Coping with chronic back pain

My first serious bout with back pain happened in the early 90s and was caused by a combination of bad ergonomics at work and the fact that I’m a klutz and fell frequently, injuring both my knees and my spine repeatedly. I was off work for a week with terrible muscle spasms. They eventually went away but after that, my back was never quite the same. I remember startling my mother when I ended up on my knees beside her chair while getting up from the dinner table — my back would spasm when I changed positions, knocking my legs out from under me. A few minutes stretching my lower back would allow me to get up again. It became a fact of life, just something to cope with. It was inconvenient, but not painful. It didn’t affect my ability to walk or stand for long distances.

By the late 90s, though, I was starting to have more and more muscle spasms, to my upper and lower back. I can’t count the number of times I ended up on my back on the floor of my cubicle after walking to work or packing boxes during release season because the spasms made it impossible to stand. A coworker coerced me into going to his chiropractor. I highly recommend chiropractic care for neck and upper back pain, but it did very little for the lower back pain. Or, rather, it had a very temporary effect on the lower back pain that only lasted until I got to the bus after leaving the doctor’s office. By 1999, I couldn’t walk the length of the local mall without stopping to sit down and stretch out my lower back. Lack of sustained walking, my primary fitness activity, resulted in heavy weight gain, which put further stress on my back — it was a fierce catch-22. The various drugs I took after my PE in December 1999/January 2000 caused additional issues that further limited my ability to walk long distances. Everything just snowballed from there and, to my horror, I’ve been content to let it.

I was cleaning one of my bookcases last night and came across several books that I have bought over the last several years. I think it’s about time I actually sat down and read them. I can’t afford to cab it to work or for errand running if the bus strike continues for much longer, which means I need to be able to walk much longer distances than I currently can. My plan is to read the these books, during and after which I’ll attempt to implement the suggestions made in them and document my results here.

Back Sense “Back Sense” by Dr. Ronald D Siegel, Michael H. Urdang, and Dr. Douglas R. Johnson

A self-treatment approach to relieving chronic back pain. Based in part on the mind-body theories of Dr. John E. Sarno, author of “The Divided Mind”, the book offers stress reduction, relaxation, stretching, and strengthening exercises. Their companion site offers some additional background information as well as testimonials from some doctors (including Dr. Christiane Northrup, one of my favourite authors on the subject of women and menopause) and happy readers.

I bought this book, along with Dr. John Sarno’s “The Divided Mind”, in early 2008 but never got around to reading either — I got my layoff notice shortly after that and my mind was elsewhere for months. The books got put away on a top shelf and forgotten. I glanced through this one last night and I think this will be the first book that I read, largely because it is fairly small and very action-oriented, with a balance of theory and actual exercises to do. In short, it looks doable. “The Divided Mind” will be on my reading list much later, as it is more background theory regarding the connection between the mind and physical ailments.

Healthy Back Bible “The Complete Doctor’s Healthy Back Bible” by Penny Kendall-Reed and Stephen C. Reed

Wow, I bought this four years ago and it’s been sitting unopened in my bookcase ever since. (I have mentioned my book addiction before, haven’t I? I have stacks of books, fiction and nonfiction, that I haven’t read yet.) I bought it along with two other Drs Reed books (“The Complete Doctor’s Stress Solution: Understanding, Treating and Preventing Stress-Related Illnesses” and “The New Naturopathic Diet: A Guide for Managing Weight, Preventing Illness & Achieving Optimum Health”) after seeing Penny Kendall-Reed, a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor, on CTV.

Many of the concepts in this book are similar to “Back Sense”. But I’m lazy at heart — “Back Sense” is shorter so I’ll read it first and this one later. If I manage to get through the book one, then I’ll move on to their other books, all of which look promising.

Back Care Yoga for Beginners“Living Yoga: Back Care Yoga for Beginners” with Rodney Yee

Not a book, but a video. Still, it’s yet another back-health-related item that’s been collecting dust on a bookshelf. I bought it many years ago, along with a purple yoga accessories set (mmm, purple) and a nearly complete collection of their other videos and CDs (this was pre-DVD days). Never popped a single one of them into the VCR for more than a few minutes. High time I did — I could use the relaxation/stress reduction if nothing else. And I’m losing flexibility with each passing month. I’m too young to be this stiff, achy, and decrepit. I have the body of an ailing 80-year-old and I’d like to trade it in for the 43-year-old body I should have.

We’ll know if any of it was effective if I can actually start walking longer and longer distances without my back spasming. I’ll keep you posted.

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One thought on “Coping with chronic back pain

  1. has anyone been able to get some relief from backpain using yoga ?? i am desperately searching for a solution to my back pain

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