Who’s Got Your Back?

June 29, 2015 by
beautiful young brunette woman stretching the muscles of her arms and back, isolated against white background

According to the American Chiropractic Association up to 80% of us will experience back pain in our lifetime. In fact, low back pain accounts for more disability worldwide than any other condition. I've had my share of it off and on for years, mostly minor pain from standing on hard floors or sitting for hours at a time. A good set of orthotics and comfortable shoes usually did the trick.

Until a few years ago when I was stopped at a light and was rear-ended by another car, causing my car to be sandwiched between two others. That collision resulted in a fair amount of pain for a while, but I began to recover with regular chiropractic treatment. Then, six months later I was hit again, this time from the side. Even though the collision was minor, my low back took a hit. Sciatic pain entered the picture, and it become difficult to stand for any length of time without pain. I sought out other forms of treatment, and, in time, things became manageable again. 

And then, this February, I aggravated my low back. I did it all by myself; there was no impact from a multi-ton vehicle this time. It was an innocent enough thing I did: I simply wore heels throughout a long day of networking, standing on hard floors. By the end of the day I could barely walk, and by the next day the sciatic pain was intense. For the first time, it radiated all the way from my low back through my leg and into my foot, which felt like it was broken. It wasn't, it just felt that way. This pain was worse than ever before.

I'll admit, I didn't handle it well. I was annoyed, I mean I'm a busy person, who has time for that? I was irritated with myself, why hadn't I been diligent about keeping my core and back muscles stronger so that I could bounce back more quickly ? Did I miss the memo on that? I felt like I had. And by the way, what was I thinking wearing heels all day? I was frustrated, hurting, and in need of care. 

One of my favorite things about being in the wellness field is that I get to know a lot of great practitioners. So I called my friend Kelly, who's a chiropractor. Kelly set me up with spinal decompression, laser therapy, KST adjustments, and Graston therapy. When her office got a new Aquaroll machine, I had that therapy on my poor feet. Sure enough, within a few months I was out walking 4 - 5 miles a day again, and the pain went from searing to negligible. 

I learned a lot from this experience: 

  • Yes, I have a few herniated discs. Lots of people have them. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it doesn't.
  • Chronic pain can make a person feel old. I'm not opposed to growing old. As my husband says, "It beats the alternative." But I don't want to feel old or move like an "old person."
  • If I ever wear heels again, they will be very carefully chosen and will be worn for a very short period of time.
  • Lots of people live with pain, many of them much more graciously than I do. I met several people in the last few months who live with constant, debilitating pain, and they do not let it stop them from living their lives - not for one minute. One woman I met told me "It's my one precious life, I will not let the pain take my life!" She's had 14 surgeries following a horrendous fall.
  • It may sound odd, but I'm grateful for these experiences. Although by comparison to many my pain was a walk in the park, I now have a clue about what others go through. I understand that pain can contribute to depression, and that for some of us the temptation to self-medicate with food can be irresistible. Resulting weight gain only complicates matters. 
  • Keeping core and back muscles strong is a smart thing to do. For all of us. 
  • Therapeutic massage is a God-send. See, I also have a friend who owns a therapeutic massage business. She knows her stuff, and so does her staff!
  • The biggest surprise in all of this was something as obvious as muscle strength: stretching.

See, after months of recovery, I attended seven days of meetings within an eight day period. There was LOTS of sitting for four long days straight, one day off, then another three long days of sitting. And let me tell you, the sitting was almost worse than the accidents. I was hurting again. So I saw Kelly, then I scheduled a deep-tissue massage. 

At the massage clinic I picked up a handout with several sets of stretches. I took them home, and I took the time to do them.I was a new woman! No back pain! Eight minutes of stretching and no back pain? Something clicked for me!

Sitting = back pain. Maybe that sounds too obvious to you, but when you're in pain you don't always connect the dots.

What if we all stretched every day, maybe several times a day if we sit a lot? 

I asked my friend Lu, owner of Balance Orlando Massage and Structural Therapy, if I could share her packet of stretches with you. She generously agreed. Click Basic Stretches-New and you'll be able to download them for yourself. I think you're going to love them!

Will stretching work for you the way it's working for me? I'd love to know! Tell me about your experience in the comments below. 

You can find Kelly Fredericks, DC at Chiropractic Solutions of Winter Park.

You can find Lu Mueller-Kaul at Balance Orlando Massage and Structural Therapy