A strong back. Just like that picture. That's my goal picture. And I've realized that itt’s called a journey because there really is no “end,” right? Well, I’m still on the path. Two weeks ago, I was performing my “Stretches for a Healthy Back” (and that’s really what they are called!), when, mid-lunge, I felt that familiar twinge and tightness in my lower back. As I eased out of the stretch, I cursed myself for not being more careful but quickly caught myself and realized that I hadn’t done anything wrong. The blame neural network path is clearly tied to the pain neural network path. In fact, they might be married. After I caught myself, I quickly switched out of blame and into healing mode. After getting my son off to school, I reviewed and started the McKenzie extension exercises and the wall slides to correct my torso's C shape caused by the muscle spasms. PLEASE NOTE: This is not medical advice, and I am not connected to any of the doctors, therapies, or products that I describe. Rather, I am just sharing the path that has worked for me!
I also started expressive writing…like right that minute. Coincidentally (or maybe not), I have been reading a book called “Back in Control: A Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain” by Dr. David Hanscom. That’s right, folks. He’s a surgeon. Writing about healing back pain WITHOUT surgery. Basically he’s writing his way out of a job. You know that caught my attention. Some of his ideas and techniques parallel the work of Dr. Sarno that I’ve written about earlier; however, he provides more details on the neural networks formed by pain, anxiety, and anger. I’ll provide a full book review when I finish, but already, I can whole-heartedly recommend this book to those with pain. So, I’m writing, expressively, and doing the McKenzie exercises on the hour, every hour, and I’m feeling better. I added Biotics Intenzyme Forte proteolytic enzymes as soon as I remembered them. These all-natural enzymes, when taken on an empty stomach, “eat” the inflammation, facilitate the healing process, and help you to feel better. I also did more research and found a recommendation from Dr. Axe for back issues…specifically disc issues. I trusted his recommendations because he had used him to recover from his own disc bulge/herniation and he’s lifting and working out like never before. His recommendations included:
1. Eat collagen and broth (CHECK-I’m already doing it but now it’s broth with breakfast, broth with lunch, and broth with dinner, and don’t forget the yummy broth snacks).
2. Take supplements, specifically Omega 3s, MSM, glucosamine/chondroitin, and turmeric and other anti-inflammatory herbs (I had fallen out of rhythm with my Omega 3s, so I added them back in to start).
3. Practice Egoscue. This is a form or posture training that I was unfamiliar with. I watched some YouTube videos (the source for all answers next to the google!) and found a practitioner about an hour away. Then, I found out it would cost around $4000 for a series of instructions. Yikes! I had been practicing the Gokhale method) http://gokhalemethod.com), but it had fallen away when my pain improved last year. So, I’ll be doing stretch-sitting and stretch-lying again, and I signed myself up for a free online workshop to refresh my good posture skills.
4. Prolotherapy. This one was new. Prolo-what? After some (okay, a lot) of research I discovered that prolotherapy and its cousin PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections don’t just mitigate the symptoms, they actually treat the PROBLEM. What a concept! The idea is that a herniated disc leads to lax ligaments, and low back pain comes from muscle spasms that are overworked because they are trying to pick up the slack (pun intended!) of the lax ligaments. Another theory is that lax ligaments lead to a herniation...it’s a chicken or the egg scenario. Dr. Axe recommended Regenexx prolotherapy and PRP. After calling around to find some practitioners, I found Dr. Wagner at National Spine and Pain Centers. I was shocked to get an appointment with him the following week. What was even more surprising was that he took a lot of time to review my imaging and subsequently spent about 45 minutes with me explaining that I had a herniated disc at L5/S1 on the left side. My face went blank. I explained that the orthopedic doc in Maryland last year said I didn’t have a herniation and that the bulge that I had was on my right side. Meaning that there was no physiological reason for my pain. Meaning that I spent a year stupefied and researching and trying treatments ($$$$) when there was an actual physiological connection. In fact. Dr. Wagner told me that my case was “textbook,” and that the disc herniation resolves in six to eight months (it did) and asked if I have had SI joint/piriformis issues (I did). He then told me that indeed, I did NOT have SI joint/piriformis syndrome. Ummm…hold up. I had had yoga therapy, acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic, and have done more stretches than I can remember for those two issues, and you are telling me that I don’t have those issues?? Yes, that was what he was telling me! He said that those diagnoses are often because the provider doesn’t know what is wrong. He told me that he could give me standard treatment like cortisone injections to cool the inflammation and make me feel temporarily better but that I would be back in a few months with the same issues. He drew a giant picture of my back and the ligaments and the treatments and the treatment options and said that if it were him, he would do prolotherapy for the ligament laxity and PRP to regenerate the disc tissue because these are permanent solutions. Are they a 100% cure? No, but nothing is. I left in awe, shock, and frustration. And I proceeded to do more research on prolotherapy (here, here, and here) and PRP (here, here, and here). The findings were positive and promising. The downside was that my insurance won’t cover the cost, but given what I had already spent on treatments that didn’t really TREAT the cause, I decided to go for it. Dr. Wagner and his assistant said that they were surprised to see me without the intermediate traditional injections. I told them I didn’t like the negative effects of steroids and wanted a solution not a band aid. The lab tech drew what felt like a whole lotta blood and sent me off to return in three hours after the blood was spun and frozen (maybe not in that order) to collect the energy-rich platelets. Now, I’m not going to lie. The injections were not comfortable, but in the grand scheme of things, it was tolearable. I’m 24 hours post-procedure and outside of a little soreness at the injection sites, I’m feeling fine. The platelets work over the course of weeks and another round is required in a month or so. I’m doing lots of visualizations seeing those platelets regenerate and strengthen the disc!
5. Corrective chiropractic. I’ve seen a chiropractor (3 different ones to be exact), so initially I dismissed this suggestion, but when I returned to read more about it, I discovered that corrective chiropractic is actually very different than the more traditional chiropractic I had been exposed to. Corrective chiropractic identifies and treats the underlying issues (are you seeing the same theme that I am here?). I found only one chiropractor who practices this method in the driving area. After three initial sessions, I decided to try it. X-rays (which had shockingly never been taken of my spine) revealed that my neck was straight where it should be curved and the same was true for my back. I was shocked. I lead a healthy lifestyle…how could this happen? Genes and habits were the answer I received back. The treatment plan is intense…three sessions of adjustments and traction a week followed along with at-home exercises performed daily. Will I have time to sleep? Maybe not, but if these changes can take place in three months and set me up for a pain-free, mobile existence with mere tune-ups along the way, it just might be worth it. I’ll detail my experience as it progresses.
So, thanks to Dr. Axe and Dr. Wagner, I’m progressing down a new path. A continuation of my healing journey. This is also a reminder that I and you have to be our own health advocates. Ask for second opinions...maybe even a third. No one cares about your health as much as you do. ALWAYS.
Even though I’ve found some promising physical treatments, I am still committed to gratitude journaling and expressive writing. More details to come on both of those. I'll also keep up with my regular exercise (hopefully more walking with sub-freezing temperatures out of the forecast for the immediate future), meditation, Foundation exercises, and practice of having fun!
To read all about my healing experience, click HERE to download my e-book.