground and less time on the couch.



Doing crunches and sit-ups only made things worse, but I found great relief in training my glutes heavy with hip thrusts and Romanian deadlifts.

The glutes I discovered were a primary key to balancing my tight hip flexor muscles.

The leg extension machine and training my quadriceps too much would worsen my pain, so I focused on exercises that trained my glutes primarily.


Key Takeaways

I now know the primary cause of my pain was tight hip flexors from sitting 13+ hours per day.

The expert doctor I went to didn’t know this.

I’ve since learned that most doctors are dumb and it’s because they’re educated to diagnose and treat with drugs or surgery.

Most doctors know absolutely nothing about mobility, strength, or nutrition.

The Back Mechanic by Dr. Stuart Mcgill is the best resource I’ve found for back pain. This expert has helped more people improve their back pain than anyone else who has lived, and he has many free resources on YouTube I would recommend.

Your individual case is likely different from mine.

I’ve found every person I help with back pain has benefited from the couch stretch, training the glutes heavy and safely, and hanging from a bar.

Hanging from a bar is the most recent discovery I’ve taken from Dr. John Kirsch and this has helped my clients as much as anything.

I’ve provided you with my story and some helpful resources. If you have any questions, please comment below or send me a message.

If you want help on your journey, schedule a fitness consultation.

Hope this helps! - Tom


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