- Aging & Longevity
Heal your back problems without surgery
How to improve your back without surgery.
A struggle many of us have- you aren't alone, but each person's journey is unique-
I have struggled with back pain for at least 10 years and during that time, have had many experiences with pain and spasms. I have experienced everything from diarrhea, vomiting, migraines, tingling and numbness, and experiencing symptoms similar to a heart attack.
Over time, by learning to listen to what my body was telling me, and with the help and guidance of chiropractors, massage therapists, and physical therapists , I was able to navigate the complicated, disruptive pattern my lower back, hip and sacrum had created to compensate for imbalances in my body. Let me explain this further. When your body notices an imbalance somewhere, due to injury, stress, or anything else, it compensates for that imbalance. If the imbalance, or disruption, continues, the body will continue to reinforce this new pattern in hopes of correcting things. What happens in many cases is this new pattern creates further imbalance in strength of the muscles, and before you know it, there are major problems. These problems may or may not be at the origin of injury or imbalance. For instance, my issue is my hip and sacrum, but I felt spasms in my chest for a long time because the imbalance below(hips) caused the imbalance above(chest and thorasic spine) - as the spine tried to readjust itself.
Physical therapy, Chiropractic or Massage
When you are dealing with debilitating back problems that don't improve, it is easy to give up. But before you do, find a partner who can help you play detective and investigate what exactly is happening in your body. A good physical therapist will listen to you and take into consideration your body's unique issues. And help you with a program so that you can strengthen, stretch, balance and heal your back. Chiropractors can help too, but I've found that the best chiropractors are ones who incorporate muscle work and exercises into their program. Massage therapists are an additional help, although it can get expensive very quickly. But it's a nice adjunct to Chiropractic or physical therapy.
Believe in your body's healing power
Back issues are complicated. They are isolating, frustrating, and there is a real lack of information going on between the medical community, chiropractors, holistic practitioners and physical therapists. The information you need is there- Ask questions and trust in your body's ability to heal itself with hard work and patience from you. And don't believe the first doctor who tells you you need ,or will need, surgery. Don't rule out holistic practitioners, they are a good source of information and insight into how all of your systems can work with you, or against you. Gather all of the information you can, start slowly. It's amazing how restorative just one excercise or stretch can do if it is paired with good breathing technique and targets the right area. If you have confidence , and work with, your body's ability to solve it's problems and adjust to heal itself, you might be very surprised at the progress you make.
my personal journey
My first experiences with my back issues were seemingly arbitrary, disconnected, and random. After my first child I began having migraines. I also began having diarrhea regularly. Then I began vomiting more and more frequently. I owned a coffee shop and worked mornings on the cement floor, and after my shift I would have to run to the bathroom. I thought it was due to the excessive coffee I had been consuming.
After a few months of this, I had an episode that began with a headache, then came diarrhea, vomiting, and this indescribable feeling of my whole body rebelling against me. I could do nothing for hours but go into a dark room, not move, and sleep- which came pretty easily, like my body was sort of shutting down for awhile. This happened several times after walking or standing on concrete,, carrying in groceries, after taking a walk in new tennis shoes, rearranging chairs in my living room( did I mention I was slow?) and vacuuming the carpet.
After all of these symptoms emerged and started to calm down, I would notice that the muscles in my back- deep muscles on either side and kindof "under" the top layer of muscles- would be very sore and it would relieve me to have someone sort of dig their knuckles in very hard into that specific place on my back.
I also began noticing indicators my body was giving me that I was about to have a problem, although until confirmed by my physical therapist years later, I believed they were more psychosomatic because they didn't seem logical-nothing seemed to fit together .
One of these "pre-cursers" was a sensation of my tailbone being pulled over. It didn't hurt, it was just a sensation that I eventually put together as occurring just before I had a major problem. Another thing that I began to notice was that I would become extremely irritable and agitated beforehand. Not just moody, but a feeling that my entire body was agitated: A slight stomach or back ache, tension in my shoulders, tension headache, and being super impatient, short- tempered and angry.
