Posted by: Steve Aune | July 7, 2018

The Road to Recovery, Low Back & Neck Pain

It’s been a tough 5-6 years for my mind and body.  As I reflect on what has happened over the years I keep coming back to the mental stress of life as a key component to what is happening to my body.  I know that sounds weird and hokey, however it has proven to me over and over that the mind is very powerful and can really help or hinder the quality of health in your body.

I’ve written before about how time exposes everything.  I didn’t really understand that until after reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.  Eventually time will expose everything, either in a good way or a bad way.  All of the choices/habits that you make and create throughout your life will eventually take you in a direction and that direction either good or bad will be exposed.  You don’t get to choose your life, you choose your habits and your habits will take you in a direction, either good or bad.  You have to own that.

This latest injury to my neck has really hit home for me.  When I injured my lower back I was super bummed. I figured I would never run again and biking is a challenge as well.  Hiking with a heavy pack, which I enjoy doing, was not an option. Exercising in general had to be very specific and I have to do all of the right preparation to get my hips & back ready for the activities. For some reason I believed that I would beat it.  It didn’t hurt that my good friend Rich Palmer turned me onto the book “Healing Back Pain” by Dr. John Samo, M.D. That book really opened my eyes to what is possible with your back and your body and how your mind is the key to it all.  In Dr. Samo’s experience, 90 of all back pain is mental stress and the other 10% is an actual physical deformation. This was a key motivator for me mentally.  My belief was changing.

Think about that. 90% of all back pain is mental.  If you go 20 years with holding in stress, holding in some anger, unhappiness or resentment, that will expose itself eventually.  If you go that same 20 years doing the same things over and over again that may not be the best for your body, then that will compound the results eventually.  Think Sitting all day every day with no exercise throughout the day, how is that affecting your posture?  How about not eating healthy to feed your body what it needs vs. what you crave.  It will all expose itself someday.  You have to own those habits.

So now I have bulging discs in my neck.  C3, C4, C5, C6 & C7.  C6-C7 are the worst.  Looking back over my life and I pick out the key indicators of stress and physical activities that would have caused this to happen.  Time has exposed me.  It’s been over 3 months and the mental impact this injury has had on my mind and body has been incredible.  Going from rehabbing my low back to the point where I could run, bike, and train for American Ninja Warrior as the Ninsurance Ninja really helping me psychologically.  Then pulling a muscle in my neck, thinking it’s just a muscle pull it will heal, to I have no feeling in my left hand or arm really messed up my mind. This type of injury challenges my ability to believe I will beat it.  Know that I will.

Dr. Bob Zimmerman here in Madison was instrumental in my low back rehab as well as my neck.  He asked me during my first visit after my neck diagnosis, “how is this injury affecting your mental attitude?”  I found that to be an interesting question given our history together.  Truth be told, I was freaking out.  I lost so much control over what I could and could not do.  My habits over the years finally exposed me.

I gave the rehab route 3 good months.  I tried it all and it cost a lot financially as most if it was not covered by insurance and we have a $13,000 deductible anyway.  The one component that I still cannot seem to shake is the mental stress or belief that everything will be ok.  I journal about it, pray about it, yet this injury keeps haunting me every day.

This past Friday, July 6th, I had a steroid injection into my C-7 vertebrae of my neck.  I did not want to go this route as I believe your body can heal itself, however the pain and numbness in my left arm was freaking me out, I had to do something different.  Getting the shot itself was really painful for about a minute, since then I was told not to expect much relief until the steroid has some time to work and the injection trauma itself wore off which would take a few days to a week.

The rest of the day on Friday was interesting to say the least.  I would try to dial a phone number at the office and my hand would wander as I could not control my arm/hand very well.  The pain at the base of my neck was pretty much gone, I could feel the pressure there but no major pain.  The pain shooting down my arm was pretty much gone too.  A relief for sure.  The numbness and tingling in my arm was way worse on Friday.  That was to be expected given the trauma of the injection.  So we know we found the right spot given where the pain was during the shot.  Here is a photo of where they do the shot from.  I guess I did not expect them to go through the front side of the neck.

Steve neck

Today is day 2, Saturday July 7th.  Sleeping was a chore. Not as bad as it had been the first two months of my injury but still not comfortable either.  I woke today and did my normal sleep with my left arm behind my back to open up my tight chest muscles that Matt Safarik taught me to do.  He has helped open up the tight stressed out muscles in my neck, shoulders & chest.  After that I was up and ready to tackle the day.  Did my journaling, prayer & affirmations.  Ready to tackle the day.  That is when I thought I should document this recovery process.

Taking the time to write about my recovery process will help me mentally.  I also believe it may help someone else too that is struggling with back/neck pain.

Some key takeaways:

1.  Seek out competent professionals to help you.  Nutritional, Exercise, body work, P/T, etc.  They all seem to specialize in different areas so see a few to learn how they work and how they can help you.

2.  Own your symptoms, you have to accept that you caused this with your habits over the years. The fastest way to heal is to own that and change your mindset around it and start doing what is necessary to fix it.

3.  Journal about it daily, the mental road to recovery takes time.

4.  Pray, it is always a great idea to pray!

To your health & abundance,

Steve Aune






  1. Steve, I had no idea you were going through so much pain. I will add my own prayers for you. When was the last time you played ice hockey consistently, or do you still play – up to the point of your injury?

    Thank you for this blog, I have not yet had anything major in my neck/back other than a few years ago when I was breaking out and beat the D-man off the boards with the puck, and he decided the best plan of action was to close-line me. Needless to say the refs tossed him out immediately, but it took me several weeks to even be able to move/twist normally. I had such intense pain in my back for about a week, I could not even turn to one side, and could hardly get in and out of my truck. I don’t know how I healed so well, but it has not bothered me since. It was scary though, so I do somewhat understand that pain you have.

    You have always been someone I see as my equal – age, kids, environment, etc., so much in common, but you are an inspiration for me to work and do better for myself, and I so hope to see you make your goal to get on ANW.

    • Thank you Ron. Have not played since we moved to Madison. Still coach though.
      I appreciate you as well!

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