As a fit, active young man studying Physical Education at university, Leighton Wood knew about the power of movement.
He was a talented athlete playing high level squash – a physically demanding sport requiring strength, agility and rapid changes of direction.
Unfortunately, while playing a tournament in Zimbabwe, Leighton took one wrong turn on the court. He heard what sounded like ‘someone stepping on a twig’.
The result of one false movement was a fractured vertebrae and ruptured disc in his back.
Thirty-five years later, Leighton thought he had ‘tried everything’ to get lasting relief from the chronic pain triggered by his injuries.
‘People have lots of advice when you have a bad back,’ Leighton says. ‘Everyone’s got an answer.
‘I’ve had two major surgeries, I’ve tried medication and I’ve tried lying on my back.
Despite chronic pain and forced periods of inactivity, Leighton still believed in the benefits of movement and keeping active.
‘I did Phys Ed originally so I knew my way around a gym, and I always had an inclination to keep fit,’ he says.
‘You’ve got to keep active. You’ve got to move as much as you possibly can.’
Leighton also started a general back strength program several years ago which initially had a positive effect.
‘But I’d still get episodes of back pain,’ Leighton says. ‘And it didn’t seem to be having enormous results.’
Eighteen months ago, he ran into a lecturer from his university days, who told him about the getback program’s targeted and specific movement-based rehabilitation.
An individual 24-session program was developed for Leighton, designed to strengthen and mobilise his deep spinal muscles and provide stability through the spine.
With an understanding of exercise physiology from his university studies, Leighton was able to appreciate the unique qualities of getback treatment and how it applies to everyday movement.
He says a critical learning in the program came through his exercises on the flexion (bending forwards) and extension (bending backwards) devices.
‘I’ve done flexion and extension many, many times over the years but critically, the getback devices make you fold forwards and backwards as you do it,’ he explains.
‘In the past to protect myself, I’d always keep my back rigid.
‘That makes you use the large erector spinae muscles on either side of the spine, but you’re not using the vertebral tissue to move.
‘So I learned to move in a curling motion, both forward and backwards, and I think that’s been incredibly important.
‘Because often when I do my back, it’s bending over picking virtually nothing off the floor.
‘It’s not the weight, it’s the movement.’
Leighton’s side to side movement was also limited and he was wary of exercising on the lateral flexion device.
‘When I first saw it I said, “I don’t think I can do this one,”’ Leighton says.
‘I was terrified when I first did the movement in the lateral plane.
‘But in the end, I could do it without any pain with a bit of weight on.’
Leighton says he never would have attempted the exercise without the device supporting him in all planes of movement.
getback devices are designed to control loading through the full range of movement, which ensures that the initial rehabilitation phase focuses on pain-free and highly targeted resistance.
The confidence that the device was supporting his movement was important, as was the fact that each session was supervised by a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist.
‘The fact that there’s someone around gives you that bit of comfort as well,’ he said.
‘I’ve tried every possible thing since I started having back pain 1985.
‘And this is clearly the most marked positive effect.’