Back Pain-A Bitch or Blessing?

90% of the population will suffer back pain at some stage in their life.

Its quite staggering how many people suffer from back pain and/or back injury, which can present in many forms, and spend majority of time in pain, not seeing anyone about it, or just dealing with it and consuming a lot of pain killers.  Maybe you’re one of these sufferers.

The body is NOT supposed to be in pain. The body CAN heal itself. The body can adapt to change as pain re-writes the programming in how we move.

IMG_5149Did you know that 70% of the population are walking around with an undiagnosed disc injury and don’t know it? Disc bulges are not the same in any one person and should NOT be ignored. Any back pain that has presented should not be looked at as “just one of those things” or “that its just your age or a part of growing older.” Its also not a matter of it “just happened” without reason. There is always a reason and we have the opportunity to learn from it. This is where the “blessing” can come from. The “bitch” is certainly the pain.

Back pain can range from a dull ache or can be quite debilitating with chronic pain, so bad you may not be able to walk. I’m a firm believer in getting second opinions and finding out all possible options. Yes, surgery can be inevitable but it can also be a hinderance and certainly not fix the problem.

We see so many people walk into our facility with back pain – disc injuries, broken backs, spondylosis, spondylolisthesis to name a few, so I feel compelled to share my story so it may offer you some insight, or help someone you know that is suffering and in pain.

IMG_5556In December 2015 an MRI showed I had a 13mm posterior bulging disc at L5/S1, compressing on my sacral nerve root. The chiropractor I went to didn’t want to touch me as this was a “significant bulge”.  I had been flat on my back for a week with incredible nerve pain down my left leg and left foot, to the degree I couldn’t walk. The pain killers that I had reluctantly taken wore off too quickly to numb the pain, to the point I could no longer lie on the floor with my legs over a chair and so in desperate measures we called the ambulance, thinking that the hospital would be the best place for me to be at, at that time.

(This Im sharing with you to make you realise how we are being dumbed down with medications…) I hadn’t stood up for over a week, (my husband was away) and yet when the paramedics arrived, they insisted I have the “green stick” so I could get down the stairs.  (I had a back injury, couldn’t walk, was in excruciating pain and you want me to “walk” down the stairs?) I believed I needed a stretcher to get me down the stairs but that was not possible as whilst in the ambulance the ambo’s told me they couldn’t lift me as they had bad backs! Walking down those stairs would have only exacerbated the problem!

Whilst spending 3 days in hospital, the only approach was to “manage the pain” with medication. I was so heavily medicated my head felt like cement. It seemed any person who came to me, was either giving me a pill, jabbing a needle into my butt, however no one was addressing my back injury at all. On Donal’s return and seeing that I had not made any progress, he asked what was being done about the injury.  No further x-rays or MRI’s were offered, nor any treatment but just “pain management”. After the 3 days, I requested an x-ray and forced myself to get up and walk so I could go home and get the treatment I knew I could receive by a practitioner who knew his stuff. Fortunately for me, this is my husband Donal Carr – a back care specialist and my absolute god-send!

I want to express my empathy for back pain sufferers or anyone that lives in pain. For some, it can pull you dIMG_5585own into a spiral, shifting you into a dark place where it consumes your every thought for hours, days, months and quite possibly, years. It doesn’t have to be that way. Ive heard so many people say that they’ve tried everything. Initially, I was advised to have cortisone injections. I chose not to as this is a bandaid approach and only treats the symptom not the cause. I was also advised to have surgery and at the same appointment with the surgeon, he told me he could not guarantee that the surgery would help and there was nothing else that I could do. He also did not believe that my disc bulge could be re-centralised. Yet, 12 months down the track (as this how long it takes to heal) I had no surgery, the disc re-centralised and to-date have no back pain.

Here’s what I did.

FullSizeRenderRest: I came to terms with resting – I couldn’t walk anyway so I had to accept that. I spent 6 weeks on my back on the floor. I had my gorgeous furry friend to keep me company too.  She knew I wasn’t well, bless your beautiful soul, Belle.

Hydration: Even though it was such a chore going to the toilet, I drank at least 3-4 litres of clean filtered water (with celtic sea salt) to hydrate the spine/discs and flush out the toxins of the medications.

Nutrition: I consumed healing foods and non inflammatory foods such as bone broths, turmeric, ginger, garlic, raw greens, salads and juices. All certified organic of course, so to ensure I was getting the best raw materials as possible to heal. I took natural supplements such as Bio Curcumin, high doses of vitamin c, magnesium and cod liver oil. Bromelain and collagen from bone broths which are the essential nutrients to rebuild the disc material. I gradually took myself off all the medications too.IMG_5607

Breathing: I had a lot of time to ponder and accept where I was at, at the time. When you’re in fear and pain, your breath becomes shallow and you tend to breathe from your mouth, not your nose as you are in a sympathetic response or “fight or flight” response. I practiced many breathing techniques to help calm my nervous system and so I could shift into a parasympathetic or calming state.

Thoughts: I had a lot of fear around my injury and so fear can lead to anxiety and depression. Im sharing this as I recommend that you find something or someone to pull you out of that emotional sucking tunnel. For me, I listened to Wayne Dyer every single day as well as 4 meditations from my dear friend Amanda Howe. I had my sisters & friends checking in with me, one friend in particular who just knew when I was at my worst through her spiritual intuition and of course my husband and sons who took over my role as cook, cleaner and carers!

Energetically: If you know anything about the energy vortexes in the body you’ll understand what I mean about the chakras. The root or first chakra represents safety and security and it only dawned on me that at the time of my injury/pain we had sold our house, was in Ireland on holiday and on our return to Sydney had to pack up the rest of the household contents and find a place to live in just 10 days. So even though in my mind I thought I was ok with letting go of our family home, my body was holding on to something way deeper!

Physical: I had to start moving as soon as I could. Laying on my back with a pillow under my hips and back provided some comfort and helped keep a curvature in my lumbar spine, along with the back strapping, bFullSizeRenderut it got really uncomfortable lying on my back for such lengthy periods. Donal knew exactly how to strap my back with kinesio tape and normal strapping tape, which was applied every 2-3 days pending on what treatment he was giving me. The strapping helped keep me in lordosis (so I wouldn’t flatten out my back). This helped enormously as the strapping acted as feedback to remind me to keep the curve in my lumbar spine and not flatten it out. (A flat back can be the contributor to a bulging disc!)

I began with McKenzie pushups, supine hip extensions so I could strengthen the back muscles and glutes. I focused heavily on my T.V.A. core activation on all 4’s first and then had to be very conscious of keeping this switched on, clenching my butt cheeks when I walked, when I was eventually upright just to help keep me stable and protect the injury.

We purchased a good “Teeter back swing” (recommended by our dear friend Paul Chek) which I was in up to 3 x a day, every day for a minimum of 1 minute to start, building up to 3 mins. The teeter back swing is designed to help take the load off the spine, in an upside down position. During the first couple of weeks whilst in the back swing, Donal would hold my head and apply traction to release and assist with the decompression of the spine and the muscles that had been going into spasm.

IMG_5583When I was able to get back to the gym at Place of Chi, I started increasing the exercises to build the foundation of a strong core and back. Deadlifts, extensions, pulling exercises and loads of core work. I had to go right back to basics and “phase 1” exercises. All I wanted to do was to be able to walk and get outside with my boys and my dog. You know, its the small things that we take for granted when they’re taken away from us. The entire process has made me have a deeper appreciation and empathy for the people who are in pain, who feel that they’ve tried everything and feel they have to rely on medication. As I mentioned before, sometimes surgery is inevitable, but do your research and look for alternatives before going under the knife!

  • What NOT to do:  Don’t ignore your pain and think it will go away. Don’t get a cortisone injection thinking that this will solve the issue as it won’t. Its a mask and it may feel good temporarily but it doesn’t address the real cause, only the symptom.  Don’t look for quick fixes through medications as this will only set you up for further pain down the track. I would not advise going to a group fitness, pilates or yoga class to correct a bulging disc or other spinal pathology WITHOUT an x-ray or MRI or proper assessment. I would not go to any trainer, teacher, instructor or coach who doesn’t take your injury into consideration and/or who doesn’t have the knowledge on what to do or who just wants to keep pushing you through it. This is negligence. If you’re in pain, this is your body communicating with you that something is out of alignment and something is wrong! I would also not do any exercise that tucks the tail under (many pilates exercises do this) or “flattens the back” if you have a posterior bulging disc.
  • What DO you do? Move well. Find a coach, trainer, instructor that has the knowledge and know how and who works on strengthening the spine and core….properly. Seek these trainers/coaches/instructors that use swiss balls and other stability tools – and who, use them correctly so you can build a proper foundation for optimal core strength and conditioning.  C.H.E.K. trained professionals would be my recommendation. Try E.L.D.O.A. classes and seek a trained ELDOA practitioner. If in pain, go to a specialist and get an X-Ray or MRI to determine what is happening in the spine/pelvis FIRST. Go to a practitioner who can thoroughly assess your spine and not by ‘the eye’. If they’re not assessing, they’re guessing! Go to a qualified and high end C.H.E.K Practitioner, Physical Therapist, Osteopath or someone who will assess with the proper tools and/or and someone who can read an MRI. Get some acupuncture – it will help with pain but it won’t change the structure. Don’t take advice from a social media group who aren’t qualified or experienced in this field! Stay Positive. You don’t have to be in pain for life. Get to the root of the problem and address it immediately. The spine is our utmost foundation!IMG_6277

The blessing that came from this experience is that it taught me and reminded me of the things that I had let slip (like strength training and core conditioning) and I’d become too lax or hyper-mobile through teaching too many yoga classes. Yoga is wonderful, but if you’re hypermobile then be cautious! I had had a weakness in my spine from 2 c-sections, but it was the lack of conditioning that contributed to my injury, not to mention wear and tear from years and years of high impact training.

Remember: You need flexibility but you MUST have STABILITY first.

Click here for Donal’s quick youtube snippet on:  Back Pain Causes

Enquire about a free consultation with Donal at Place of Chi – he has helped thousands just like me!  0421 097 610