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Skull-Stomping Sacred Cows: Doctor’s Notes Don’t Apply

February 4, 2019

One of the books mentioned in this week’s “From the Library” article is called “Warrior Pose,” written by Brad Willis. Mr. Willis was a correspondent for NBC for a number of years who suffered an injured back, ignored it in the interest of pursuing his career, and ended up with surgically irreparable spinal damage. He was told he would never walk again. At roughly the same time, he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer of the neck, and told he had less than two years to live. He wrote the book ten years after that, and is still alive today, as far as I can determine, which is almost twenty years after the diagnosis.

He also picked up the practice of Yoga (traditional yoga, not the pop culture spandex and gym class yoga most people are familiar with), and managed to completely rehabilitate his back on his own. The catalyst for his rehabilitation, he claimed in his book, was his then two-year old son’s plea for him to “Get up, Daddy!” because the lad wanted Dad to come outside and go to the beach with him and his friend and the friend’s dad.

The reason I bring this up, is because I was having a conversation with one of our people the other night. Despite being active in a very physical martial art for the last twenty years, and a high school athlete before that, and having been preaching to people for at least a decade that they needed a “BugOut Bag,” and food storage, etc, “Bob” managed to get VERY overweight. He is aware of the fact, and has started losing a significant amount of that weight through very effective better dietary practices, and a significantly less effective PT regimen.

The problem with the exercise regimen(s) is his weight, combined with a fall-related injury some years old resulted in the typical middle-age lower back injuries. My suggestion was “Start with kettlebell swings.”

Of course, to a lot of people, the idea of doing the very hip- and lower-back centric ballistic exercise of kettlebell swings might seem like a bad idea for a dude with lower back issues. My experience has been the exact opposite. I’ve broken my back twice. Admittedly they were both “minor” fractures (as “minor” as a BROKEN FUCKING BACK can be…..). In both instances, the recovery process eft me with significant atrophy of lower back and hip strength from lack of use for some months. In both cases, kettlebell swings, starting with a light kettlebell of 25# or so, hastened the rehabilitation process dramatically. Now, it’s not entirely painless. Even today, if I’m not exceedingly conscientious about my form, and keeping my torso taut during the execution of the exercise, I end up with significant lower back soreness and strained tendons or ligaments. Of course, I’m also swinging anywhere from a 70 to a 100 pound kettlebell, but…

I also have a spot on my upper back where the ribs tie in that was injured in a fall. I was about six feet off the hard packed ground, fell, and landed flat on my back. I separated three ribs. The same issue arises if I lose form and tightness during any pulling exercise (kettlebells, snatches, swings, cleans, deadlifts, etc).

This really isn’t about me though.

Our guy has been to his chiropractor. He “likes” his chiropractor. His chiropractor specifically recommended against doing kettlebell swings, apparently. Of course, every single exercise regimen published in America today, whether online, in print, or on video, very explicitly advises people to “Consult your personal physician before beginning this or any other exercise regimen!” Ignoring the fact that publishers’ legal departments demand that disclaimer in a litigation happy society, I don’t even disagree with it, especially if you’re suffering from a chronic injury or illness.

Here’s the thing though: If your doctor (for the record, for this article, I am specifically including doctors of chiropractic, and general practititioner physicians) says “No. You should not do this exercise regimen!” and then doesn’t hasten to point out not only WHY you should avoid this specific exercise regimen, AND guide you to an exercise regimen that you can use to build towards doing one that will allow you to reach your goals, then you need to fire the cocksucker. At that point, you know he’s not interested in you getting better. He’s interested in getting paid, and if he teaches you to get better, he’s not going to see you as often.

Your doctor is not a god. He’s not THE God. He’s not A god. He’s not even a minor demi-god, probably. He’s not omniscient. Unless he is a sports medicine specialist, there’s a damned good chance he lacks even continuing education coursework relevant to physical therapy and sports medicine. That means, despite his degrees and titles, he doesn’t have a goddamned clue what he’s talking about. For fuck’s sake, there are still doctors out there who insist tourniquets are a bad thing in emergency medicine, and should ONLY be used after direct pressure and pressure point methods have been attempted to stop arterial bleeding!

Second, your doctor is not your friend. Even if he is your golf/poker/drinking buddy, when you step into his office—unless he’s a really shitty doctor—you’re not his pal. You’re his patient and his client. That’s not to say he’s going to give you bad advice, or try to upsell you on shit you don’t need. It means you should feel free—and he should even suggest it, especially if he is a friend outside of the office—to get a second and even third, opinion, without feeling like you are “cheating” on your doctor.