I went to my doctor initially, because I had begun to lose weight because of the intestinal issues I was having. He ordered an x-ray, cat scan and a MRI and found that I had a slightly compressed disc, and either a little scholiosis, or my muscle spasms were actually pulling my spine out of line a little bit. But found no structural problems that should be causing this sort of intensity and debilitation. He told me that it was evidently "musculature" and gave me a prescription for flexaril, a muscle relaxer. He told me to take it as needed and take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or Aleve along with it. so that is what I did, for about 6 months. I would have an episode, go to bed with my trusty muscle relaxers and 4 to 8 ibuprofen, and stay there, for at least a day. I had two children by this time, a business to run, and my back was totally disrupting my life, at only 35 years old!
After a few months of this, I began seeing a chiropractor. He would adjust my lower lumbar and sacrum, and I would put ice and heat on the areas for a day, but then I would walk around and be in the same place that I was before I went. So I went more often, up to 3 times a week for a few months. Unfortunately, no lasting improvement, so I started seeing a massage therapist at a holistic treatment facility. She was the first person who talked to me about pressure points, fascia and it's part in muscle spasms, and the central nervous system's involvement in pervasive musculature spasm.
The first time I visited my physical therapist, she tested my range of motion, and talked to me about ongoing issues, injuries, childbirth, and anything else that might pertain to my back problems. Then she had me lay face down and simply put her hands, sort of cupped, onto my back with a firm, yet very gentle touch. Not knowing what she was doing, I asked and she told me about the fascia, the fibrous layer over the top of our muscles. Apparently, when muscles spasms happen, and especially if there is a pattern of it, this fascia sort of "freezes" and contributes to the problem. What she was doing was warming and loosening the fascia. She said I would probably feel extremely tired when I got home because of this powerful release. She said that sometimes, people would break down crying as she was using this technique, because the fascia is sort of a holding place for the original emotional trauma, stress and/or injury that took place and caused the back issues. And she was right, I went home and felt like I had taken a muscle relaxer and went to bed at around 7pm.
Since then, my physical therapist and I have been through 3 years of working together, identifying and following the debilitating patterns that my body has set up over time, and working to counter those and put new, healthy muscle patterns into place. I am 95% improved. I do not have those horrible episodes anymore. I am aware of what is going on in my own body now, so I can head off problems before they become major. I have my own individualized stretching and strengthening program, which my physical therapist has put together over time and getting to know the way my body works. I also do a yoga practice, and continue to push myself in whatever I can do physically. My body lets me know if I've gone too far, and I know to pay attention to that now and back off, slow down, rebuild.
Where to start and what to do
If I were starting this process over again 10 years ago, here is what I would do - knowing what I know now.
1. I would see a physical therapist, chiropractor or massage therapist throughout and after my pregnancies.
2. I would think twice about getting an epidural. Mine went wrong and it may have contributed to all of my back issues.
3. Yoga breathing , or deep breathing, is essential to de-stess and pay attention to what the body is trying to tell you. The more you allow pervasive stress and pain in without paying attention, the longer it will take to unravel what is going on.
4. Go to your doctor to rule out anything else, then get a referral for physical therapy and go!
5. Do your excercises, be patient, ask questions and pay attention. Take notes on things you notice in your body, and let the P.T. know. Try not to reinjure yourself while in therapy. Be kind and gentle with your body and recognize back pain for what it is. Very real, very disruptive to your quality of life, and something that you can ,and will, improve.
6. I found a video, which is linked, vini -yoga for lower back, sacrum and hips, which combines breathing, relaxation, stretching and strengthening and it is the best I've found for helping with these issues.
Don't give up! Be an advocate for yourself. Keep reading, keep listening. Ask questions until you understand .Your back affects everything you do, every day of your life. Give it the attention, time and the work it deserves. It will pay off.
- Viniyoga Therapy for the Low Back, Sacrum and Hips - YouTube
This DVD features short, simple therapeutic yoga practices carefully designed to alleviate pain and promote health in the low back, sacrum and hips. Includes...