How I Manage Back Pain as a Photographer / by Jordan Hefler

as a Photographer | Jordan Hefler

If you have been following along for the past few years, you know about my annoying back/neck saga. A quick summary: during my senior year of high school, I went to the chiropractor a lot because I always had back pain. I dealt with it throughout college not knowing what was going on, and as soon as I graduated decided to go to the doctor and start getting into yoga. Come to find out, I have an extra lumbar vertebrae in my lower back which contributes to some crowding and pain. Flash forward to 2016 when I was working full time at a desk job as a graphic designer and doing photography in the rest of my free time- my right arm and hand started going numb and had stabbing pains, so I went and had an MRI and we discovered that I had a slipped disc and multiple bulging discs in my neck. I tried epidural shots, physical therapy, and chiropractic care but we decided to go ahead and do a full disc replacement surgery in my neck in late 2016 (I was 24.) We’ve since realized I also have a cyst in my lower back that gets inflamed really easily, so for the past 2 years I’ve really just been trying to learn how to live life and manage the pain in both my neck and lower back, because it doesn’t look like it’s going to be going away anytime soon.

Little did I know…

Little did I know…

People love to ask “Well what happened? How did this happen?” and the answer is… nothing. It was a weird storm of genetics, habits, my athletic childhood/high school years, and career choice that probably created these problems. But now that I’m aware of what’s going on and am getting better at figuring out my body’s limitations, I’ve become stronger and more attentive to what I need to do to be successful in both my personal life and business.

The peak of my modeling career

The peak of my modeling career

Here are the 10 main things that I attribute to helping me manage back pain as a photographer:


I’m obsessed with dry needling. I’ve been getting this done 2-3 times per month in my neck and lower back for almost the past 2 years. If you’re unfamiliar with dry needling, here’s a pretty good overview about it in this article here. It’s is a technique that’s kind of similar to Acupuncture but it’s facilitated by your physical therapist and is done with different/smaller needles. Basically they just stab needles into the areas you’re having tension in, and it causes the muscles to reflex and loosen. Sometimes I don’t feel it happening at all and other times it’s excruciating- there was this one time my muscle was so tense that it bent the needle LOL. I did an IGTV episode on dry needling that you can watch here!


OMG! Carrying heavy cameras around your neck is terrible for your discs! I would not be surprised if this is a big factor that lead to my discs to start bulging/slip. I now use the Black Rapid double-harness camera straps because when I wear two cameras, they balance each other out through wearing them on my shoulders like a backpack, and when I only want to wear one I can wear it across me like a purse. This puts more pressure on my shoulders vs. my neck and it’s made a HUGE HUGE difference.


This is something new I’ve been trying and I love it! I’ve been going to Fleauxt here in Baton Rouge and it’s a saltwater therapy facility. I’ve done 3 sensory deprivation sessions at Fleauxt over the course of the past few months and I really feel so relaxed and less tense after I leave. You basically lay in a tub full of saltwater (they put 1000 pounds of Epsom salt in there so you are really F L O A T I N G) for an hour. You can choose to lay in full darkness and silence, or with a small light on and some soothing music. I’ve done it both ways and I must say I prefer to do it in silence with the lights off. I find when I leave that my head is clear and that my muscles are relaxed. How many times do you have permission to just lay still for an hour with no distractions?! I’ve not tried the dry salt therapy room, but I hear it does wonders for when you’re sick and need to clear your sinuses!


I was a really active kid growing up, especially in high school- I did cheerleading, track, tennis, and marching band so I was always moving…until I went to college. I gained a bunch of weight in college (like, the freshman 30?!) and since I’ve graduated and had back issues I’ve found it hard to get back into the swing of things. I really got into yoga right after college which was great for relaxation and stretching, but lately I’ve been craving something more (I get restless, y’all.) I just started Orange Theory fitness last month and so far I’ve been loving it! I find that even though the classes are brutally hard and I’m sore all of the time, my neck and back pain has actually sort of subsided during the past month. Although getting active again was a scary thought because I thought I’d hurt myself, it’s actually been such a great help.


As annoying and painful as this whole experience has been, it’s taught me a lot about my self-worth. I no longer feel guilty for the prices I charge in my business, or how much work I choose to take on. I’ve gotten better at saying “no” and I feel more confident than ever. I’m realizing that I have limitations to my health and wellbeing, and that’s far more important than trying to please everybody.


Piggybacking off the last topic….because I physically can’t always say yes to every opportunity as a photographer, I’ve begun to offer digital products, workshops and merch! This has opened up so many doors for me in my business, as I can now support my income by helping teach people different skills, design merchandise that is representative of me and my brand, and even speak at events about my experiences. With these things cushioning my income, I’m now able to be a little more selective with the photography jobs I take on and I find that I can be more impactful with those clients instead of running myself ragged to make ends meet.


I am really bad about this one!!! With my lil ole’ grandma back, I can’t be sitting or standing in the same position for too long. I am terrible about this- whenever I’m on my computer (like now) I get on a roll and 8 hours later I pay the price. I’ve had so many times where I thought I was being productive and working on the computer only to realize that I had to take the next two days off because I screwed up my back. The nerve pain I have from before my neck surgery is still prevalent in my arms and hands, and it gets worse when I don’t give my body time to move around and stay active. This goes for sitting in the car too long, laying in bed too long, and most importantly working on my computer for too long. I typically work at a standing desk when I’m at home but I still try to switch up my position from standing too. A fun thing I will do to remind myself to get up is to listen to music on my record player, because it forces me to get up and flip the record when the songs are over!


NUFF SAID, next!


Get a new pillow and try to elevate your legs when you can! I’m no doctor so don’t hold me to this- but I swear getting a new bed that has the ability to raise/lower the head and foot part of the mattress has made a world of difference. I feel like a pimped out grandma when I grab the remote to my mattress and slowly raise or lower it. It reminds me of those crazy cars on MTV that have hydraulic lifts… but it’s just a mattress. If getting a bed like that is not available to you, simply get a new pillow (I like the contoured memory foam ones for neck pain) and sleep with some pillows under your knees.


A lot of people have advised against me sharing so much about my situation. I find that in being transparent about my issues I’m able to help others who may be experiencing similar problems! I also am not good at keeping secrets HA. Knowing that what I’ve gone through might help someone else makes sharing seem worth it!

Some things I haven’t tried but still want to are…



-More massages (I’m hesitant about massages because if you get someone inexperienced they can make bulging discs/nerve pain worse)

-That gravity bed thing that looks like an ab lounge but goes upside down.. y’all know what I’m talkin about?


Let me know if you have any questions about any of the things I’ve talked about in this blog post!

How I Manage Back Pain as a Photographer | Jordan Hefler