You need to be fit. Period. Full-stop. End of story. I don’t care how you specifically define “fit,” you need to be able to meet that definition. If you find yourself caught in the midst of an angry mob, and are not fit enough to fight your way to the edge of it (having the technical ability to do so is a different issue), and then run several blocks to safety, you’re not “prepared.” But, perhaps you’re less “prepper” than that. Perhaps you’re only worried about dealing with asocial violence on the personal level of robbers/muggers/etc.

The gun world tends to be cyclical, just like everything else in human life, and one of the trends that seems to be returning, is the emphasis on pointing out that many—most—self-protection situations are not particularly well-solved with guns. The caveat to that of course, is the unspoken reality that, if you’re going to convince some skell to not take your money, life, or dignity, without shooting him, you’d better be fit enough to—if not actually fight him off—convince him that you COULD fight him off.

Another increasingly vocal message in the training industry is the very real fact that medical training is infinitely more important and commonly useful than being a IPSC Grandmaster with a blazing fast draw and sub-quarter second splits. Are you fit enough to carry, or even just drag, your spouse, partner, or kid, and drag them to safety, where you can begin to apply aid? It needn’t even be a shooting situation. Car wrecks happen all the time. You don’t want to be performing first-aid on someone, in a car with smoke bellowing out of engine compartment, and the growing smell of leaking fuel. You’re going to want to get them to a safe place to continue aid. Are you fit enough?

There’s lots of people that point out that “running away” is a better option than getting in a fight, even if you’re justified in shooting the dude in the face. Are you fit enough to sprint 10 or 20 or 30 or more yards, fast enough to actually effect that plan? What about while dragging a scared spouse or child with you?

I don’t give two shits what old injuries you are suffering from. I don’t care what your favorite doctor/chiropractor/acupuncturist/Chinese folk medicine practitioner says. If they say, “Don’t do this exercise,” but don’t immediately follow that statement with some suggestion of what you CAN do, that involves PROGRESSIVELY MORE CHALLENGING EXERCISES (seriously, if they give you AN exercise, and don’t tell you when and/or how to progress from there, they don’t know what the fuck they are talking about and are simply humoring your request), you need to fire the fucker. Specifically, try looking for a sports medicine practitioner.

If you’re suffering from an “old injury” that “limits” what you “can” do, and you cannot afford GP, let alone a sports medicine specialist? That’s okay. An increasing number of people in this economy cannot, despite ever present claims of recovery. I cannot. We leverage networking, barter, and the gift exchange economy for both chiropractic care and for pediatric care for the kids (and, for the record, we have an amazing sports med chiro, and an equally amazing pediatrician).

That may not be an option for you though, for any number of reasons. I get it. So, start slow, go slow, but continually progress. If you stall or hit a wall, step back a couple steps and try something different to get around/over/under the wall, instead of just trying to bull your way through the wall.

Get on YouTube and find a beginner’s Yoga series, and work your way through it. At the same time, get your hands on Paul Wade’s Convict Conditioning book about gymnastic style strength-bias calisthenics. Start with the beginning, and follow the program as far as you need to. Start walking. Walk 100 yards, every single day for one week. For the second week, increase it to 100 yards, twice, with a minute or two break in between. For the third week, increase it to three intervals of 100 yards. When you’re doing 100 yards ten times, change it to 200 yards, and drop the number of intervals to 4 or 5, and build back up. When you can do 10 of those, start alternating. One day, do 10×200, but run or jog as much of each interval as you can, before you start walking. On the other day, increase the distance to 400, then 600, then 800, then 1000 yards. Add a loaded backpack.

If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you know all this. Whether you’re doing it or not is immaterial to me, but you know WHAT to do. You probably know HOW to do it by now. It’s up to you to decide TO do it. Nobody cares about your old injuries. There are dudes running missions with SOCOM with prosthetic fucking legs….and you can’t do a fucking push-up?

My seven year old daughter does 30 pushups. Her form isn’t perfect, but she does full-body pushups, several times a day. She’s SEVEN! And, she’s a GIRL! What the fuck is your excuse? If you can’t do a single full-body push-up, let alone 10, 20, 30, 40, etc, and you’re a grown-ass man, you are not “prepared” for a goddamned fist fight in the Wal-Mart parking lot, let alone a firefight in the Apocalypse.

