By Ed Coghlan.
For the record, I hurt my back 40 years ago playing racquetball - and began four decades of trying to figure out how to deal with the recurring (but until recently not chronic) back pain. One back surgery (lower back disc), flare-ups so severe they put me in the hospital back when they still did it, didn’t slow me down. I still tried to play racquetball for the next several years, finally gave it up but continued to work out, play golf and in later years found hiking as a great pastime (both for body and attitude).
But still the looming threat of the back pain flaring up impacted (and still impacts) all of my activities. Two years ago, when my back pain turned chronic (if hurting every day is chronic), I decided to find out if any new answers were out there.
I had an MRI which revealed bulging discs in my neck as well as my lower back. The doctor, whose name I will not reveal, started to sell me on surgery - but I decided against it because I simply didn’t believe it would work. (We had written too many stories on the National Pain Report about Failed Back Surgery - and I felt the odds weren’t with me)
Our reporting and other reading I had done indicated to me that strengthening my core would help mitigate the problem. So, I swore off surgical interventions, most pain medication and went about trying to fix myself as best I could.
I have been going to a trainer for five years and we work on my “core” twice a week. I occasionally go to a chiropractor, have acupuncture and cupping and stay active. I hike, play golf when my back allows (not often enough) and try to avoid long times sitting (not easy when you’re driving the Los Angeles freeways)
For me, it’s been working, at least some of the time.
That’s why a recent article at vox.com caught my attention. It was about a book written by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin titled: Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery.
The reporter, Julia Belluz, introduced us to Ramin who has suffered from chronic back pain and decided to use her reportorial skills to look at the research. She (Ramin) deduced that a lot of what is prescribed doesn’t work. As Belluz wrote:
“The big takeaway: Millions of back patients like Ramin are floundering in a medical system that isn’t equipped to help them. They’re pushed toward intrusive, addictive, expensive interventions that often fail or can even harm them, and away from things like yoga or psychotherapy, which actually seem to help. Meanwhile, Americans and their doctors have come to expect cures for everything — and back pain is one of those nearly universal ailments with no cure. Patients and taxpayers wind up paying the price for this failure, both in dollars and in health.”
So, how about you? Do you suffer from chronic back pain? What do you find helpful?