Saturday, 8 June 2013

Back Pain Management

Ever since I can remember, I've struggled to sit comfortably. I've fidgeted, shifted and twitched in chairs.  I cant settle in bed. I can't ever find a position in which I'm able to remain for more than a few minutes. The problem got worse at university and was exacerbated in the uncomfortable lecture hall seats. Around this time I had a holiday job that involved long commutes in a van and very often at the end of the journey I would almost collapse in agony on leaving the vehicle as my lower back seemed to lock up and it felt that the nerves and bone had to crack back into place before I could move properly again. 

It all came to a head in 2008 when I had to cancel my gym membership as this occasional pain became constant and prevented me from doing any form of physical activity, not to mention crushing my sprits with a frequent need for painkillers. My doctor recommended that I see an acupuncturist which I dully did. Having pins stuck in my back was far from ideal but it seemed to ease the problem for a few months until the pain came back worse than ever. I was then sent for an MRI scan which indicated two reputed disks at the base of my spine. The explanation for this was speculative... It was likely that the vertebrae in my lumbar region were fairly tight which meant that I would feel any disk protrusion more than most. Perhaps years of sport, heavy lifting and incorrect posture had led to this issue, made worse by unusually tight hamstrings (leading to an inability to stretch properly placing additional strain on my back) and weak core muscles. I was told that if I had been a professional athlete they would have operated but that the two surgery options (Disk replacement or disk removal) were an unnecessary risk. 

Further experimentation with acupuncture needles saw off the issue for another couple of years until the imminent arrival of our daughter in 2010 when it flared up once more. This time I decided to go for a more robust approach and so managed to get referred to a local chiropractor through BUPA. He was fantastic and had a very positive attitude towards the situation. Working through manipulating my back, I eventually started to develop some core strengthening exercises and began to jog once more. Coupled with modifications to my diet and a stretching routine, the problem (though never far away and likely never to be cured) is far more manageable and less of a stress than it used to be. So, in the spirit of sharing and for those of you who have encountered debilitating back pain, here is my top 10 survival tips for overcoming/dealing with the issue:

1. Get referred to a chiropractor by your doctor
2. Start a program of daily stretches - concentrating on you back and hamstrings. Try and extend your height in high stretches.
3. Check if your bed mattress is firm enough - if not then replace (it is worth the expense - you are on it for a third of your life)
4. Check your seats and chairs at home and at work - if not then replace
5. Go for a walk every day
6. Improve you diet - less heavy meats and fat
7. Drink lots of water
8. Drink green tea
9. Cut down on your alcohol consumption.
10. Work on your core abdominal muscles and lower back muscles. Use your core to take the strain on all lifting - including your arms.

I am not called Dr Cure for nothing (in fact I'm not a doctor at all - so please consider this when acting on my advice...)