My Spine Story: Overcoming to Succeed

Ericka Andersen,
NSHF Director of Digital Communications

It was 2009 the first time I felt pain in my back. Little did I know it was the first day in a long journey to maintain proper spinal health. As a marathon runner and weight lifter, dealing with back pain is especially difficult. Physical exercise and competition is part of my identity. When an athlete is told they may have to consider ending their physical pursuits, it can be devastating. 

Thankfully, spine health community leaders and educators are generally committed to helping people maintain the lifestyles they so love. In my experience, doctors and physical therapists do everything they can not to scare you into thinking you’re destined to give up physical pursuits. 

As technology and innovation move forward, even more options arise to tackle tough spine issues. I’ve gone through a host of different techniques to deal with a disc herniation, sciatica and more. Over the years, I’ve been beyond grateful to have so many choices and grateful to work with professionals who respected and understood that those options are so important for someone like me. 

A few iterations of treatment I’ve gone through:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic therapy
  • Electromagnetic therapy
  • Swimming/water therapy
  • Discectomy
  • CBD oil
  • Massage therapy
  • Inversion table
  • Yoga

As you can see, there’s often more than one answer to a spinal health issue. Sometimes it takes a lifetime of maintenance and pro-active strategies, but I’m committed to keeping myself as healthy as possible. After my back surgery in 2014 — which came after I was in so much pain I could barely even sit down — my doctor assured me I could get back to normal activities within a couple of months. He was right. 

Surgery worked wonders and I was soon back in the gym. I became very intentional about stretching, core work, posture and getting consistent massage therapy. I ran multiple more marathons and accomplished physical goals I had never reached before — personal records and pull-ups, among them. 

Still, my spine would relent back to pain from time to time. Flare ups have been common and I must be quick to take breaks from working out. It’s not easy, but heeding basic tips for maintaining a healthy spine is going to help me stay as healthy as possible for the rest of my life. Back issues run in my family and I’ve watched my Dad and aunts struggle as they age. While I’m somewhat fearful of what the future may hold, I’m incredibly thankful for the National Spine Health Foundation for being committed to research and advocacy for people like me. 

I will not stop searching for new solutions to the spinal issues that plague me. I appreciate NSHF for ensuring the research, advocacy and education to create option is out there.