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  1. #1
    Registered User tven's Avatar
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    People with disk issues

    I have been recently diagnosed with a degnerative disk of L4/L5, where there is dessication. And the whole world came collapsing down for a minute thinking, I can never lift weights again. I think back, and see the things that led to this problem. And wish to god, i could take it back. But i cant. So i have to roll with it. I dont want to give up working out and being fit. And the last 6 months, i lost all confidence and trying to work my way back.

    In any case, i was hoping to find out info about how some of you other guys/gals are keeping up your workouts with a similar condition.

    I have been staying away from weights all together for squats, and completely off dead lifts. Only doing body weight workouts now.

    Would love to hear some stories of how you have overcome it.

    Thanks a lot. And please stay safe when doing heavy squats/dls.
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  2. #2
    Registered User tomsfish's Avatar
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    i have a couple bad discs in my neck,found out after having tingling and soreness in arm.
    needless to say i am never putting a bar on my neck again.
    ive noticed that heavy deadlifting tweaks the discs,so i dont do that as well.

    once the tingling and pain went away,i went back to the gym.i did one lift at a time and just added to it if no problems.if i even feel a little tweak,i drop the lift and try something else.its one of the reasons i do alot of pull ups,as they dont bother me in the least.it must be that the pullups stretch the discs out or something.
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  3. #3
    Game On SteveR40's Avatar
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    I have had a Laminectomy at L4/L5. Procedure was done in 2000. Today I am squating 405 and leg pressing 1K. Don't lose confidence. Remember, this sport is not made overnight.

    Work the areas, but not overwork the areas. IMO, a bad back comes from a soft core (yes there are other reasons) and that is where you need to focus first before attempting something really heavy. I am not saying that you don't do squats and deads, just do them light. If free squats bother you, try a smith.

    Good luck with your training.
    We all have our good days and our bad ones. What separates us is those who can turn a bad day into a good one...

    When your not training or running just know no matter what some place someone is doing one more set or one more mile. Stay motivated!!!


    Journal = SteveR40's official journey. Round 3
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  4. #4
    Registered User pvsampson's Avatar
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    I had a Discectomy at L5 S1. OP,as above poster said start light and go from there. I no longer squat as the pain levels are too much,but I can deadlift,as the pain isn't too severe to stop me.Take it easy and your body will let you know what you can or can't do through trial and error.

    Your choice though,I am not a doctor...just speaking from what I have experienced.
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  5. #5
    Registered User tven's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by SteveR40 View Post
    I have had a Laminectomy at L4/L5. Procedure was done in 2000. Today I am squating 405 and leg pressing 1K. Don't lose confidence. Remember, this sport is not made overnight.

    Work the areas, but not overwork the areas. IMO, a bad back comes from a soft core (yes there are other reasons) and that is where you need to focus first before attempting something really heavy. I am not saying that you don't do squats and deads, just do them light. If free squats bother you, try a smith.

    Good luck with your training.

    Your recovery sounds great. I am not sure if you had a degenerative disk that lead to a Laminectomy? I'd be very interested in knowing. Reason I ask, i want to know if your issue was with the disks not providing the same cushion , because of lack of fluid.

    You are right. I did have a soft mid section when the injury happend. About mid 2011, i was showing a six pack. And then vacations and just general lazyness happend.

    But now, i want to get back to feeling strong and just be my active self. Thanks for all the support to all that posted so far. I really appreciate it. its great to know that people have worked their way back from back injuries.
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  6. #6
    Registered User Powerkicker's Avatar
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    I have a degenerative disk. I get bad sciatica on occasion from that according to my Doctor. I can still train fine, but there are a couple days every year or so where I can barely walk and cannot stand fully upright. My big pain comes in fits although my back most always twinges in the morning until I get it loosened back up.
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  7. #7
    Consistency. Intensity. Medtreker's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by tven View Post
    I have been recently diagnosed with a degnerative disk of L4/L5, where there is dessication. And the whole world came collapsing down for a minute thinking, I can never lift weights again. I think back, and see the things that led to this problem. And wish to god, i could take it back. But i cant. So i have to roll with it. I dont want to give up working out and being fit. And the last 6 months, i lost all confidence and trying to work my way back.

    In any case, i was hoping to find out info about how some of you other guys/gals are keeping up your workouts with a similar condition.

