Tall With Back Pain: A Need for Tall Adaptations 8

Looking back, I can recall a couple times in my younger years injuring my back. Once was after an intense week of volleyball training when I was about 16, and another time in my early 20s after a day trying to keep up with some yahoos snowboarding in the Swiss Alps. Neither incident was an acute injury; rather I went to sleep feeling fine and woke up the next day hardly able to stand. In both cases, however, a week went by and my supple young spine forgave me, and sadly I forgot.

Tall guy snoboarding in the swiss alps hurt back


In retrospect, it was my poor posture and muscle imbalance during the jarring motions of sports that led to both of these instances. Of all those who might have advised a young man on the impending troubles, I can recall a coach and a physiotherapist who cautioned me. But it simply wasn’t enough to distract a young man from his seeming invincibility.

Tall guy too tall for Ford Taurus got back problems


On through my 20s my posture and muscle balance worsened as I logged ever greater hours interacting with a relatively short man made world: hunching over work surfaces, cramming into cars, slouching through doorways, on goes the list… And yet I continued to push myself in a variety of sports.

Tall guy beach volleyball before back problems


I first started noticing my back pain again after a week of slalom skiing in the summer of 2008. I chalked it up to a muscle strain. But the problem progressively got worse through the fall and winter, bothering me most when driving or sitting at the computer. My MRI in the spring turned up multiple disc protrusions, degenerative disc disease throughout my thoracic spine, a schmorls node, and some end plate osteophytes. Nothing requiring immediate surgery, but not the youthful spine I envisioned for myself…

Tall guy water skiing before back problems


Always the extremist, I went overboard trying to fix myself. I dropped all sports but swimming and biking and took up yoga. I consulted sports doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, a physiatrist, and even a spine researcher. I read up on spine anatomy and mechanics and modified my daily habits. I had a spine brace made. I consulted with three surgeons, all of which stated the inherent problems with thoracic surgery (the ribs, heart, and lungs make access to the thoracic intervertabral discs difficult) and felt my case did not warrant this kind of risky surgery. I tried various drugs, supplements (glucosamine, omega-3s, etc.), and switched to an anti-inflammatory diet. Still searching for relief, I turned to the mind. I took classes, read up on, and practiced meditation, tried counseling, and more generally tried to accept rather than fight the pain.

It’s been 5 years of ups and downs. Currently, I’m doing good. I attribute this partly to desensitization to pain signals from the damaged tissues that comes with time as well as some improvements to my life circumstances, the loving support of my family, and distraction from the problem. However, much of the above items have also contributed. Perhaps the most helpful have been cardiovascular exercise, meditation, yoga, diet improvements, postural strengthening, and activity modification. Part of the activity modification means adaptations between me and this relatively short man made world to suit my tall stature: cars, chairs, desks, kitchens etc. I’v started this blog to share this lifelong project and to connect with others with similar predicaments.

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8 thoughts on “Tall With Back Pain: A Need for Tall Adaptations

  • Bud

    Thanks for sharing Sam.

    Personally I at my ripe old age of 51 had just started to consider how much the world is geared towards shorter statured people. (Yes, I really am slow lol).

    I hope others of our extreme size ranges take up this torch and learn/share from our lessons before it becomes as debilitating as many of us have already.

    I think we as larger people tend to think we are pretty much alone, even at 1-3% of the population, that is a significant number of us. Not that we need to stand up more… well you get the point. But we do need to be aware there are resources for us. You have raised at least my awareness.

    If I can help in any way, please don't hesitate to ask.

    Cheers pal

    • Tall Adaptations

      Thanks for the feedback! I'm hopping this blog will be applicable to relatively tall people of all ages. I've got lots of good posts to come, so I hope you will follow the blog. Please spread the word and I'm always open to suggestions, ideas, and even guest posts!

  • Tall Adaptations

    It is a great motivator to know this is reaching people in similar predicaments. I really hope that it is helpful. If you have any suggestions, please share them. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for creating this blog. I'm 6'8" and 35 years old. Been dealing with back problems since I was a teen. I'd like to recommend that you find a chiropractor that specializes in the Atlas Orthoganal technique. Basically, the technique centers your atlas vertabrae (the vertabrae that connects your spine to your skull, hence the name Atlas) and then the rest of your spine gets into alignment. Adjustments aren't painful at all and you won't have to have someone twisting or pushing on your back and spine.

    It's been a great means of helping me through my pain from a herniated disc and sciatica. Combined with exercise, weight training (intense focus on core strength), I've found some measure of relief.

    Good luck fellow tall people.

  • The Redman Family

    I am a 31 year old former basketball player, 6'8''. Fought all of these same things for years, and finally resorted to a micro discectomy of L5/S1 of the lumbar spine. Absolute worst case scenario (surgery), but the results were incredible. No pain in over a year. I treated it holistically for a very long time, but the disc damage was just too severe.

    • Tall Adaptations

      Congrats on the successful surgery! Must have been a really difficult decision to make, but the right one. What we put our bodies through for sport, eh?