Saturday, January 28, 2012

Oh My Aching Back

I am so appreciative of the comments on my last post. I planned on posting an update yesterday, but was so sleepy that I went to bed super early instead. My back is better. Not great but better. I will tell you what I'm contemplating.

I had physical therapy for this very same back issue about 5 years ago. I learned a lot about why I was hurt and how to begin to heal. The main reason I was hurt? A weak CORE. --By the way, I grew to hate hearing about my core. Even now, I have to stop myself from giving a stink eye to anyone that says something about working to strengthen my core.

So, if I strengthen my core muscles (abdomen and back) I am less likely to have my back fall out of alignment. (Which is pretty much what I think I experienced this week.)  Sometimes it's the chicken versus the egg question. How do I exercise my abdomen and / or back when I am in pain? Don't I need to heal first?

Well, I've done a lot of reading this week, and all of the literature I found says NOT to stay in bed if you have back pain. Everything recommends movement.  For me, I could feel the vertebrae in my lower back just kind of lock up. I felt that if I could get them to loosen up and be flexible (again), that I would be on my way to not hurting.

When I was in PT, I had regular PT and then was sent to a Pilates physical therapist. She was a certified physical therapist that used Pilates techniques and equipment for PT. I got such a huge benefit from working with her. Each time we started with me on the table and I had to warm up my spine by sitting up and then rolling down to the table vertebra by vertebra. This was not easy for me as my lower back usually collapsed without releasing incrementally (vertebra by vertebra).  This was an indicator that my lower back vertebrae were tightly locked and wanted to act as one instead of moving separately as connected joints.  But with each day that I worked my back in these very slow deliberate motions my back got looser and the pain eased.

We also discovered that one of my legs is shorter than the other. (Right leg). In fact, what we found in my non Pilates PT is that my actual leg bones are the same length. Instead, my right hip torks so that my right leg is torked into my pelvis (which has the effect of a shorter leg). Good news is that the leg can actually be pulled out of the pelvis and with some exercises I can help keep it out.

Sometime after graduating from PT, I re-injured myself. This injury was a little different and the PT was not as effective the second time around. Someone recommended a Chiropractor. I had previously been skeptical of Chiropractic care, but this time I was tired of hurting and tried it. Amazingly, working with him gave me tremendous relief. This practitioner was very gentle and believed in exercises for me to practice at home to help. The goal of the exercises? Strengthen my (wait for it) CORE.

Massage also helped.

So, now here I am again, and I live in a different town where I have to re-build my care team. I was sure I wanted to find a Chiropractor pronto. But truly, I'm not so sure this time. My reading shows that some practitioners still believe in a thrusting to move vertebrae into place. And I'm just not sure I want to trust that.

We already know I need PT. I was supposed to get PT for my knee last April. My guess is that the knee problem and the back problem are inter-related. I found a physical therapist I want to use. The big question now is will insurance cover it. The second big question is how to schedule the appointments.

I fully expect that my future holds exercises that involve strengthening the (say it with me) core. Below are some of the things I remember from my prior PT and core work. I remember using foam rollers to help with back pain.  I'm almost looking forward to this.

Tomorrow I will tell you more about my personal training experience.


  1. I had chronic lower back problems for many years, so I sympathize. Strengthening the core is so important, but we have to be so careful because of possible re-injury. I found a book that finally turned it around for me: Healing Back Pain Naturally by Art Brownstein. He has three levels of exercise, depending on your current level of pain and injury when you begin.

    I started using the book in 2005 or thereabouts, and my back hasn't gone out since (knock on wood). I have a garden and can lug around 40-pound bags of soil and mulch with the best of them, and regular digging and shoveling doesn't bother me.

    Good luck to you! I know how challenging and frustrating this can be.

    1. Hi Nadine,
      Thanks for book recommendation. I went to Amazon and put it on my wish list. It does look quite good.


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