not so much


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Motonomics: Back to Basics

Motonomics: Back to Basics
By Jeremy Galvin

Woke up one morning in March of 2012 with an unusually stiff back. Went downstairs to make breakfast for my father and myself. We were standing by the counter in the kitchen when I felt the most painful electrical shock feeling shoot from my lower back, all the way down the back of my legs. The sensation was extremely painful and my legs gave out from underneath me. Luckily my dad was standing next to me and caught me or I would have hit the ground. I had never known what it felt like to have my lower back muscles lock up like that and then fail. I had a new understanding of what my massage therapy clients could be possibly be feeling when they talked about back pain and their “back going out.”
I was now one of the many, introduced to the world of chronic back pain. I had injured my back 9 years earlier in Hawaii, but had managed to keep it healthy with adequate exercise and body movement over the years. The injury had finally caught up with me and had forced me pay attention even more closely to my lower back.
Of the few thoughts that went through my mind (besides how do I get my low back muscles to calm down) was how I going to ride my motorcycle to work tomorrow? The pain was so intense at the time, in my mind I was faced with idea of maybe not be able to ride a motorcycle short term, long term or never again. Having no health insurance at the time, I had return to the alternative ideas and tools I have used to treat and help my clients.
A few minutes later, I was lying on my back on the kitchen floor beginning the healing process with all the modalities that I have studied and practiced the throughout the years: Massage Therapy, Reiki, Cryotherapy (icing) breath work, Yoga, mindfulness, Kinesiology, anatomy, and even a little martial training. When you are lying flat on your back on the floor in pain, you are forced to listen to what your body is telling you right now. It’s a time re-set to go back to basics.
After about an hour on the floor, I made my way slowly back to my feet and went outside to lie in the sun. The sun helped too. By the end of the second day, I was slowly returning to my upright life. Took a 20-minute motorcycle ride to see how my back felt on the bike. It hurt a bit, but the ride let me know I was on the right track and I would probably be able to ride again.
Fast forward to the present. My back is feeling much better, doing more yoga, and breath work. Also paying closer attention to strengthening my Abs and stretching my lower back and glut muscles. Have been working with the idea of helping others get who are injured get back onto their motorcycles as well. I have unfortunately watched a lot of folks sell their motorcycles because of frustration with chronic pain.
I have recently been working with my friend John who is a motorcycle and car mechanic. John is also a motorcycle enthusiast and is experiencing pain and discomfort while riding after a certain length of time. Old injuries and patterns in his body are preventing him from riding for his motorcycle for transportation and enjoyment. John and I have been looking at the concepts of body mechanics, massage therapy, stretching exercises and motorcycle ergonomics to try and address his discomfort. We took 3 different motorcycles sitting stationary and looked at each of our body positions on each bike. From different angles we noticed how our feet sat on the pegs, the relationship of the hands arms and shoulders to the handlebars, head/neck position, eye position, knee position, and the arch of the back. Taking all of these ideas into account plus body mechanics off the bike, we currently looking decreasing John’s pain and discomfort on and off his motorcycle.
Looking at these ideas has also gotten me to think about my own ergonomics on my two motorcycles to improve my riding comfort. I made a few small changes to each and already noticed quite a difference in comfort. The Suzuki DR 650 got a new seat with a gel insert. The old BMW got a small windshield and a sheepskin seat cover for the seat. With the technology out there, you really don’t have to suffer on your bike. Adding things to your bike can become pricey, but the old question of how much is your health and sanity worth comes into play in my mind.
So for all of us out there who ride and suffer with some sort of pain or discomfort, there is hope. First, educate yourself about your own injury. Do research on what it is you may have and how others have addressed these injuries. Talk to many different professionals: Doctors, body-workers, Physicals Therapists. Don’t limit your body and recovery to just one idea. There are many options out there rather than sitting on the couch assuming that the worst-case scenario has to be your scenario. Second, realizing that small gradual steps maybe the way you have to go. You may have to challenge your body with small movements and achievements on a daily basis. Finally, be patient with your own recovery. The body is an amazing machine, but sometimes recovery is a slow process. Most of us want to be better now and back into our routine as soon as possible, but healing can take time. You may have to be reasonable with your goals based on the severity of your injuries. So stay hopeful, smile and take care of that body. It’s the only one you got!


  1. I think there is a parallel within your writing to that of Henry Rollins essay 'The Iron'; in which the pain and the healing are similar to the the pain of strengthening the body. Time really is the key to getting back into being as you were or want to be. It all comes to a down to a mental state of understanding, either the pain or the cause. Good show!

  2. its good to have a mental understanding indeed, also the consistency of physical practice brings things into more of a practical progression.
    Ah, all three are a challenge to practice on a consistent basis.

  3. I really enjoyed this post, j! It reminds me that we all of stuff that build up in our bodies that we try to repress but ends up coming up and out later on. I feel like I personally have a lot of emotional stuff that I've kept down/in and then it comes up and I think, oh, that, I should listen to you, body. I've noticed a lot of stuff coming up since I've moved back home (imagine that!).

    1. Thanks for the comment! I can relate moving back home myself. If we don't address or at acknowledge of emotional stuff, it can do damage to us down the road. it will build up like water behind a dam until something gives. The body/mind connection is something that is worth paying attention to.