Have you had had some back pain for many years, tried a few different things but never seemed to be able to get rid of it?
It can be so frustrating ... pain that keeps coming back, maybe prevents you from doing stuff in your life. It's a really common problem.
Being a medical doctor myself I guess I have some credibility in saying this: doctors are generally bad at treating back pain. Honestly I think they just don't know what to do! Doctors don't have the complete training of all the options that are available. This does not mean you should not see a doctor. You MUST see a doctor at first, because conventional medical doctors are the only people who can treat certain causes of back pain. However this is only the first step and many people will find they have to go elsewhere to find solutions. In my experience actually there is no one cure all for back pain issues, BUT there are a lot of things you can do and if you work at it, I believe you will find a solution.
Personally I've had upper (thoracic) back pain since I was a teenager. A very sharp pain that would come on when sitting for long periods. And then when it came on there was almost nothing I could do to get rid of it. And also lower back pain that initially was from an injury but then stayed for several years.
I found a solution which has totally fixed the pain. And I truly believe that if you work at it you will also find a solution.
So how do you get rid of back pain?
The first thing is not to rely on doctors or any one expert for the answer. However as I mention, it is definitely recommended to see a doctor first. Doctors are the most experienced at treating serious back issues, so you want to make sure that your issue is not too serious before going to other types of practitioners.
If your doctor recommends any kind of surgery then I recommend getting a second (and maybe even a third) opinion from other doctors (not from alternative practitioners). If all the doctors recommend the surgery then go ahead, but if one of the three says not to have surgery then you might consider not going ahead. All surgery can have complications, and although it can fix some back issues, it also might have complications and I think it's better to go with less dramatic options first.
If all the doctor can offer you are some pain tablets, then it's time to move on to other options.
Personally what solved my upper back pain was doing a series of exercises daily which are designed to rebalance my posture and align my body. I do these every day and since doing them have had almost no issues with my upper back. The exercises I use are from the Egoscue method (www.egoscue.com). Their exercises work very powerfully to rebalance your posture and prevent back pain. Many physiotherapists, chiropractors and other physical therapists will also be able to give you a series of exercise that work.
What's most important is the way of thinking you need to have to solve your pain issue. The principles to use when fixing your back pain issue are the following:
- You are responsible for finding the right solution. You also may need to be responsible to do exercises to help prevent it
- Try multiple options, as long as they are non invasive safe options. If you have not tried at least 8 different methodologies/ types of treatment for your back pain then you have not really tried.
- If something seems to help (makes the pain improve) then do more of it. If something doesn't seem to help, don't bother keep going too long with the hope it will help later.
- If you do something and it makes your back pain worse stop it immediately.
- Use a combination of methodologies: Regular exercises; get proper postural aids including aids for your car, a good chair and a good bed.
- Total bed rest is unlikely to help, and unless you have a specific type of issue and you have more than one doctor recommending bed rest, then don't rest in bed too much. You will probably get worse with bed rest. Instead gentle exercise is more helpful.
- Drugs should be considered as a last option only if your pain is very bad and other options have not helped.
- Specific exercises – using the Egoscue method or other forms of exercises, but you must do them daily religiously every day. Also a physical therapist, chiropractor or Physiotherapist can help you with this.
- Chiropractor, Osteopath work or Craniosacral Therapy – make sure to select a very good practitioner as there are big differences between them.
- Body work – particularly Rolfing, the Alexander method, Bowen technique, Heller work and Feldenkrais can all help to realign your posture and improve pain. Apart from exercises Rolfing is the only other thing that seemed to have a powerful effect for me. Myofascial Release therapy is another example of work similar to this.
- Physiotherapy – if you work with a physiotherapist, make sure you pick someone who is an expert in back pain.
- Ergonomic equipment – Firstly you need to get a good ergonomic chair. Also a good quality bed. You can also get something to put in your car to make sure you back stays straight and in alignment whilst driving.
- Shoes – MBT shoes are shoes that are reported to have benefits for sufferers of back pain. Vibram Five Finger shoes have also been reported to be helpful. A podiatrist can be very helpful also in reducing back pain.
- General exercises – Swimming or going to the gym and doing a general workout can be very helpful for you back by reducing weight and improving your muscle tone. Also consistent yoga and Pilates can be very helpful.
- Stretching – specific types of stretching can be very helpful. These are covered also by physical therapists, physiotherapists, the Egoscue method, good physiotherapists and chiropractors, and other techniques such as the McKenzie Method.
- Other stuff to try – Acupuncture has helped some people; Emotions and psychology can have a big impact on your back pain and there are many ways to help you in this area; massage therapy, Mensendieck, reflexology, hypnosis are a few other techniques that you might want to try.
The point of this blog post is NOT to tell you what to do to fix your back pain! I can't do that in one article and really I'm not an expert at treating back pain. You should instead be seeking experts who have treated hundreds or thousands of people (that's an important point, you are much better off seeing someone who has dealt with hundreds of people with back pain than someone who has seen one or two people).
It is possible to fix your back pain. You need to take it into your own hands, and take responsibility. You've probably heard the concept of “taking responsibility for your own health”, but this really is an area where you MUST take responsibility in order to fix it.
Then how do you actually fix it? See a doctor first, and if they are unable to help, systematically seek out many different experts until you find someone who can help you. Read lots of information with specific tips on what you can do, and try all of them (unless they are invasive or are known to have side effects). That's it. You can fix it.