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My First Blog - Back Pain Got Me Here

Hello! I thought I would start off blogging by sharing the story about my debilitating back injury that started my career change.

My name is Chris Batten and I have been a Physiotherapist for Three years now. I have such a passion for my job as it is so very interesting to continually learn how the body functions. I love anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. These areas challenge me and keep me learning more each day about how the body works.

I have competed in a variety of sports such as swimming, boxing and kickboxing and love being fit and healthy. I also participate in seasonal sports. In winter I go snowboarding, tramping and hiking. In summer I surf, free-dive and spearfish. Keeping active has always been a part of my life and I always wanted a career in which I could help others with their injuries and goals.

My first career started out as a mechanic or 'automotive technician' which sounds better than a 'grease monkey mechanic'. I completed my three year trade certificate and specialised in electronics - mainly because I liked the challenge of diagnosing electrical faults and I liked to keep my hands clean! I was never really the mechanic stereotype, I ate a healthy lunch, kept fit and didn't swear in sentences, I knew I was destined to eventually have a career in something else and it was an injury that made that happen.


At sometime around my sixth year of mechanics I suffered a severe back injury. I was about to learn the art of humbleness through pain. I was a little sore through the lower back that day. It was probably a mixture of having to work bent over a car bonnet along with a hard training session the night before.

When I went to pick up a tool off the floor and stand up I experienced excruciating pain. I felt like I couldn't move, pain shot down the back of my leg and my toes were tingling. My doctor got me onto some strong medication and I was bed ridden for a week before I felt I could start moving again. An MRI revealed a disc protrusion at L5/S1 and an annular tear of the disc. A year went on and after seeing a multitude of health professionals for a cure I was still in pain. At this time of my life I knew nothing about my body, but my intuition was to decline a surgical procedure to disable a particular nerve from my lower spine. Blaming my job for my injury, I quit being a mechanic to learn more about my injury. I went on to study a diploma in massage therapy at EIT Hawkes Bay. I loved that course and learnt a lot about myself, however two years later I still had a deep ache with symptoms down my left leg... why?! I got a bit depressed, actually, really depressed, but I pushed through the pain and kept my swimming fitness up. As determined as I am, I wanted to fix myself because nothing else worked, so without hesitation I signed up for a degree in Physiotherapy at AUT University.


In my second year of my Physiotherapy degree the lectures based around the spine began. I was glued to the screen ready to soak up the knowledge I was craving. Over the year of study, I had learnt that the disc I had ruptured was healing and the protrusion was reabsorbing with time. However, I still had a deep ache that would be triggered and made worse by certain movements. With study around human biomechanics, I had realised that the way I moved through my lower back and hips was not optimal and my lower back was doing A LOT of work. Basically overworking. Not only this, but my supporting musculature that is supposed to help with my lower back and hip movement was very weak on my left side and had basically stopped doing it's job to help participate in movement. My body unconsciously found a way to move, it took the pathway of least resistance, which was not optimal, it was unknown to me that I had a movement disorder with muscular weakness that I need to work on. I started off gradually returning specific strength and began to feel that my back was not so vulnerable, this lead into retraining the way I moved, bent over and picked things up.


Chronic pain is when your nervous system gets highly sensitised and pain messages are constantly received by the brain. Lower back pain messages that would normally take their time were quick to fire and I needed to reset this. I had to lower my minds fear around pain and the fearfulness of movements that I believed could be pain provoking.


Completely pain free now, it was a crazy journey to get better. Being in pain for that long makes you think that you will have to live with it and that the pain is there to stay. Here I am now as a Physiotherapist, passionately helping others through their healing journey.


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