    I have been staying away from weights all together for squats, and completely off dead lifts. Only doing body weight workouts now.

    Would love to hear some stories of how you have overcome it.

    Thanks a lot. And please stay safe when doing heavy squats/dls.
    I was actively working to increase my lift weight, including the deadlift. I was fairly successful and managed a double bodyweight deadlift, that's good for me. I have always lifted to work all body parts, but focused on the big 3 to measure improvment over time. Over the course of a year or so, I had my back go out now and then. I always assumed it was a muscle, and not my spine. Well, one day it went out for real. I had scan done that showed similar to your issues. My doctors told me to stop lifting.

    I couldn't just stop all together, after I recovered enough to lift at all (about a month of total rest). But I did say goodbye to the deadlift for good. I thought the overhead press and shrug would continue to cause me issue, but I have found, after about a year of building back up, that no other lift has caused my back to go out.

    Granted, I lost much strength from nerve damage, and that's been dicey. But I have made great improvement from where I was left after the injury. I have found many new ways to increase strength with most other back lifts, rows, pull ups, shrugs, ect. My back actually looks better. Still trying to get legs back to where they were though. Arms lost alot of strenght too, and have slowly been building that back.

    Slow and steady wins the race, and for me, unfortunately, the deads just had to go regardless of how well and carefull I can perform them. Just too much stress pulling down heavily on discs.
    Tony

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  8. #8
    Registered User tven's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Powerkicker View Post
    I have a degenerative disk. I get bad sciatica on occasion from that according to my Doctor. I can still train fine, but there are a couple days every year or so where I can barely walk and cannot stand fully upright. My big pain comes in fits although my back most always twinges in the morning until I get it loosened back up.
    Ouch man! do you do anything to maintain the lumbar region? Assuming thats where the problem is?

    I do about 15 mins of warmup, roller, yoga sun salutations before i attempt even body weight squats now, and follow it up with more stretching using dead hangs.
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  9. #9
    Registered User tven's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Medtreker View Post
    I was actively working to increase my lift weight, including the deadlift. I was fairly successful and managed a double bodyweight deadlift, that's good for me. I have always lifted to work all body parts, but focused on the big 3 to measure improvment over time. Over the course of a year or so, I had my back go out now and then. I always assumed it was a muscle, and not my spine. Well, one day it went out for real. I had scan done that showed similar to your issues. My doctors told me to stop lifting.

    I couldn't just stop all together, after I recovered enough to lift at all (about a month of total rest). But I did say goodbye to the deadlift for good. I thought the overhead press and shrug would continue to cause me issue, but I have found, after about a year of building back up, that no other lift has caused my back to go out.

    Granted, I lost much strength from nerve damage, and that's been dicey. But I have made great improvement from where I was left after the injury. I have found many new ways to increase strength with most other back lifts, rows, pull ups, shrugs, ect. My back actually looks better. Still trying to get legs back to where they were though. Arms lost alot of strenght too, and have slowly been building that back.

    Slow and steady wins the race, and for me, unfortunately, the deads just had to go regardless of how well and carefull I can perform them. Just too much stress pulling down heavily on discs.
    Thanks for taking the time to post brother. The biggest reason i started doing squats and deadlifts was i wanted to add thickness, mainly in the legs. Its been 6 months since my last lift, and my legs have lost most of the gains. They are still toned , but not the pump like before. I am starting to experiment with Lunges (some weights), since they seem easier on the lumbar spine. Have to see if that will help me build the quads a bit.

    Good luck with your strength gains. And be safe.
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  10. #10
    Consistency. Intensity. Medtreker's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by tven View Post
    Thanks for taking the time to post brother. The biggest reason i started doing squats and deadlifts was i wanted to add thickness, mainly in the legs. Its been 6 months since my last lift, and my legs have lost most of the gains. They are still toned , but not the pump like before. I am starting to experiment with Lunges (some weights), since they seem easier on the lumbar spine. Have to see if that will help me build the quads a bit.

    Good luck with your strength gains. And be safe.
    I see we have similar stats. Not being very large, I found deads to really improve my legs. Not that they didn't work many other areas, but legs benefitted the most from my attempt to reach the 2xBW goal. So when I stopped, it was legs that lost the most. However, my back is wider(I mean not by a huge amount, but noticable to me), from really overhauling my back routine and concentrating on all other back lifts. I've been a little shy of squats too since at heavier weight they compress spine, but I'm still working on legs to bring them back.

