My Aching Back!

Are you feeling a little tight or twingy in your low back? You are not alone.  Everyone has had a “pain” in their back.  Maybe it was caused by lifting heavy objects, a car accident, poor posture, doesn’t matter.  Low back pain is the 2nd most common cause of disability in the U.S.

Low back pain is one of the top reasons to go see the doctor and one of the leading reasons to call in sick to work anywhere in the world.  According to a recent article in VOX, more than $90 billion dollars is spent per year on diagnosing and alleviating back pain.  That’s more money than is spent on high blood pressure, pregnancy and postpartum care and depression.  That $90 billion dollar figure also does not include the close to $20 billion that is lost in productivity.

Surgery, painkillers, steroid injection are not helping the solve the problem. So what to do? 


For Los Angeles author Charles Fleming, walking helped him alleviate the pain in his back.  Being faced with a third surgery on his back, he decided to think on it and take a walk.  As he continued walking, adding distance, endurance and intensity, his walking distance increased, and his back began feel better. In his neighborhood of Silver Lake in Los Angeles, he had always been intrigued by the the public staircases that are located around his neighborhood.  Going up and down the various hills, Fleming began exploring these staircases. He now has a bestseller called “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles,” and less back pain.

 If you’re suffering from low back pain, make sure your doctor has ruled out serious causes.

Alternative therapies like walking, yoga, tai chi, and Pilates may actually do more good in helping relieve the pain.  Investigative report Cathryn Jakobson Ramin wrote her book, “Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery” about her search in finding relief for her own back issues.

She found that moving was the most important thing one can do to relieve back pain.  Most people find that when pain strikes their low back, they cut back on physical activity.  However, new studies comparing bed rest to exercise for low back pain has found that physical activity can help relieve pain, while bed rest, or inactivity can delay a person’s recovery.

This author found a good chiropractor and regular yoga to be the balm to her low back pain.  I had hurt my low back without knowing as a young woman working in a candy store.  I was constantly moving heavy boxes of chocolate covered peanuts, pretzels, and bonbons.  Delicious, yes, but the hours, and year spent moving those boxes without proper lifting technique or tools to help move the boxes caused my injuries.  The injury and pain, though was not immediate, it caught up with me a few years later.  By the time I was 25 I had a hard time standing straight.  As long as I was walking and moving I was fine, but standing in line at the grocery store, or on a crowded bus left me uncomfortable and in pain.  I didn’t know what to do.  Doctor said bed rest and hot compresses.  A friend recommended their chiropractor.  Hot compresses and aspirin didn’t help, so I tried the chiropractor.  X-rays showed heavy scar tissue around my hip, constricting the full movement of my spine and hip and placing pressure on my sciatic nerve.  He recommended chiropractic therapy. After 3 months, I was standing tall, and almost relieved of pain.

Yoga did the rest.  Once I discovered and began practicing Iyengar yoga regularly, I am now able to control my pain, and relieve open my spine and relieve my sciatica with a series of simple moves.

Explore  the various exercise modalities out there.  Walking is free, or you can try yoga, pilates, tai chi, or strength training.  Give yourself a good solid month of activity and increasing intensity in which ever activity you choose.  Ramin eventually discovered an exercise routine that provided her relief.  See the image for the “McGill Big Three” that Ramin swears by, add it to your daily stretches and feel better.

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