In May of 2015, the Sciatic pain down my left leg was so intense that I couldn’t get out of bed for three weeks. I had surgery for a herniated disc (the root cause of Sciatica) at L4/L5 in June of 2015, and here’s an update a year and a half later.
I started playing piano when I was 22, and by 24, I had severe tendonitis on both arms because of poor technique. My wrists were locked, elbows too bowed, shoulders too tight and I basically white knuckled it all the way towards early retirement from the concert stage (I was never really on the stage, but you get what I mean).
If you’ve bounced around between as many physiotherapy clinics as I have, it’s possible that you’re going there just for the the whacky gear. You know, like the slightly modified gym equipment, the rack of tiny weights, the wide selection of bouncy balls, ropes, pulleys and elastic bands. Oh, and of course, the gentle, soothing pulse of the TENS unit.
“If you took 100 people off the street and gave them MRIs, a third of them — even if they had no back pain whatsoever — would have obvious structural problems,” says Dr. Charles Rosen, M.D., clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine.
As spine treatment centres pop up in my city, I’ve noticed that many of these facilities (usually run by chiropractors), offer Spinal Decompression Therapy to relieve pressure on herniated or degenerative discs.
The basic premise of SDT involves laying on some sort of traction table, hooked up to a computer with electronic pulses stimulating certain muscle groups. By taking pressure off the disks, which function like gel cushions between the bones in your spine, the bulging or herniated disks can retract, taking pressure off nerves. With less pressure, the spine can move more freely increasing the movement of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids which promotes healing.
Wellness and mindfulness are definitely buzzwords these days that tap into an eastern philosophy of establishing awareness on the present moment. After cycling through surgeries, medicines and traditional forms of Western therapies, I’ve begun exploring yoga, meditation and natural remedies and so far, these alternative approaches to healing have had a positive impact on how I manage chronic pain.
Ted talks are at the top of the list when it comes to expert advice on Science and Technology delivered in a way that everyone can understand. Here’s my Top 5 talks from medical and engineering research leaders who discuss the root causes of back pain and how to alleviate (or at least cope with) a sore, achy or damaged spine.
Well, actually more like one year and two months as my surgery date was late June 2015 but really…who’s counting at this point? Recovering from my third surgical procedure has been a long and bumpy ride but each week is slightly better than the last.
After six years of research and over 600 interviews, author Cathryn Jakobson Ramin has released what I would describe as the laymen’s comprehensive guide to navigating the murky waters of back pain remedies. As a human guinea pig, Ramin explores dozens of treatments from acupuncture, chiropractors, osteopathy, to finding the perfect office chair, all in an effort to relieve pain from herniated discs and degenerative disc disease.
Ramin’s exhaustive investigative research uncovers some of the dubious motives at the centre of traditional healthcare modalities, and provides statistical data that backs up her claim which strongly suggests that those with back pain need to think twice before signing up for multiple sessions of chiropractic / physiotherapy treatment, epidural steroid injections or far more invasive procedures such as spinal fusions. Though some of these treatments may help, her advice is to start with the far more obvious routines such as exercise, constant movement, and innovative often un-reported practices such as Rolfing, Feldenkrais and the Alexander Technique. Oh, and my personal hidden gem in preventive spine-aching office furniture…something called the Locus Workstation.
Ramin says that “People in pain are poor decision-makers” and her book helps us understand the real limitations of the medical systems approach to back problems and that most overlook the obvious solutions such as diet and exercise. She points to Stuart McGill’s encouraging results on the “Big Three” exercises that many back pain sufferers can do daily to increase their chances of rehabilitation.
Buy it Here on Amazon: Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting On the Road to Recovery
To put it plainly, getting fitted for custom orthotics was a complete game changer for me. After suffering for years simply walking or standing still, in late 2005 I finally made the connection between pounding feet and an aching, inflamed back. I needed to keep my arches supported and more importantly, I needed shock absorption for my spine.