A Healthy Back Now Will Save You a Lifetime of Pain Later

It was the fall or 1988, and I was in my second go around at university. The first one having been an abortive attempt at studying Biochemistry.

In high school, I had a terrific biology teacher, Mr. Hadley, who was one of the few teachers who “got” me. He realized I was rather bright, and that my disinterest in much of what went on in class was due to the fact I had  read days/weeks ahead in the textbook, and already knew the material.

Because of this, when I was haring off on some topic or other, he left me to it, actually encouraging private, solo exploration of…whatever. Along with that, I was good in chemistry, and not terribly thrilled by me physics teacher, or my classmates, or my lab partner.

So, I ended up wasting a year pursuing biochemistry, before figuring out that I’m really an mechanical engineer at heart.

Anyway, there I was, sitting in these cramped little writing desks at McMaster, hunched over my notebook, trying to stay awake enough to be able to take legible notes. All of a sudden…


I would sit bolt upright, almost leaping out of the desk. What happened? Stabbing pain in my middle back. It felt like I imagine having a hot needle jabbed into my back would feel.

Young men being not exactly the most sympathetic of creatures, my friends watched this with great amusement. These pains lasted for a while, and then went away. Maybe a year or two.

The real problem is that they went away. Literally. The pain would shoot me upright, and be gone. Then, after a year, it stopped happening.

Problem solved.

Well, no actually, problem not solved. My body froze the area the problem existed in, leading, long story short, to years of therapy, and a lifetime of back problems.

Recently, kid 1 came down from doing his homework, complaining about a sore back. Upon further investigation, I figure he’s headed down the exact road I did. He hunches.

He’s hunching over his schoolwork, he hunches over his phone, he hunches over the games he plays with his brothers, etc.

So I told him the story about my stabbing back pains during first year.

And I showed him a couple of excellent stretches to help fix the problem when it happens.

And I showed him some exercises to help strengthen his back, long term.

And his little brother got him doing a regular weight training routine, a full body workout he can do 3 or 4 times a week, with his family workout buddies.

And he’s got me (with my experience in screwing up my back, and repairing it, too) watching over his workouts to make sure he doesn’t screw up his back whilst trying to strengthen it.

Of all the things I might wish to change about my childhood/youth/young adulthood, having someone to show me this stuff 40 years ago, to help me avoid a lifetime of back troubles, is high on the list.