Five Hard Truths About Back Pain – My Personal Experience

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As a guy who has been dealing with back problems for over 20 years, I wanted to share my thoughts about back pain. You don’t have to look very hard to find some product or exercise that will fix your back pain “quickly” or “easily.” 

If you struggle with back problems, I am curious to get your take in the comments section below.  How does your experience compare to mine?

To give you a little background on me, you can read my complete story here, but I will provide you with the summary version now.

Let’s take a trip back to 1999 when it all started.  I had always been a very active guy and never been injured in my life.  By “injured,” I mean broken bones or anything somewhat significant like that. But in early 1999, I started to have a tingling and numb sensation down my right leg. That was the beginning.

I wasn’t given much in the way of treatment options so, late in 1999, I had back surgery, something I regret to this day.  If I had known then, what I know now.

Over the past 20 years, it’s been a series of ups and downs, some pretty hard downs I will add.  I never really changed my habits, physically, and I continued to do everything I had done before from a physical standpoint.  Lifting heavy objects by myself, doing stupid things at the gym, etc.  These activities did not serve me well over time.

With that said, I want to talk about some of the things I have learned along the way.  This is strictly based on my own experience with back pain.

There is no one size fits all fix for back pain

As I mentioned earlier, you can find articles all over the internet promising “quick and easy back pain fixes.”  One thing I have learned is that no one treatment works for everyone.  Everybody reacts differently to pain, as well as treatment.Back pain treatment

I know people who have had great success with cortisone shots, but I have never experienced any pain relief from these shots.  Even when administered using x-ray equipment to hit just the right spot, my body didn’t respond.

People will tell you what works for them, and it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you.  It’s good to get input from different people, maybe you will learn about a treatment option you didn’t know about.  Keep in mind, though, just because it works for your friend, neighbor, uncle or whatever, doesn’t mean it will work for you.

I have had good luck with chiropractic adjustments and using an inversion table.  Other people have good luck with injections.  Everyone is different and will respond differently to each treatment.

You may never know what happened

When I was hobbling around in constant pain in 1999, barely able to get up out of my seat to walk to the bathroom, everyone kept asking me what happened. Honestly, I had no idea what happened, still don’t.  In the spring of ’99, I started having numbness and tingling down my right leg.

I went to see a doctor who prescribed physical therapy for me.  Physical therapy made the problem so much worse! Within a couple of weeks doing PT, I went from annoying pain in my leg, to walking around like a seriously old person. Maybe it wasn’t the PT that did it, but the therapist had me stop immediately the next time he saw me.

I never had a traumatic injury that I could point to, never heard, or felt anything “POP.”  Just gradually, I started having tingling, numbing and eventually shooting pain down my leg.

I know some people can point to an activity or an accident that caused their back to “go out,” but not so for me.  Anyway, the moral is, you may never be able to pinpoint exactly what put you in that situation.

You can check out this article for more information on back pain symptoms, causes, prevention, etc.

Back pain can get expensive

When you consider trips to the doctor, chiropractor, MRI scans, etc., etc. it can sure add up.  A few years ago, I had an MRI for a lower back injury, and my insurance company said it would be covered. Then I got a bill for $1,000+ in the mail.  Insurance eventually paid for it, but you can see where I am going with this.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on diagnosis and management of low back pain, and it costs billions more in loss of productivity [1]. That’s a lot of money, to say the least.

In late 2015 I was doing stupid things at the gym (still hadn’t learned my lesson), I had a pretty severe back injury.  I was determined NOT to have another back surgery, so I went to a highly recommended chiropractor.

I was seeing the chiro 2x per week, and it was costing me $40 per visit. This was without any insurance, just the cash rate.  I spent over $1,000 during the next several months on adjustments and other treatments at the chiropractor.  I call this a success, though, as I didn’t have surgery, and I was back in action about 6 months later.

I learned a lot from this latest back injury and have really adjusted my lifestyle and workouts accordingly. The point of this is that you can spend a LOT of money dealing with back problems with treatment, time off work, etc.

You might just have to deal with the pain

Pain
Image courtesy of Stockunlimited.com

Nobody wants to deal with pain.  When we are in pain, all we want is for it to go away.  I know the pain can be excruciating, and it can be extremely tough to function when you are dealing with back pain.  Been there done that.

In 2011, I suffered a lower back injury, and this was the first time I had ever heard or felt anything pop.  I bent over to pick up my daughter, who was five years old at the time, and “POP,” I felt something in my lower back.

I had been through back pain stuff before, so I thought I had this under control. After an injury in 2009, I was back in action pretty quickly after using an inversion table. So, in my infinite wisdom, I pulled out my inversion table and started using it after my latest injury.

That was my first mistake. I had never learned how to use my inversion table the right way, even though that helped me in 2009.  So now, in 2011, I was inverting too aggressively and causing more harm than good.

I dealt with the searing pain for about 3 weeks, then I finally went to a back pain clinic.  The doctor followed the typical protocol and prescribed painkillers.  When the painkillers did me no good, we tried injections, a couple of different times.  The shots were unsuccessful, and after several months of pain, I was left with surgery as my “best and final” option.

I was not about to have surgery again, like in 1999.  I chose to just deal with the pain. The pain was so bad at times, driving to work was almost impossible.  Then I would get to the parking lot and work and grit my teeth as I hobbled to my desk, about a five-minute walk.

There were days I didn’t know if I would be able to make it from the parking lot to my desk.  Anyway, long story short, I hobbled around like this for 16 months.  Some days were better than others, but I was willing to deal with the pain versus having another surgery that would not completely solve my problem.

My brother also had back surgery somewhat recently, and he never really got any pain relief. So I encourage people to look for other options besides surgery.  I feel like that is often a first option rather than the last possible resort.

Painkillers are not the answer

I have never had any pain relief from painkillers.  Whether it’s Percocet, Vicodin, Lyrica, or whatever. I think I am one of those weird people who doesn’t respond well to painkillers :(.

Every time I have been to a doctor about back problems that is the first thing on the menu, a prescription for painkillers.  I appreciate the thought, though.

We hear about getting to the source of the pain or the problem.  Whether the cause of the problem is muscular, or something more severe like a herniated disc getting to the source of the pain, can certainly help.

Anyway, I am not a fan of painkillers, maybe they work for some people, but unless you fix the problem, the problem will persist.

Summary

Back pain sucks; there is no getting around it. For a lot of people, back pain goes away in a pretty short amount of time. Then there are those of us with chronic back problems, and there are no quick or easy ways to fix your back.

I use an inversion table and work on core strength. These two things have been working for me, so I will stick with them.

I can tell you that since I started working more on strengthening my core, I feel a lot better. I have also made modifications to my lifestyle.  I don’t lift heavy objects by myself anymore.  I try to work smarter, not harder.

I would love to get some feedback and see how you feel about this article.  What has been your experience with back pain? Or maybe you know someone who has back problems, what is their take?

Thanks for stopping by.  If you have any questions, please leave them below.

Steve

BuildingStrongerBodies.com

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