As someone who has been dealing with chronic low back pain most of my adult life, I wanted to share some of the things I have learned about back pain. If you are interested, you can learn more about my complete story here. I want to share how back pain affects me, what I have done, and what you can do to help if you are facing similar issues.
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Back pain is unpredictable
There are days when I feel totally fine and other days when I don’t. Sometimes I wake up and who knows what happened overnight? My back felt fine when I went to bed, now why does it hurt in the morning?
Other days I go to bed at night with tingling pain in the front and back of my right leg. When I wake up, it’s gone, and I feel pretty good for the day.
So, yes, my back pain issues can be unpredictable. Sometimes I don’t even know what sets my pain in motion.
Everyone is different
This is something I have a hard time wrapping my head around. As I said, I have been dealing with back problems for years. I hear people complain about their back hurting and then a few days later they are fine. All some people need is a trip to the chiropractor or a shot and they are good to go. Personally, shots have never worked for me, but chiropractic adjustments have.
I know people who are overweight and out of shape and they don’t have any issues at all with their back. Then there is me. I exercise regularly, eat mostly healthy, and take pretty good care of my body, yet I have been dealing with back problems for years.
No universal solution
This is definitely a fact. As I mentioned earlier, shots work well for some people, but never have for me. Some people swear by yoga as a cure-all for back pain, while I find the twisting motions detrimental. Articles are littering the internet on how to fix your back pain in some easy steps. Sure, this might work for some people, but you need to have a proper assessment to discover the root of your specific pain.
I use an inversion table and a seat cushion just about every day. These things help with my pain. Occasionally, I will wear a back brace to lighten the load on my spine. These are things that work for me and may or may not work for others.
I have never received any benefit from pain pills either.
Back pain can suck the life out of you
This is something I have struggled with and written about before. I had back surgery in 1999 and have learned that was a mistake. Surgery got rid of my pain for several years, but not forever. I have had a lot of back problems since having surgery. I had a pretty severe injury in 2015. My biggest fear is doing something that requires another surgery.
Unfortunately, this catastrophic outlook has me thinking about my back pretty much every day of my life. This can be a good thing in the sense of I am always aware of bending properly and sitting, standing, and walking with good posture.
The sad part of thinking about my back every day is just that, it’s always on my mind. If I lift something or sleep funky, and I have pain, it’s a trigger for me that brings up bad thoughts. Having this in the back of my mind certainly plays with my emotions.
Okay, now I would like to turn that frown upside down and talk about some things you can do to help yourself
What you can do to help back pain
Do your own research
Something I should have done a long, long time ago is stop relying on other people to resolve my back pain. I should have done some of my own research. I should have sought out better clinicians to work with instead of just going to a back pain clinic. My experience at the pain clinics is that they try to manage pain but often fail to get to the root cause and fix the source of the pain.
A great book that was recently recommended to me is Back Mechanic by Stuart McGill, Ph.D. In this book, Dr. McGill talks about becoming pain-free without surgery or drugs. It’s a great read, and there are a lot of strategies that can be implemented in everyday life.
Learn your limitations
This has been a challenging transition for me. I have always been a very active person, and pretty much have done whatever I wanted to physically throughout my life, even during painful periods of back pain, Understanding that I have to be careful is not easy for me.
It’s this macho mentality that has sometimes gotten me in trouble. Understanding my limits has been a steep learning curve for me. Part of it was not wanting to let go of my physicalness (if that is even a word?).
Don’t be Superman
I have had to learn to…wait for it… ASK FOR HELP! This is truly not in my nature and goes with the previous idea of learning limitations. I have always just done everything myself, like lifting heavy stuff around the house at the expense of my back. Over the years, and mostly the past couple of years, I have been asking for more help. It has been more of checking my ego at the door, so I can salvage as much life out of my back as I possibly can.
The moral for me has been prioritizing my back so that I can make sure I am able to maintain a healthy and robust back as much as possible. Plus I have two teenagers, so I put them to work!
Body mechanics are critical
I am reminded of this pretty much every day. If I start to slouch at my desk, I am rudely reminded with pain in my leg. When I bend down to put dishes in the dishwasher or pick up a piece of ice from the floor, I bend down using a lunge. I always try to keep my spine in a neutral position.
Another strategy is to bend over like a golfer bending over to pick up a golf ball. They tend to keep a flat back and lift one leg up as they bend over.
I am a big advocate of exercising to not only build a strong core but to create a good overall fitness level. It is incredible how the human body is interconnected, so having a robust overall fitness level keeps your body in motion. It is essential to build a strong core to help protect your spine.
Even getting out for a walk a few times per day is a great way to maintain at least some level of fitness. Don’t sleep on the value of walking, it’s a great way to exercise and can be really good for people with back problems. 🙂
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article, my take on back pain and what I have learned. Dealing with back pain has been a big part of my adulthood, and finally, in recent years, I am starting to understand how to properly care for my back and the value that will add to my life going forward.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. Feel free to contact me anytime directly as well.
If you have suffered from back pain, do you have any advice?
Do you have any tips to share to help other readers?
Thanks for your time!