    But biggest challenge was lifts that use arm strength. Seems the nerve was pinched when the discs pressed together from hemorage. I do need OTC pain killers to rid the shooting pain that runs from mid arm down to hand. Funny thing is the pain moves around over time, has even changed sides!! But it's all pain in arms, no where else thankfully. So, because of that, it's the bench press weight that took a toll. Still working, almost 1 full year later to get back to where I was in bench press.

    However, I look OK, so I do focus on keeping fat down for the Summer look. I allowed myself 10 pounds this winter, currently sitting around 170. But I do plan on taking that down, perhaps below 160, while still working up my lift numbers.

    Just don't quit!! There's always another way to train, even after fairly major injury. For some, spinal degeneration is just a fact. Gotta learn to deal with it, and still find a way to improve!
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  11. #11
    Registered User tven's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Medtreker View Post
    I see we have similar stats. Not being very large, I found deads to really improve my legs. Not that they didn't work many other areas, but legs benefitted the most from my attempt to reach the 2xBW goal. So when I stopped, it was legs that lost the most. However, my back is wider(I mean not by a huge amount, but noticable to me), from really overhauling my back routine and concentrating on all other back lifts. I've been a little shy of squats too since at heavier weight they compress spine, but I'm still working on legs to bring them back.

    But biggest challenge was lifts that use arm strength. Seems the nerve was pinched when the discs pressed together from hemorage. I do need OTC pain killers to rid the shooting pain that runs from mid arm down to hand. Funny thing is the pain moves around over time, has even changed sides!! But it's all pain in arms, no where else thankfully. So, because of that, it's the bench press weight that took a toll. Still working, almost 1 full year later to get back to where I was in bench press.

    However, I look OK, so I do focus on keeping fat down for the Summer look. I allowed myself 10 pounds this winter, currently sitting around 170. But I do plan on taking that down, perhaps below 160, while still working up my lift numbers.

    Just don't quit!! There's always another way to train, even after fairly major injury. For some, spinal degeneration is just a fact. Gotta learn to deal with it, and still find a way to improve!
    I am at a fat 170 right now.

    About a year ago, at 150 LBs and about 11 to 12 % BF. farm6.staticflickr.com/5263/5601604311_27f5512a42_b.jpg

    Id like to be that lean and weigh 160 to 165 . Infact, i will consider it a blessing if i ever get back to that shape. Thanks for all the encouraging words.
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  12. #12
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    old man had your same problem, he switched from weight lifting to swimming.Swimming is great as it lessens the pressure on your back and in a way is still Resistance training.

    gl and hope you get better
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  13. #13
    Registered User tven's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by walterCorrey View Post
    old man had your same problem, he switched from weight lifting to swimming.Swimming is great as it lessens the pressure on your back and in a way is still Resistance training.

    gl and hope you get better
    Thank you. Swimming is something i amnot very good at yet. Been meaning to take more lessons.


    For anyone that is interested, the book backRX has been a huge help in reducing pain. Helps u do some good yoga and pilate moves over 9 weeks to regain strength and rehabilitate the discs/muscles.
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    Originally Posted by Powerkicker View Post
    there are a couple days every year or so where I can barely walk and cannot stand fully upright. My big pain comes in fits although my back most always twinges in the morning until I get it loosened back up.
    That sounds like my problem as well. Now I wear a back brace when I work out or whenever my lower back is acting up.
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    Sorry for your diagnosis. I don't have disc disease (at least I don't think so, never had an mri) so I'm not sure if this will help, but my lower back has been an issue for the last 9 months or so, and it does affect my exercise choices. Front squats are more comfortable for me right now, lunges are good, and RDL's are ok where regular dead lifts are not. I also do core work- planks, ab wheel, etc. Most important, take all the time you need to heal. The weights will be there.
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    Curious as to who made the decision you had to stop lifting. Was it you or a doctor?

    After an MRI, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease also. Nobody said anything about quitting lifting. The doctor wanted me to go for surgery, but nobody is touching my spine as long as I can tolerate life as it is. There was obvious atrophy on my left side, but it is improving.

