My chronic back pain and the L-sit progressions

9 years ago, when I was pregnant with my 2nd, I started having severe lower back pain on my left side. 

I'm talking spasms, temporary paralysis, and pelvis clicking and cracking. Even several years later, I didn't do anything about it because I was dealing with a lot worse at the time, and I just couldn't focus on fixing every single thing that was wrong with me at the same time. 

A week or 2 after my 300 pushups a day for 30 days challenge ended, that I've successfully completed a year or so ago, the pain extended up to my left shoulder and neck. My entire left side was hurting from top to bottom. I went to a physio, had everything checked with imaging scans, X-rays etc, and they threw around words like osteoarthritis, herniated cervical disc and other stuff (all in Portuguese, so translation might have been a bit off, I hope I understood right). I've done some physiotherapy but not enough as the first Covid lockdown was underway.

Long story short, the shoulder pain went away on its own after some rest from regular pushups and just sticking to pseudo planche push ups temporarily, but the back pain still persisted. 

I've always steered clear from lifting heavy, or doing movements that would hurt my back in any way, but I've had this fire inside me to be able to do a pull up, and once I reached that goal, I decided my next goal should be an L-sit pull up. Needless to say, Hanging L-sit Holds were pure torture and made my back pain worse. So as hanging leg raises, and leg raises on the floor, and even daily chores like washing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms or getting my autistic daughter out of the bathtub. 

I was almost ready to give up.

Several motivational YouTube videos later lol, especially one from Bioneer about rehabilitation (I really don't recall now which one, but his channel is not one to be missed, please subscribe to him, the man is a genius), I decided enough is enough, I'm tired of feeling so limited. 

Of course, this is the lower back we're talking about with a tendency to make me paralysed, so caution must be exercised at all times. First, I've done my own research to understand what exactly is the issue. I've ended up with the conclusion that the problem lies with my psoas. 

Talking to friends around, my best friend (who I will always be thankful for) suggested I do the Reclined Hero yoga pose. Now this is not an easy one, so I had to work myself up to it: first with straight arms, then with elbows on the floor, and eventually my entire back on the floor. (Think of Reverse Nordic curls, but as an isometric. Awesome leg exercise by the way, I highly recommend that one too).

I've also adjusted my daily yoga sessions to focus on the lower body (lower back, hips, hip flexors, glutes, leg strength etc). So lots of warriors, camels, pigeons, triangles, bridges, happy baby, spinal twists, toe touches, half frogs and several others. 

After watching videos from Chris Heria and FitnessFAQs (seriously, they're both absolutely awesome), I also started working on L-sit progressions. 

Now obviously it's gonna take me a while to get an L-sit on the floor, but working on all of the above has reduced my back pain to almost zero which was unbelievable! I thought to myself, at this point, it doesn't even matter if I ever get to advanced calisthenic moves, my chronic back pain is miraculously gone!

But lo and behold, I felt comfortable doing hanging leg raises and with more flexibility today, so I thought I test out the waters. I was able to hold a Hanging L-sit for 30s without pain (a first), then done 6 reps of L-sit Pull Ups! I never imagined that I'd be able to do them, let alone in such a short timeframe! (And I'm a heavy girl, 77kg at only 163 cm)

So another goal smashed, but I'm still gonna work on strengthening my lower back to ensure that I stay pain-free, as well as work on unlocking floor L-sit, which is a goal I never thought I'd have, but since I was already working on that in order to solve my back pain and unlock L-sit pull ups, I'm like, why the hell not? Let's keep going.

The lessons for me here are:

  • Stop with the self-pity and work on identifying and fixing the problem
  • Don't accept my limitations, but rather recognize them and work to overcome them
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help (that's a big one for me lol)
  • Be smart about this and with baby steps. If you misidentify the problem, or you don't take the right steps / progressions to overcome the issue, you could make things worse instead. Obviously, when you're dealing with a problem area in your body, the last thing you need is to do the wrong exercise and with an ego to it.

I may be posting soon on my exact regimen for what I mentioned above (the yoga poses, core work, and L-sit training exercises / progressions / mobility stuff) if it is of any help to others as well. 

And I hope to post more in the near future about more progressions unlocked.