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. This blog has a hopeful ending. My back is pretty functional these days. I was inspired to write this blog because of good friend of mine recently joined the back pain club and he asked me for some advice. The advice I gave him is half way down this page. In the next few paragraphs I share a little more about my back pain journey – you can skip to the good stuff at the end if you are in a hurry.
My Back Pain Journey
The genesis of my back pain started when I was a kid. When I was 9 years old I was nearly killed by a car while I was riding my bicycle. An erratic driver hit me. I was badly scraped and bruised and I needed 34 stitches to close an arm wound. The police officer who reconstructed the accident told my parents that I would have been killed if the car had been six inches closer to the curb when it hit me. I spent over a month in the hospital. Then, for months after I got out, I was so afraid that I could not cross a road if I saw a moving car. Because of the trauma I had a lot of tension and fear locked into the muscles of my body.
It has been my luck to be hit twice by cars while riding a bicycle. When I was in graduate school a car abruptly turned left in front of me. My bike hit the car and I flew over the hood and landed hard. Nothing was broken but I developed a lot of chronic muscle tension. After these accidents I started to have episodes of acute back pain. 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 became very depressed and I couldn’t work for months. I felt frightened and stuck. That was when I got really serious about learning about back problems and how to fix them.
I read books and consulted widely. Eventually I found an excellent physiotherapist, Maureen Dwight in Toronto and I followed the exercises that she prescribed. I also did about 2,000 hours of Body Scan Meditation and I used Feldenkrais exercises to learn to move without hurting myself.
Back Pain Advice and Recommendations for my friend, and for you if you need it
A good friend of mine developed severe back pain a few weeks ago. He told me that he wanted advice so he could understand what was going on with his back. He also wanted some direction about how to rehabilitate his back. He was getting treatment but he wasn’t seeing any progress. The scientific and clinical understanding about back problems and how to rehabilitate them has advanced greatly in the past 30 years. I told my friend to get a copy of Back Mechanic by Dr. Stuart McGill. Dr. McGill knows more about chronic back pain and how to fix it than anyone else I know of. There are lots of YouTube videos about him and his approach. Here is one you could start with on Lower Back Pain and Exercise Myths Busted.
You can order a copy of Back Mechanic from his website.
Here is another book that might interest you. It is : Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin. She also highly recommends Dr. McGill’s approach. Learn more by visiting her 7 tips about how to eradicate back pain article.
These days my back is pretty functional. Every day I do some of the physical exercises recommended by Dr. McGill in the Back Mechanic book and I also do an hour of mindfulness meditation. Here is what Dr. McGill says about mindfulness: “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.”
Every back is different. Dr. McGill’s book and videos can help you assess the cause of your back problem and can help you learn what movements to promote or avoid. If nothing has helped so far, do not give up hope. Keep checking things out. Perhaps Dr. McGill’s approach will bring you to the last stage of your back journey. I wish you good luck.