    I've read that ddd is the most misdiagnosed condition out there. Seems it gets blamed for a lot of things. I don't know. Doctor did prescribe muscle relaxer/inflamation reducer (strong ibuprofen) to relieve the pain. After a few weeks of that, the pain was greatly reduced. A friend of mine suggested hanging from a pullup bar to stretch my spine and that seemed to help aid in removing the pain. I also go to a massage therapist every once in awhile. I really haven't noticed any pain in my neck and back in quite awhile. Well not anything significant anyway. So I have to think I was misdiagnosed.

    If your pain is as bad as mine felt, I would see another doctor. I spent about 3 months of never sleeping more than 30 minutes without waking up to change positions. Just don't accept one doctor telling you it's something without giving you a solution.
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    Originally Posted by tryintorebuild View Post
    Curious as to who made the decision you had to stop lifting. Was it you or a doctor?

    After an MRI, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease also. Nobody said anything about quitting lifting. The doctor wanted me to go for surgery, but nobody is touching my spine as long as I can tolerate life as it is. There was obvious atrophy on my left side, but it is improving.

    I've read that ddd is the most misdiagnosed condition out there. Seems it gets blamed for a lot of things. I don't know. Doctor did prescribe muscle relaxer/inflamation reducer (strong ibuprofen) to relieve the pain. After a few weeks of that, the pain was greatly reduced. A friend of mine suggested hanging from a pullup bar to stretch my spine and that seemed to help aid in removing the pain. I also go to a massage therapist every once in awhile. I really haven't noticed any pain in my neck and back in quite awhile. Well not anything significant anyway. So I have to think I was misdiagnosed.

    If your pain is as bad as mine felt, I would see another doctor. I spent about 3 months of never sleeping more than 30 minutes without waking up to change positions. Just don't accept one doctor telling you it's something without giving you a solution.
    It was the doctor and phsyiotherapist that said the DLs had to stop. Doctor did say i could continue to squat, but definitely not heavy. The MRI showed L4/L5 dessication (not getting enough nourishment, and does not have enough fluid) and does not provide the same cushioning. Thats what led to the prognosis.

    I have stepped away from everything, and currently on a 9 week backRX recovery program. I plan on getting back to lifts after the backRX program. Right now , the only things i do are lunges , and body weight squats to maintain quads and hamstrings.
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    Registered User tryintorebuild's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by tven View Post
    It was the doctor and phsyiotherapist that said the DLs had to stop. Doctor did say i could continue to squat, but definitely not heavy. The MRI showed L4/L5 dessication (not getting enough nourishment, and does not have enough fluid) and does not provide the same cushioning. Thats what led to the prognosis.

    I have stepped away from everything, and currently on a 9 week backRX recovery program. I plan on getting back to lifts after the backRX program. Right now , the only things i do are lunges , and body weight squats to maintain quads and hamstrings.
    I definitely would not suggest going against doctor's advice. I would still advise getting a second opinion. And my second opinion would be from a doctor that obviously lifted or at least worked out. I see docs out there that are probably pretty good in their field, but from the looks of them you can tell that physical fitness is not an important issue with them.

    Kind of like going to a car mechanic. I drive an older pickup. I took it to a mechanic who made repairs but was satisfied because it ran good for it's age. I don't want good for it's age. I want no oil leaks, squeaks or shimmies.
    Same thing with going to the doctor. I don't want to look good for my age, or be pretty fit for a sick guy. I want a doctor who expects more from me. My goal is a body that looks good for a 25 year old.
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    Registered User tven's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by tryintorebuild View Post
    I definitely would not suggest going against doctor's advice. I would still advise getting a second opinion. And my second opinion would be from a doctor that obviously lifted or at least worked out. I see docs out there that are probably pretty good in their field, but from the looks of them you can tell that physical fitness is not an important issue with them.

    Kind of like going to a car mechanic. I drive an older pickup. I took it to a mechanic who made repairs but was satisfied because it ran good for it's age. I don't want good for it's age. I want no oil leaks, squeaks or shimmies.
    Same thing with going to the doctor. I don't want to look good for my age, or be pretty fit for a sick guy. I want a doctor who expects more from me. My goal is a body that looks good for a 25 year old.
    Sound advice. Thank you. My doctor is definitely not the type that worries about physical fitness. I'd have to track down a Ortho spine specialist who specializes in treating athletes or is himself a fitness guy. The former is probably possible, insurance coverage withstanding.

