People suffering from lower back pain often ask me how I manage scoliosis and lumbar spine disk disease, because I do manage it, despite having a disk determined to be “shot” rendering me a bad candidate for back surgery. One doctor told me I would end up in a wheelchair, but I haven’t had a back episode in years, and I do not take or need pain medication of any kind.
As an advocate of healing mind, body, and soul from all trauma, I hate to see people suffer, so I’m happy to pass along what has worked for me.
I am not a doctor or any authority on health. I’m just someone who has learned a lot through experience and from chiropractors who are willing to teach you what you need to know. These solutions won’t be enough for everyone dealing with pain, but most of it will help tremendously, and it will certainly help people who are in a situation similar to mine.
Let’s start with the mental stuff. I read somewhere that I needed to change my relationship with pain. If this sounds hokey, it’s not. I learned that while I could endure almost unbearable emotional pain, the biggest fears I had were things that could lead to physical pain. I was terrified of physical pain. I wanted to be comfortable all the time and couldn’t accept being uncomfortable ever. I feared it so much; it caused anxiety, and that only made things worse.
Changing my relationship with pain required getting to a place where I could accept when I was uncomfortable and hurting. I needed to remind myself that I wasn’t the only person on earth this was happening to, that aches and pains were normal, in fact, and people deal with it all the time. I also came to recognize that the physical pain I had was not solely a result of this inevitable thing inflicted upon me by some disorder I had no control over; it was my body telling me that something needed attention. Something I was doing or not doing needed to change. I hadn’t realized how reckless I’d been with my body throughout my life, never giving it the tender loving care it deserved. I needed to take care of it and take care of myself, and I needed to know I was worth that. This realization helped, as did the relaxed attitude of seeing myself as just another person on the planet dealing with something unpleasant and seeing myself as a more confident, take-charge person who could address and remedy situations. It means not only learning to love yourself but to trust and believe in yourself as well.
So let’s talk about treating the pain.
I don’t know about you, but I used to panic whenever I felt pain. It made me want to stop everything and get to a place where I could lie down and stay there. That’s a good time to stay away from coffee and sugar. These days, I don’t have to avoid coffee or sugar if I’m feeling a little off, because I understand how everything works, and I don’t panic. Until you get to that place, avoid those things when you’re feeling vulnerable.
Now, for me, ice treatments are everything. A chiropractor taught me to lay on my stomach with a small pillow rolled under my navel to elevate the lower half of my body and then put the ice pack right in the middle of my lower back (no matter where the pain is). Another way is to lie on your back with a pillow under your legs and the ice in the middle of your lower back, never less than twelve minutes, never more than twenty, and the ice pack should have a sheath. If you don’t have a wrap for it, you can put it over your thin T-shirt rather than under it, but it should never be directly on your skin. While in the worst pain where I could barely move, I did twenty minutes of ice every two hours. People who can’t stand ice can use heat, but it’s best to do ice at least for the first couple of days to reduce the inflammation. I rarely have to do an ice treatment now, but I try to do one at least once a week. It just feels good. 🙂
I do have an ice pack I can use at my desk, too, with a wraparound belt that has a pocket for the ice. I bought an extra one to take to the office with me when I worked for a law firm. I kept the ice in their refrigerator and the belt in my desk.
Years ago, I used back braces. They help but can also be a crutch, so it’s good if you use them as needed and wean yourself away as you can.
There are those who can’t function without pain medication, and I understand that. Back when I was struggling, I took Tylenol every four to five hours for days until I was better. That worked to reduce the inflammation, and there were occasions doctors had prescribed stronger medications. However, even Tylenol and Advil are getting a bad rap these days, so for people like me who don’t want to use these medications, I’m including a link below about natural alternatives.
A lot of time, too, our neck is out of whack, and it throws everything off. Take a small pillow or towel and roll it up tight, lie on your back and put that pillow behind your neck. Relax like that for twenty minutes or so whenever needed.
As for prevention, you may already know some or all of these things, but since I run into so many people who don’t know, I’ll cover it all.
First, having a solid abdominal core is essential. For some people, this means changing eating habits, making healthier choices, but others who may not necessarily be out of shape can still have weak cores. In my experience, I would always exercise but then stop for weeks when I felt any pain and slowly rebuild my strength. I was also causing injury by not doing the exercises correctly. While it’s true that you shouldn’t exercise while you are in pain or to the point of pain, sometimes the pain issue is resolved within a day. The trick is to get back on track when you can, even if you can only manage pelvic tilts. When your core is strong, your back is not so vulnerable. For people who can’t get to a gym, there are great exercise tapes on the market. You can do your workouts at home, and the instructors tell you how to do it right, so you aren’t injured. Ideally, you want to work all the muscles in your body, and you want to include strength training, yoga, Pilates, and aerobics in your routine. However, if you don’t have a lot of time to work out, you can at least do abdominal exercises five times a week for ten to fifteen minutes.
I mentioned that pain sometimes resolves itself within a day. I’m talking about food digestion. Very often, the pain people feel in their lower back comes from being bloated and unable to digest food. If this is going on for days, maybe you’re not drinking enough water. I try to drink eight to ten glasses daily. When people get older, they need to add more fiber to their diets.
When my back problems began, one of the first things my doctor told me was to stop lifting my toddler and bending at the waist to pick up his toys and all that. You should always bend at the knees anyway.
If you have back issues, it won’t help you to stay in any one position for too long. That sucks, I know—especially if you have to sit all day at work. Get up and stretch when you can. It’s the same with standing and walking. If you have to stand a long time, walk around a little or sit when you can. A mile-long walk is usually fine but can backfire if you’re hurting. Lying in bed for days isn’t good either. When you are injured, you can’t help that, but as soon as you can, get up every so often and walk a little farther and for a little longer each time.
Everyone knows it’s important to stretch after exercising, but when you have lower back issues, you can take time to stretch even when you’re not beginning or ending a workout.I have a big purple Pilates ball that I can use for stretching at home. You don’t need one to do stretches, but they’re awesome, and they usually come with instruction on how to use them.
Your doctor may have already told you that you need a good mattress and to get a restful sleep every night.
Your back should always be flat against the chair you’re sitting in, no space between your back and the chair. You’ll probably find chairs with arms and high backs to be more comfortable and supportive. I also use a lower back pillow when I’m working at my desk.
All this may sound like a lot of upkeep, but it’s a lifestyle change and becomes second nature to you once you get used to it, so please don’t be discouraged, or give up. Believe me; I know how debilitating this can be, so I don’t want you to suffer for years as I did.
Hope you feel better!
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© Copyright October 9, 2016 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without permission.
Dodinsky photo with quote by BK