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Lessons from my Wife…About Back Pain & Life in General!

Nov. 27, 2019

Do you ever feel like a big part of life is learning the same lessons over and over again, until you reach a certain point and the lesson finally sticks? Recently, I had the chance to re-learn several things from my wife that I think you’ll find interesting…

My wife’s name is Claire, and she’s a lovely woman (not enough space to give you all those details!). And for the record, she gave me permission to write about her today, as well as her recent issues with back pain. This is definitely a situation where it was better to ask for permission now than for forgiveness later! It might seem ironic that Claire’s been struggling with back pain right in the middle of my series about how to eliminate back pain and sciatica. I can assure you that she doesn’t find it in the least bit amusing, but at least we can use her experience to learn a few things.

Claire’s Back Pain Story

About 4 weeks ago, Claire and I were working on cleaning out her parents’ garage, which involved repetitive lifting, bending, twisting and carrying activities. Her parents live across the street from us in Millwood, and most of the items in the garage were ours (thanks for the years of free storage, Claire’s folks!). By the end of the day, Claire’s back was pretty sore, and by the next day she could hardly stand up straight. Since then, I’ve been attempting to help Claire with her back pain, and she’s starting to turn the corner. But it’s been a slow process…

Lessons About Back Pain

Lesson #1: Back pain (with or without sciatica) is difficult to treat when more than one structure is involved. In Claire’s case, the majority of her back pain was coming from an irritated disc at the base of her spine. However, it’s been challenging to treat the disc, as she also has facet joint and SI joint irritation. The exercises that are good for the disc are uncomfortable for the joints, which has slowed down her progress.

Lesson #2: It’s easy to ignore back pain until it slows you down. In Claire’s case, she has a fully packed schedule, and some nagging back pain doesn’t usually make it to the top of her priority list. Sound familiar? However, when her pain worsened to the point where she could hardly stand, walk or sit, her priorities shifted quickly. Throw in a few sleepless nights due to the pain, and now we’re motivated to eliminate her back pain!

Lesson #3: Now that Claire is starting to feel better, it will be all too easy for her to stop “treating” her back once her pain gets below a certain level. As you can imagine, she’s ready to jump right back into her busy schedule, and being laid up is starting to drive her crazy. But think about this: if Claire stops treating her back after some pain relief (Phase 1), and she doesn’t devote any time and energy to figuring out how to keep her back strong and pain-free (Phases 2 & 3), what do you think will happen? That’s right: at best, she’ll experience temporary relief, and then she’ll be revisited by her back pain in a matter of months.

Lessons About Life

Lesson #1: It’s really hard to treat your spouse. Let’s categorize this as a lesson I’ve already learned several times and that I’m hoping will now stick. Even though my ego tells me that I can treat Claire better than anyone else, it’s simply not accurate. By the time you read this article, she should have about 2 weeks of PT under her belt with the therapists at the clinic. And I’m confident that they’ll do a great job of taking her through the “3 Phases of Recovery” so that she can experience lasting pain relief and not have to worry about her back pain returning later this winter.

Lesson #2: It’s hard to prioritize your own health. In my wife’s case, she’s used to prioritizing the people around her. We have two amazing kids (8 and 5 years old), and they’re the top priority for Claire (right behind her husband, to be sure!). And while many of us can prioritize the needs of others very easily, it’s often difficult for us to treat ourselves as well. Main point: you’re worth it! And if you have a hard time putting yourself first, find someone who’s happy to do it for you (that’s me, Claire!).

I have just a few more thoughts before I officially wrap up this 9-article series about back pain and sciatica. On the treatment level, I want to share some things that have really helped Claire. The first thing is the inversion table, which is a convenient option to provide some “traction” for your spine. If you have things like joint pain and degenerative changes in your lower back, inversion usually feels very comfortable. The second thing that’s been helpful for Claire is hands-on therapy to align her right SI joint and relax the surrounding muscles. Once I can get those two things in order, she’s able to comfortably work on her disc-related pain. The third thing I want to mention is aquatic therapy. I don’t often mention that we offer aquatic therapy at Gordon PT, but doing some treatment in the water would be really helpful for Claire (it’s tricky timing for us to get her in the pool, but it’s a great option for her type of pain).

Those are my final thoughts on back pain and life in general. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. If you missed any of the 9 articles, please feel free to call or email me, and I’ll be happy to send the entire series to you. Next week, I’m going to update you on a few things at the clinic, including my 3 goals for the year and some other exciting happenings. Until then, have an outstanding week!   

– Luke Gordon

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