    Thanks again.
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    I burst the L5/S1 disc last January, and the L4/L5 is bulging. Major nerve damage which caused me to lose a ton of strength and sensation. I still don't have full feeling down the outside of my leg.

    I no longer do a full DL, but I do RDL as my back can remain straight. It's VERY light compared to what I used to do, but I am slowly moving up in weight.

    I am just re-introducing back squats. Again, very light. However, I rebuilt strength using Zercher squats - they put no compression on the lower back. The weight will seem light on paper since you have to hold the bar in the crook of your arm, but you can get full ROM and I assure you, your quads will get worked.

    I also did extensive physical therapy. They gave me a million stretches/exercises I should be doing to strengthen the back.
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    Originally Posted by tven View Post
    Would love to hear some stories of how you have overcome it.
    I damaged my L5-S1 in a parachuting accident in 1983. It has slowly degenerated for the last 30 years. I have not overcome it, I simply work around it. My entire training program is really just one big work-around.

    I do my heavy leg work on a leg press/hack squat machine where my lower back is fully supported. My secondary leg training each week is a hi-rep/low weight barbell squat session.

    A lot of the upper body work I do where I would normally be placing a lot of stress on my lower back is chest supported to alleviate amount of strain the L5-S1 must handle. This does not mean that I cannot train all muscle groups hard. It just takes some forethought with my exercise selection.

    Pic from October after 2 years of training this way:

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    I've been through a lot in the past year with my thoracic spine disc injury. I was in PT, pain management, acupuncture and still in chiropractic care... which has helped. I'm going for an orthopedic evaluation within the next couple of weeks.

    I am back in the gym, but can only do so if I'm well-medicated. Still making progress somehow and I still feel fairly decent after the workout so I'm not making my condition any worse. Just sick of all the appoinments I've been going to, physically and mentally draining at times.

    Surgery.. I can deal with it if that's what will get me back among the living. My back itself is very strong so my recovery should be easier... in theory.

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    I read somewhere that pain is injury. So i wanted to be completely free of pain and symptoms before i lift again.

    Disk degeneration is not reversible. So I was told i had to take extra care to not let it degenerate at a rate faster that what age would do to it. The following are my goals now.

    Pain free
    Stop accelerated degeneration
    Adapt my workouts to build strength
    And get back in shape to maintain an active life style

    After reading a bunch of these threads, i came across people mentioning a book called backRX. So i thought i'd give it a shot. Category A moves are taking about 30 mins a day. Today was Day 1. And i have 9 weeks to go. Then Category B & C if necessary.

    Right now i have pain when sitting down.
    General soreness in the lower and mid from fatigue if i carry around anothing moderately heavy like my little nephews.

    I am hoping with the 9 week program, i will create some erector strength and allow the discs to not take the brunt of the weight while sitting etc. And finally be pain free. Then its time to work hard like some of you fine folks in this thread.

    Thanks for all your input. Its greatly appreciated. Definitely encouraging to see how people are fighting back problems.
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    Registered User tven's Avatar
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    3 Months later. i Found the right fix for my back issues.

    The doctor, chiropractor and a Physical Therapist misdiagnosed my condition. Finally going to a core conditioning Physical Therapist, they diagnosed my condition as Hyper Lordosis. Basically the extended curvatur of the lumbar spine and anterior pelivc tilt are the culprits. Why did it happen? Psoas shortened from all the sitting at work and pulled my pelvic down + the heavy back squats contributed to the hyper lordosis with the hips being infelxible.

    Doing Bulgarian Squat without weights fixed my anterior tilt 100%. That relieved the pressure of the disk and there is no pain now. I can sit, do moderate workouts, possibly even run (have'nt tried yet) without pain.

    Doing regular, side planks is returning the hyper lordosis back to normal slowly. I am about 50% there.

    If you have back pain, please check if its not just a disruption in the natural spinal alignment. Like in my case.

    Stay safe with heavy workouts. And remember to stretch well and often.
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    The best thing that ever happened to my back was having to wear a weighted vest for hours a day, every day a number of years back. It built up my core and spinal stabilizers in ways that crunches and planks never did. I suspect it's because it's a constant low intensity load that gets worked through your natural range of motion as you go about your daily activities.
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