By Dr. Paul Kelly, Updated September 3, 2023
Recommendations for Back Pain Recovery
Are you a member of the back pain club? I got my membership when I was in my 40s. My pain was so bad I could barely walk and I got very depressed before I got on the road to recovery. Don’t worry. I got better and so can you. I tell my story in the next section. Feel free to skip it and go directly to the Tips and Resource List. I wish I had know all this stuff 30 years ago!
My Back Pain Journey
My back pain started when I was 9 years old. An erratic driver hit me while I was riding my bicycle. The side mirror of the car clipped me. I flipped over the hood and was pretty bruised up. I needed 34 stitches to close the arm wound. A police officer told my parents: “Your son would have died if the car had been six inches closer to the curb.” I spent over a month in the hospital. When I got out, I was so afraid that I could not cross a road if I saw a moving car. I had a lot of tension and fear locked into the muscles of my body.
I had a second bicycle accident when I was a grad student. A car cut in front of me and I flew over the hood and landed hard. I developed a lot of chronic muscle tension. My back got more and more sore and stiff until I had a herniated disk in 1995. The pain was terrible. I could barely walk. I couldn’t work for months. I felt depressed, frightened and stuck. That was when I got serious about learning about back problems and how to fix them. These days, my back is pretty good and I can live a full life.
I hope that the tips and resources below will give you some hope, and help you get started with back pain recovery.
3 Back Pain Tips and Resources
- Check Out Dr. Stuart McGill. He knows more about back pain and how to fix it than anyone else I know of. His website gives lots of tips. It also has information about his excellent book, Back Mechanic. This video is worth your time if you have back problems. Dr. McGill has trained and certified professionals all over the world. If you are in the Toronto area, I can recommend Nicola Folino, a Personal Trainer in Oakville. She was very helpful when I worked with her.
- Take a Mindfulness Course. Dr. McGill recommends mindfulness. He says: “Our pain-free posture and movement strategies must be rooted in being mindfully aware and engaged. Your success rests in your ability to move mindfully, and to avoid mental lapses and periods of inattention.” I offer an online mindfulness course at The Mindfulness Clinic. We measure outcomes so you can trust that it is a good program. If you prefer something in your local area, do a web search for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, MBSR, or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, MBCT, programs.
- Find a Good Physiotherapist or Trainer. When you are getting started with back recovery it is very helpful to have a coach to guide you, encourage you, and keep you safe. Try to find someone who is at least familiar with Dr. McGill’s method. When I was first recovering from a herniated disc, an Orthopedic Surgeon recommended Maureen Dwight. She is a Physiotherapist in Toronto. She gave me hope and helped me to get started with my back recovery. Her Clinic offers Online Healthy Back Exercises. These days I am working with a personal trainer at New Element Training in Toronto. They have 3 locations in Toronto and they also offer virtual training sessions. Check my post about High-Intensity Interval Training. It explains more about the benefits of HIIT for anxiety, depression, and fitness.
- Check Out Cathryn Jakobson Ramin’s Book and Website. She spent six years investigating the back pain industry. Her book is an excellent complement to Dr. McGill’s work. It will help you make good decisions and be a better judge of what is worth your time and money. The resource list on her website needs to be updated. Some of the links don’t work. But there is still a lot there worth checking out.
Some Final Thoughts
I know how tough it is to have chronic back pain. I wish you well with your recovery. If nothing has worked yet, keep searching for the right professional to work with. I hope that the advice from Dr. McGill and Cathryn Ramin will be useful for you.