Back pain chronicles: 8 strategies for big improvement

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July 2 was a big day for me and my back. It was the day I had my 10-week x-rays with my chiropractor in Oklahoma City. She’s had me on an aggressive 10-week rehab for a herniated L5-S1 disc and serious spinal curvature that has, in concert, caused me significant pain since last October.

I’ve written about it lots on this blog.

But I’m pleased to tell you that there has been major progress and that my days are less filled with pain and currently mostly about minor inconveniences. Not that I plan to be complacent, but I wanted to tell you about the positive news and let you know what’s worked for me.

First and foremost, what the new x-rays showed was less of a compression on the left side of my L5-S1. The gap between vertebrae has gotten bigger. The reason compression on my left side causes tremendous sciatic pain on my right is because the compression sends the nerves on the right side of my body into a constant state of stretch or contraction, I’m not sure which. That sends pain signals to the brain.

The x-rays also showed less curvature.

I should be clear: My pain has not gone away. I know the herniation is there, but it’s more of a 2-3 at its worst, on the pain scale — and it’s an inconvenience, not a show-stopper. I’ve been walking every day, up to an hour per day, at least six days a week.

So, at this point, a full eight months into this process, here’s what’s worked for me.

1. First and foremost, I had to get some physical therapy. In this case, that physical therapy came from my chiropractor, who I see more as a back coach than a pure chiro. She has not only adjusted my back, she’s helped me formulate a plan for getting my back out of pain and stabilized. There was a lot I learned from watching YouTube videos, but chiropractic adjustments had to be part of the mix as well as did seeing the damage to the back, which you can only get with an x-ray. I didn’t only have a herniation, I had serious spinal curvature that was adding to my pain.

Once we got going, she helped me throw the kitchen sink at this bad boy.

2. Metagenics Inflavonoid Intensive Care tablets with curcumin, which is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. Note: I’m not getting a thing for the link, but this has been vital in helping me manage the pain of my herniated disk. I believe in this product immensely.

When you’re taking 10-14 Advil per day for back pain, which for the record, is under the daily allowed limit of ibuprofen, it helps to lessen that intake by adding some of these tablets. They’re made up of natural foods, turmeric especially, and while they can give you heartburn, they didn’t very often for me. My chiropractor has recommended for me a “loading dose,” meaning I’m taking eight per day. Most days, I consume six only because I get busy and forget.

3. Advil. I have to be able to sleep, and so if I have pain or am awakened by pain, I take two Advil. If it starts to hurt at work, I take a couple Advil. For me, neither Tylenol nor Aleve did a thing for me. Ibuprofen has been a huge part of managing the pain and, I suspect, inflammation associated with the herniation.

4. Nerve flossing. My chiropractor gave me specific nerve flossing exercises to do. One of them is a leg extension with my toes flexed backward, turning my foot to the left at full extension. Another set of exercises is like a half-butterfly with a glute squeeze. I haven’t done these yet today, so this is a good reminder.

5. Ice, Ice Baby! Any chance I’d get during the height of my pain, I’d ice my back. You shouldn’t use heat at all, per my chiropractor. I love a good heating pad, and I have one, so this disappointed me. But my sister-in-law, who is also a chiropractor, hooked us up with some awesome ice packs that get frozen hard. You don’t want only cold. You want frozen, and you don’t want to put it on your skin. Trust me. I burned myself something fierce early on in my rehab.

6. An inversion table did help my back feel better temporarily, especially at its height, but it’s not a cure-all. It won’t hurt you though.

7. Walking, and walking fast. Motion is lotion, and the faster you can walk, the better.

8. CBD oil. About three weeks ago, I started trying variations of CBD oil. I should be clear that I don’t mean anything with THC in it. I mean CBD oil, and in my case, it’s a tincture that I drop into my mouth before bed each night. I hold it under my tongue for 90 seconds and then swallow. It’s not only helped me progress my recovery, it’s helped my sleep by quite a bit. I might write about precisely what I bought here soon because my short experience with it has made me a believer.

Hope this helps you and your quest to defeat back pain. If you have any specific examples of tactics that helped you and that aren’t here, let me know. I’m not done learning by any means.

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