The two problem dilemma

Last year I was in the gym the day after a long-haul flight from the US back to Australia. I was doing squats when something suddenly didn’t feel right in my lower back. I cut my set short, and then after trying one more exercise, I cut my workout short.  

The next morning I could hardly get out of bed. My back was in excruciating pain. Somehow I had inflamed the facet of the L4/L5 joint in my lower back. And then I spent the best part of a year getting it sorted.  

My initial treatment was painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. They were great. They solved the problem that was literally keeping me awake at night … for a while. Of course, because they didn’t address the core problem it was only a temporary solution.  

I saw osteopaths, physiotherapists, GPs, got MRIs and had steroids injected into my spine. We got very sophisticated at treating the presenting problem – my pain.  

However, it was not until I started a Pilates practice that I got to the core problem – a lack of strength in my back and core. More specifically, a lack of strength in the stabiliser muscles (apparently the global muscles were all good, the stabilisers not so much).  

The challenge for us as thought leaders is to solve both problems – the presenting problem and the core problem. What most of us do is just try to solve the core problem. We’re the Pilates instructor saying that we can build strength in stabiliser muscles. Unfortunately, nobody knows that that’s their problem. Nobody is lying awake at night thinking if only my stabiliser muscles were stronger. Nobody is Googling how do get stronger stabiliser muscles.   

What we should do is sell fixing back pain – the problem that is keeping people awake at night. And then once we’re engaged we solve the presenting problem by fixing the core problem.