Looking Back to Look Ahead

I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while now. This time last year I had suffered an injury to my L5S1 Vertebra.  I had received this over time from carrying tanks, loading and unloading trucks, and from every time I overreached for something in my truck.  It was compounded with every gym session or cardio session I did that didn’t finish off with some basic stretching. And yet I knew I should stretch, but kept procrastinating. Well, finally my back decided enough was enough.

The injury was getting worse and worse every day.  It was making my life miserable every day. Luckily when I was diving, it was not painful at all. The pain was so intense it was to the point whereupon I couldn’t take it anymore and decided enough was enough. Luckily my girlfriend was visiting and is a doctor, so she picked up the phone (on a Saturday) and I had received my doctor’s appointment for one of Montreal’s top spinal doctors for the following Monday.  So the next day off I went to Canada, and to receive treatment.

After the appointment, it was then off to the pharmacy to receive the million different pain meds I was to take that ended up being for 8 months straight. I also had to use a walking stick to move around, something that all the lads back at ProTe seemed to find very funny, along with all my old army mates too.

During my time literally laid flat on the floor in-between icing every 2 hours I researched and researched lower back injuries. And I found it’s so common.  That research figures suggest 1 in every 3 people will have some type of back “pain”. Wow, I was astonished by this information.

My research kept coming around to the same web pages and to one common denominator, the work of Dr McKenzie.  I’ve come to know his work very well since it’s all I’ve been doing all year to help with my back problem.   There are, of course, just as helpful other information on the web, however from seeing physiotherapists in Canada, and speaking to spinal surgeons in the UK, they all recommend the aforementioned McKenzie exercises.



So I started on the track of doing these exercises every day, sometimes 3 or 4 times.  As I literally couldn’t walk, so I would roll out of bed, roll onto the sofa to roll off the sofa, do these exercises then ice, roll onto the sofa and repeat every 2 or 3 hours.  As soon as I could, I received physiotherapy AND osteopath treatments sometimes 3 times a week.  Both making sure I would never suffer this type of pain again.

I then returned to work around 6 months later.  Packing a few extra pounds of course, as Montreal is a real foodie paradise.  And I ate and ate and ate ha ha ha, there are some very unflattering pictures of Rob floating around now I can tell you. And every now and then one of the team members will drop one into the groups what’s app chat just to remind me how much weight I’ve put on. Gotta love hazing!!!!

As all of my students know, I’m a pretty healthy person, eating well, drinking well. Coming from the military, working out eating well is part of my life.  But I try to be a role model (I do say try, as sometimes I’m sure I’m not haha )

We’ve all seen at the cenote the team of divers smoking while debriefing, smoking while setting up the gear, literally smoking while walking to the water in their gear.  We’ve all seen the overweight divers. It doesn’t stand out as being professional or just plain healthy.  Everyone has a choice, of course. And we must all respect that.

Being an instructor in Mexico’s busiest and best cave diving facility means that every day is pretty tough on the body.  0515hrs I’m up for the gym.  After the gym it’s off to work for a day’s diving/teaching loading/unloading trucks etc can be tough. It’s very important for us here at ProTec to give out the message of being healthy and being a role model to our students.  Because if you cut corners on things, you take this bad habit into the water and you may cut a corner that will then bite you in the backside.

So, I’ve been back to work for a few months now, I have some residual pain but it’s going, and now I’m trying to spread the word on being healthier and making time to look after your back.  Not just for diving but for a general way of life.  So, I’m trying to make a real go at becoming a role model and ensuring I no longer have back pain

I’ve made a real effort to change some things that I think will help.  Like I am wearing boots now instead of flip-flops when carrying tanks, so I don’t slip on wet rocks or those wet steps we all see on a daily basis at the cenotes, I am also suggesting everyone does the same or at least try, I really find it helps. Especially in a remote place like Naritz.

I am trying to lift my tanks correctly so to not hurt my back anymore and most importantly I am stretching way more than I used too. I stopped carrying 2 sets of doubles at the same time because “ I want to look strong” I think it’s stupid, and an injury waiting to happen.  I even stopped wearing doubles full stop for last part of last year.

I use a trolley when moving any doubles where possible. Literally trying to analyse everything I do to help correct my own laziness and corner cutting.  One of the biggest improvements I’ve made is splitting my heavy dive gear into 2 boxes.  We all know how heavy that SM rig is plus stages, fins and everything.  Now I use 2 boxes.  Much simpler to carry to and from the truck

What is surprising to me is, the more people I teach the more I hear that people suffer from back pain in some way.  Everyone I talk to who currently don’t have back pain gives me that same look of “I won’t ever get back pain I am special” haha I simply tell them, it’s not if you will get pain, it is a case of when you will get pain.

I exercise regularly (trying to lose the poutine weight I put on in Canada for several months haha), I eat well, stretch a lot more now.  This short article is not a training schedule it is more about trying to get people to incorporate a little “TLC” into their everyday lives.  So, this year I am making a more concerted effort to get fitter, become more flexible and to spread the healthier word as to say.

This year is my year to get fitter and healthier, make it your year too.  Like I said this article isn’t a training program, it is simply to encourage everyone to look after your back and become a healthier you. Especially if you are currently working in the industry or just simply an avid diver.

Someone once said to me “we either pay now with a little sweat and effort, or we pay later with our health”.  Well, I paid now with bad lifting techniques and significant financial loss because I was also amazed to hear that DAN insurance doesn’t cover this type of injury. So if only I had listened to my own body after working out and did a little stretching.

So when you visit ProTec next, you will see me running around making a fool of myself telling people to lift properly, or helping people carry boxes.


Stay safe, be well, eat well, dive well


There are no comments yet...

Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment