As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I have had a history of chronic back pain since I was 18. When I first injured my back I did as I was told and went to a doctor to try and find the cause of the pain. X-rays were taken and interpreted while I waited in an examining room. Then the doctor came into the room and said that he couldn’t see any reason for the pain in my back. He then prescribed a muscle relaxant and told me to come back in two weeks and if I was still in pain he would schedule me for exploratory surgery “to see what may be causing the problem”. I was 18 and his words scared me a little, more like they scared me a lot.
I went home and took the prescribed medication and after the pill dissolved and went through my system, I fell asleep. 12 hours later I woke up not knowing what time it was and feeling worse than I did before I took the pill. Per the prescription I took the next pill and again after about 12 hours I woke up and still hurt. This went on for two days before I said enough and quit taking the pills. I had slept for most of the last 60 hours and I didn’t want to continue like that for the next 12 days. Oh crap 12 days and then if I’m not feeling better, I was going to have surgery to “see what may be causing the problem”.
I had herd the nightmare tales of how an uncle was going to a doctor that “cracked his back” and now his back was so weak that he couldn’t even walk without a support belt and I didn’t want any of that either. But I still had the back pain and any movement would put me on the floor. I had to do something. I couldn’t continue like this much longer and I didn’t want to go under the knife and end up in who knows what condition. I was finally convinced by my brother to see his chiropractor. I didn’t like the idea because I still had the images of my uncle in his back-brace, but I couldn’t take the pain and not being able to do anything much longer. I gave in and went to the chiropractor.
When I got to the office there was the usual paper work to fill out and then wait for a while for the x-ray tech to set up. Another x-ray, why?, I already had an x-ray and the doctor didn’t find anything. When I was helped into the room I was looking for the table to lie on but it wasn’t there. The tech told me that I would be standing for the x-ray so any compression or misalignment would show up on the image. I was in pain and not in the best of moods so I thought “Right, whatever, let’s get it over with so I can be told that there isn’t any reason that they could see for my back pain”. I was escorted to an examination room and I waited for the film to be processed. 20 minutes or so later the doctor came in and he was holding the x-ray in his hand. He clipped it to the light box, turned it on and proceeded to point out exactly what was causing my back pain. He then told me exactly what he was going to do and what to expect, and he proceeded to put me into positions that he said would allow him to “manipulate my spine”. When he was done, I could stand and breathe without my knees giving out and I walked to my car without assistance. It took several weeks of adjustments and taking it a bit easier at work but I was back on my feet again. Since then I have had a long lasting relationship with my chiropractor.
I tell you this story because there are still many people out there that think that pills and surgery to fuse the vertebra or to have a steel rod place into their back is the only way to take care of their back pain, and in some cases there is no other alternative. But too many people in our country are looking for the quick fix for their ailments and other problems. “Just give me a pill so I can get back to work”, or “Just fuse the back in that spot so I don’t have to deal with this back pain anymore” are all too common sentiments today. Unfortunately a pill only provides temporary relief of pain and fusing the spine puts new limitations on the activities that a person can participate in. When the spine is fused the ability for that joint to flex and rotate is eliminated. This results in a decreased range of motion.
There are many other ways to manage chronic back pain. But to the dismay, or shall we call it what it really is, the impatience of many, these are not quick fixes and require more time and a continuing effort on the part of the person suffering. As mentioned above there is chiropractic treatment. Other treatments that have been shown to help are acupuncture, or therapeutic massage. These methods may take several treatments and require that the person receiving them take an active role and follow through with flexibility and/or strength exercises to build the stability muscles in the back. There is that word again. Exercise.
I’m sure some of you are saying “Can’t I just lie on the couch or floor until the pain goes away?” The simple answer to that is; yes, you can lay there and hope the pain goes away, but it won’t stay away for long if you don’t do something proactive to prevent a back injury from occurring again. The simple truth is many back injuries are the result of not preparing the back for the work to come. Improper movements or lifting are the most cited causes of back injury and both can be mitigated by flexibility and strength exercises. Another all too common cause for many back problems is being overweight. This too can be mitigated by, here it comes, exercise and a proper nutrition plan.
The long and short of this is, back pain is something that most of us will have to deal with sometime in our lifetime. How we deal with or prevent that pain is something that we have a say in. You can go for the “quick fix” after you are injured, or you can start today and take the steps to prevent back injury. If you are already suffering from a back injury, seek advice and treatment from a trained professional. After you are back on your feet again, you can carry on as before or you can take the proactive steps to prevent another back injury. The choice is yours to make.
If you choose to take the steps to prevent another back injury, I would be more than happy to assist you in finding flexibility and strength programs that can help. Just send me a note and I will reply as soon as possible and together we see if we can find a program that will not only help you, but also be something that you will enjoy doing.