Just do your fucking PT. Stop making excuses.

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9 Comments
  1. I fully agree with you on this.
    I have lower back problems – damaged discs L-3 through S-1 not surgically repairable.
    Shoulder injury that tore rotator cuff and repair failed.
    (Among a ton of issues from crushed lower leg a few decades ago)
    6 years ago I ended up in hospital for 6 weeks after extensive lung surgery due to pneumomia/ lung infection.
    To re gain strength,
    I did push ups, pull ups, incline sit ups, incline and decline push ups, and dips that worked to get strength back.
    Took 12 weeks to get back to point I was before that 6 weeks of laying in hospital bed.
    Dr told me all those things would only make me hurt worse.
    Wrong – made me hurt less – a lot less.

  2. James Compliment permalink

    Great post, as usual. Fuck my sob story, I went from “fit to fight” to physical fuck up over an 8 year period. It’s not easy making a comeback but it can be done. I have a long way to go (I really fell a long way) but I know it can be done and that I’m the only one that can fix what I’ve broken.

    Thank you for your input and your effort in writing your books and blog. I find them very inspiring and straightforward. In the age of quick fixes there just aren’t any. It requires focus and work. I do get quick results, though. I improve myself every training session. My mindset, my fitness, and my attitude improve everyday and I don’t think I can ask for more than that.

  3. Roseman permalink

    The human body is an incredible machine which is capable of repairing itself from many physical injuries if given the proper exercise and nutrition.
    I fell backward on the ice and hit my head very hard. This caused a whiplash injury that did not abate for almost three years. I also had two bad shoulders that were deemed non surgical candidates because the tears were less than 50%.
    My Dr wanted to give me shots and recommended complete rest.
    The chiropractor wanted me to visit him weekly.
    I did neither.
    I decided to add chin ups and pull ups to my modest exercise routine. At first I could hardly hang on the bar as the pain in my shoulders and neck was difficult to manage. I toughed it out though, and in about six months time, I was able to do ten chin ups or pull ups.
    Best of all, I have no shoulder or neck pain and have full rotation of neck and shoulders.
    I now do 2 sets of ten chin ups five days a week as well as my other exercises.
    Over the course of the last three years, I have lost thirty pounds also.

  4. Ranger Rick permalink

    Your articles always leave me with a smile. 100% correct. Ranger Rick, North Idaho. Give the bride a hug for me.

  5. I’m going to come right out and say it. Right now, your 7 year old daughter could probably whip my ass. On on exactly the same journey as your friend “Bob”. Very athletic in high school (football, swimming, gymnastics). Active in martial arts and running for a number of years after. (I was a lot better at the martial arts than the running. Running sucks for me.) Some (but not enough weight training.

    And then a combination of both injury and illness fucked me up big time. Graves Disease in 1999 (a autoimmune thyroid ailment), a fusion/discectomy at L4/L5 in 2004, and then most recently, a severed posterior tibialis tendon in 2017 … and my weight has ballooned way, WAY up. I (re)joined Weight Watchers 3 weeks ago, and I’m down a little over 10 lbs already, but have a long way to go. But I am committed to that process. But I have despaired a little at the walking thing. As recently as a couple of years ago – before I severed that tendon – I was walking 4-5 miles a day. Now, walking across the Cabela’s parking lot is a big deal. I have a Ritchie brace for the ankle, and prescription orthotics which help, but it is not the same as it used to be and I just sort of hobble around. But I am NOT giving up on this process.

    So….. what is a “kettle bell”, and what kind of exercises does one do with them?

  6. lastmanstanding permalink

    True enough…why the fuck anyone would be in a mallwart parking lot is beyond me.

    Unless you buying cheap ammo. Local, local, local.

  7. Great read and spot on…Start with one pushup if you have to on your knees if you have to but just start dammit…

  8. Son of Nun permalink

    I had an L4 and L5 injury that involved horrible sciatic pain. Couldn’t get anything to work. 8mos of terrible pain, like pull over the car and lie in the grass crying from the burning pain. MRIs, PhsTherapy, etc. Nothing helped.

    Started doing DDPs Yoga for regular guys–YRG (kinda silly, but the dude is a yoga animal) and within 2 weeks my limp was almost gone and within a month I was basically pain free.

    Best part, is he shows you how to make it easier or harder and he’s got videos out that are right up there with Convict Conditioning when it comes to physical power.

    It’s “Yoga” without the inner power, third eye, whatever.

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