My Game Plan for Beating Back Pain

Coach-Lou HoltzI’m no stranger to strategy. So you have to believe me when I tell you that I tried everything to beat my upper back pain: dozens of shots, two surgeries on my neck and an artificial disc. It’s made two of my favorite things — working and playing golf — battles that I felt like I was losing every day. I’m sure decades of coaching college football and, more recently, the long days on set, in addition to the plane rides to the station’s Connecticut studio, hardly helped my pain. Likewise for the years of noon tee times and pro-am golf tournaments I’ve played in — but those things are what I love to do. And back pain was getting in the way of that.

About six months ago, my back started locking up so badly that I could barely walk. It wasn’t until I went in for a check-up that I was officially diagnosed with spinal arthritis. With college football season around the corner, I knew something needed to be done permanently (and quickly) about my back pain.

My wife, who has been on the sidelines the whole time during my battle with back pain, got a tip from one of her friends in Bible study to give minimally invasive surgery from Laser Spine Institute a shot. And I’m glad I did! I went in for surgery on a Monday, was back at work on Thursday and haven’t missed a day since.

The entire staff at Laser Spine Institute — from the garage attendant to my surgeon, Dr. Michael Weiss — were nothing short of caring, professional and, most importantly, effective. Dr. Weiss clearly explained the underlying causes behind my back pain and how minimally invasive surgery would tackle them. I was up and walking just hours after surgery.

The only downside to living free of back pain has been losing my go-to excuse for a bad round of golf — but that’s a trade this coach would gladly make again.

If my story sounds similar to yours, don’t wait until you’re 78 to finally do something about your neck or back pain. And if you’ve found yourself here, you know who you are:

  • You’re pushing your weight on the shopping cart in the grocery store as you walk through the aisles, just hoping to make it to the checkout line.
  • You’ve had to sit out that final round of tag with your son, daughter or grandkids because you just can’t keep up.
  • The thought of pursuing that next big vacation with lots of sightseeing almost makes it not enjoyable.

I’ve been known to give a speech or two, so here’s my pep talk for those of you losing the battle with back pain:

Stop thinking you’re invincible: Your body is a powerful thing! When you’re just not feeling right, it means it’s time to ask for help. If you don’t, years can go by — precious years that are wasted. One run down the street, one dance with your spouse, one walk with the dog — it all adds up. When your back pain is getting in the way of your life, whether it’s one day or one year, take action.

Listen to your friends: I guarantee you, someone you know has suffered from back pain. In fact, more than 80 percent of the U.S. population suffers from it right now. Friends know what’s best for you, and they can help guide you when it’s time to get help. Ask your friends for recommendations.

Research your options: Asking questions is key. When the time comes to seek help, it’s important to work with your physician to understand the options available to you. A variety of surgical procedures are available to treat back pain, but I chose minimally invasive surgery because it has a lot of benefits: a smaller incision, quicker recovery time and lower post-surgery infection rates. The highlight for me is that it got me back to doing what I love in no time.

Beating neck or back pain once and for all takes a team effort, and I had a great one behind me. Talk to yours to find out what the options are. And when you’re finally ready to do something about your pain, follow these tips to get started on the road to relief, and back to the things you love the most!

Holtz running on field w ND team

Holtz on field


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