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Get back to… quality of life

More than many other conditions, chronic back pain tends to affect all areas of our lives. Our work, social life, relationships and of course, our mental health and well being.

To his misfortune, Leighton Wood’s back pain had a significant impact on his quality of life for many years.

The pain started when he was a young, fit sportsman playing a squash tournament in Zimbabwe in 1985.

‘I was in the fifth set of a squash match, and it sounded like someone stepped on a twig,’ Leighton recalls. 

‘We stopped and looked at each other and thought “What was that?”’

He couldn’t walk the next day, and was diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae and ruptured disc.

Leighton says he ‘didn’t get a lot of good care at the time’, but eventually recovered enough to start playing cricket again.

In hindsight, he says it was ‘a stupid thing to do’. By the age of 27, the pain was so severe he was taking medication. But the pain killers couldn’t provide any lasting relief.

‘I’d feel crook in the guts until lunchtime and then in the afternoon, I had this terrible back pain.

‘So I had to get something done. In 1995 I had a fusion, which was the only technology approach at the time.’

The fusion helped initially, but seven years later, the pain got ‘really bad again.’

A disc replacement and 12 months of rehab followed and things were better, for a while.

‘I could walk around,’ Leighton explains. ‘But I’d get a pretty severe episode of back pain every couple of months that would lay me out for a couple of days.’

It was hard going for a man who studied Physical Education and enjoyed keeping active as much as possible. While he says there were ‘a lot of people worse off than me,’ the impact of chronic pain on his life was significant.

‘They used to call me the Phantom at corporate functions,’ he explains. ‘I’d make speeches and shake people’s hands and then I’d be out of there, because it would just get really uncomfortable.

‘They’d look around and I’d be gone.’

The effect of Leighton’s back pain, and even the anticipation of pain, was a constant source of stress. The anxiety around an annual three-hour lecture he presented was difficult to manage.

‘It’s the build up – you’re getting stressed and anxious about whether you’ll let people down,’ he explains.

‘Then you’re in front of 30 people thinking “Am I going to be able to get through this?”’

‘So it’s not it’s not just the pain, it’s the anticipation of pain that deteriorates the quality of your life.’

As fortune would have it, a year ago he ran into a lecturer from his student days.

Since completing his getback program, Leighton has been able to return the gym

‘I mentioned my back issues and he told me about the getback program,’ Leighton says.

‘He said the program was getting good results, so I went along to getback at Middle Park.’

getback™ Head of Exercise Physiology Adam Cabble created a 24-session program for Leighton to strengthen the deep spinal muscles and provide stability through his spine.

Leighton says he ended up staying in the program for longer because he ‘felt it was doing me a lot of good.’

‘I’ve tried every possible thing since I started having back pain in 1985’, he says. ‘And this has clearly had the most marked positive effect.

‘It’s changed my life, and that’s no exaggeration at all.’

Beyond the physical results, Leighton say there have been wide-ranging benefits to his ‘quality of life.’

‘Mental health is really important,’ he says. ’It gives you the confidence you need to get through everything in your work and life and relationships.

‘Now there are moments when I think “My god, I could never have done that before getback.’

From having difficulty sitting for longer than half an hour, Leighton recently did a road trip to Cannes driving six hours a day and ‘didnt have any problems at all with my back.

And two weeks ago, he put his back to the ultimate test by presenting his annual three-hour lecture for the first time in three years.

‘I didn’t think about my back once,’ he says.

More than many other conditions, chronic back pain tends to affect all areas of our lives. Our work, social life, relationships and of course, our mental health and well being.

To his misfortune, Leighton Wood’s back pain had a significant impact on his quality of life for many years.

The pain started when he was a young, fit sportsman playing a squash tournament in Zimbabwe in 1985.

‘I was in the fifth set of a squash match, and it sounded like someone stepped on a twig,’ Leighton recalls. 

‘We stopped and looked at each other and thought “What was that?”’

He couldn’t walk the next day, and was diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae and ruptured disc.

Leighton says he ‘didn’t get a lot of good care at the time’, but eventually recovered enough to start playing cricket again.

In hindsight, he says it was ‘a stupid thing to do’. By the age of 27, the pain was so severe he was taking medication. But the pain killers couldn’t provide any lasting relief.

‘I’d feel crook in the guts until lunchtime and then in the afternoon, I had this terrible back pain.

‘So I had to get something done. In 1995 I had a fusion, which was the only technology approach at the time.’

The fusion helped initially, but seven years later, the pain got ‘really bad again.’

A disc replacement and 12 months of rehab followed and things were better, for a while.

‘I could walk around,’ Leighton explains. ‘But I’d get a pretty severe episode of back pain every couple of months that would lay me out for a couple of days.’

It was hard going for a man who studied Physical Education and enjoyed keeping active as much as possible. While he says there were ‘a lot of people worse off than me,’ the impact of chronic pain on his life was significant.

‘They used to call me the Phantom at corporate functions,’ he explains. ‘I’d make speeches and shake people’s hands and then I’d be out of there, because it would just get really uncomfortable.

‘They’d look around and I’d be gone.’

The effect of Leighton’s back pain, and even the anticipation of pain, was a constant source of stress. The anxiety around an annual three-hour lecture he presented was difficult to manage.

‘It’s the build up – you’re getting stressed and anxious about whether you’ll let people down,’ he explains.

‘Then you’re in front of 30 people thinking “Am I going to be able to get through this?”’

‘So it’s not it’s not just the pain, it’s the anticipation of pain that deteriorates the quality of your life.’

As fortune would have it, a year ago he ran into a lecturer from his student days.

Since completing his getback program, Leighton has been able to return the gym

‘I mentioned my back issues and he told me about the getback program,’ Leighton says.

‘He said the program was getting good results, so I went along to getback at Middle Park.’

getback™ Head of Exercise Physiology Adam Cabble created a 24-session program for Leighton to strengthen the deep spinal muscles and provide stability through his spine.

Leighton says he ended up staying in the program for longer because he ‘felt it was doing me a lot of good.’

‘I’ve tried every possible thing since I started having back pain in 1985’, he says. ‘And this has clearly had the most marked positive effect.

‘It’s changed my life, and that’s no exaggeration at all.’

Beyond the physical results, Leighton say there have been wide-ranging benefits to his ‘quality of life.’

‘Mental health is really important,’ he says. ’It gives you the confidence you need to get through everything in your work and life and relationships.

‘Now there are moments when I think “My god, I could never have done that before getback.’

From having difficulty sitting for longer than half an hour, Leighton recently did a road trip to Cannes driving six hours a day and ‘didnt have any problems at all with my back.

And two weeks ago, he put his back to the ultimate test by presenting his annual three-hour lecture for the first time in three years.

‘I didn’t think about my back once,’ he says.

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