Overcoming Severe Back Pain: A Personal Journey to Recovery

Overcoming Severe Back Pain: A Personal Journey to Recovery

Experts estimate that approximately 80% of the world’s population experiences back pain at some point in their lives—a significant number! You don’t necessarily need to suffer an injury to encounter a shift in your spinal discs. Some of us are more prone to such issues, while others may feel secure until it becomes a genuine problem.

Unfortunately, our habits and lifestyle directly impact our likelihood of developing lower back problems, such as sciatica, hernias, or lumbago. Several factors place you in a risk group (well, 80% is quite a substantial group, isn’t it?)

  • Age: over 30 years old
  • Sedentary lifestyle and work
  • Heavy vertical weight lifting in the gym (enjoy responsibly!)
  • Being overweight
  • Well, I’m just an ordinary man in my 30s, working on a laptop (I’m an engineer), engaging in powerlifting three times a week. Although I’m not overweight, I almost have the full set of risk factors. I bet you can tick off at least 2 out of the 4 factors if you’re reading this story.

I considered myself pretty fit the day before I ended up in the local emergency centre, pumped up with Fentanyl (when other painkillers stopped working). I was doing powerlifting five times a week despite the slight lower back pains I had been experiencing for six months. These pains weren't significant enough to prompt a visit to the doctor, and I successfully gained 15kg of muscle mass within a year. So yes, at that point, I was probably overweight (4 out of 4!)

So, how did it all start? About six months before rehab, I began feeling pain on the right side of my lower back. It wasn’t too severe, and I thought it was a temporary nerve issue (maybe due to the weather or sports). After a few months, I started feeling tension in my right leg (quadriceps part). Still, it was bearable. I continued with my routine: working, lifting, walking. About a week before the issue escalated, I was driving a car when I suddenly felt intense pain in my right leg, preventing me from driving any further. I asked my wife to take over, and the next day, I went to a clinic for a CT scan of my lower back. The results were expected in 7 days.

A week later, sleeping became a challenge due to the inability to find a comfortable position. One day, feeling particularly bad, I decided to take a hot bath to alleviate the pain. That turned out to be a turning point. My last independent move was getting out of the bath and collapsing on the floor. The pain was excruciating. I spent about an hour, naked on the floor (remember that Natalie Imbruglia song? hah) because any movement intensified the pain. My wife called an ambulance. They arrived and suggested I relocate to their vehicle, but I couldn't move. They didn’t seem inclined to help, so I asked if they had some painkillers since Diclofenac failed to provide relief. After a little resistance, they administered the first injection of Fentanyl, giving us 5–10 minutes to get me into their vehicle. The next shot was administered when we arrived at the hospital. Those were the easiest 20 minutes of that day.

I’ll skip the hospital story, “lying in a queue of mobile beds,” etc. In a few hours, a neurologist examined me. They wanted to perform another CT, but I suggested they could request my results from another lab that were only a week old.

Lumbar osteochondrosis, spondylarthrosis

L1-L2 initially flattened, circular protrusion ± 2mm

L2-L3 initially flattened

L3-L4 initially flattened, old calcified disc protrusion ±3mm

L4-L5 initially flattened, old osteophyte disc protrusion ±4.5mm

L5-S1 initially flattened, old osteophyte protrusion ±6mm with effects on neural roots

L1-L3, L3-S1, L2-L4, L4-S1, L2-L3, L5-S1, L3-L5 stenosis

I’m not a doctor. I don’t understand if 6mm is a lot, but as a human being, I understand it’s more than enough to immobilise you. Then came the “treatment,” involving an adrenergic agonist (Tizanidine), anti-epileptics (Gabapentin), anti-inflammatory drug (Aceclofenac), and opiates (Tramadol). Three days of therapy only resulted in stomach ache and didn’t alleviate the pain much. Then they suggested I should opt for lumbar surgery. I had to be in London in 2 days for a very important meeting, and surgery was definitely not an option.

In my city, there was a highly skilled and internationally sought-after chiropractor I used to visit when I was 18. I recall him telling me: “Mind your lower back; otherwise, you’ll end up in a wheelchair one day.” I thought, “What are you talking about? I feel great, and I’m 18!”. My mom and wife had the idea to find this guy, despite the rumours that he’s no longer reachable due to extreme demand for his services. Luckily, they managed to arrange my visit. After 8 pm, when doctors were no longer attending to patients, I temporarily escaped from the hospital with my family's help. I went to see the chiropractor, and he fixed me up within 20 minutes. At around 10 pm, I walked back into the hospital without any assistance.

The next day, I informed my neurologist that I had to be in London the following day, ready to check out. She said, “Mate, you were crying for 3 days, asking for a pill; you’re definitely not ready to leave the hospital.” I assured her that I was really okay, demonstrating the walk of an almost healthy person. She exclaimed, “Wow, the medication really helped!” “Yeah, probably, thanks a lot,” I concluded.

Well, that’s the story with a happy ending. To be honest, I can't claim I was completely okay right after leaving the hospital. Walking in a big city like London was quite challenging. I was limping on my right leg, with no pain at all, but it seemed to consume a lot of energy, and I had to take breaks for a bit of rest. I often experienced muscle tension in my right leg during the nights. But, as I'll reiterate—no pain at all. I couldn't help but limp for 5 more months. My chiropractor explained that the nerve was damaged, compressed by the disc, and it would take time and effort to fully recover. He prescribed me four simple exercises, 2 minutes each, three times a day. It resembles a morning workout you'd do straight after getting out of bed. I'll update this post with the videos a bit later. They're easy to do, nothing complex, yet extremely important for deep back joints. The main idea of the recovery was to avoid disc compression (or regularly decompress discs) and gradually improve the deep back muscles. Another crucial point is to get the muscles relaxed at the end of the day.

Once my recovery steps were defined, I started searching the internet for additional methods to complement the recommendations from my manual therapist. He advised against yoga practice in my case, so I focused on decompression exercises and products. That's when I discovered Nubax. The concept of the product is simple and obvious! To be honest, I initially thought it was a bit pricey, but I decided to give it a try. Most online shops accept returns with a full refund. What did I have to lose?

You know what? It's become some kind of a morning/evening ritual for me to use this machine. It’s easy to use, and it decompresses the discs with your body weight while you bend over the limiter-belt and relax. Sometimes, you can even hear a soft, pleasant click in your back. Don't be afraid!

I found other implementations of the same idea (bodyweight disc decompression) on the same website. Inversion Table, Stamina inLine Traction, and others. I tried the Inversion table during a procedure once, and personally, I prefer Nubax.

Another point—muscle relaxation. A good solution I've adopted is an acupressure mat. You’ve probably already seen those mats with spikes on them. It's another "masochistic ritual" to give your body and spine good treatment! Initially, you feel your skin burning, then it turns into a pleasant warmth within a few minutes. It's beneficial for any small or moderate muscle pain (particularly post-workout). They say it causes endorphin secretion. Who knows, but it definitely feels amazing. I use it in the mornings for a short session of 5 minutes to kickstart my day. Then, 15 to 20 minutes before sleep, giving the opposite effect of getting calm and relaxed. I personally love the Champ de Fleurs brand. Don't go for a cheap version. It hurts more, and it's not as aesthetically pleasing.

Keep in mind that, in most cases, you can easily return purchased products if you are not satisfied with the results. I hope you'll enjoy them, though. But it's always better to prevent than to cure. Love yourself and give your body proper care.

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