Oh My Aching Back!

W E E K E N D    P O T P O U R R I

Back in October I experienced the most excruciating pain in my lower back. I couldn’t move for 2 weeks. I stayed in bed, reclining on a bag of ice. It was total torture.

What had I done to cause such severe pain? I was sitting in a chair, not bungee jumping or skate boarding, but SITTING IN A CHAIR.

Feeling like I was going to die, and believing that I had a tumor pressing on my spinal cord (I’m not a Doctor, I just play one at home) I went to get an MRI. If you’ve never had one, they’re ridiculously loud. They gave me head phones and told me to choose a category of music to listen to. I chose POP MUSIC — big mistake. I was trapped listening to Huey Lewis, George Michael and Nickelback for over a half hour! Excruciating indeed!

“I hope you like Huey Lewis?”

 The results were very disturbing; Degenerative Disc Disease (any time the word “disease” is used you know it’s not good), Bulging and ruptured discs, and as the cherry on top, Spinal Stenosis. “Holy Hell,” I thought, “Someone kill me now!” This was pretty much a death sentence for someone who likes to dance, garden and eat. Well, I guess I could still eat, that was one good thing.

I started going to a chiropractor. I actually went to a few until I found one that would  spend more than 4 minutes with me. (Something about cracking adjusting someone’s back with a violent twist seemed sort of mean to me?) Eventually I found someone who believed in deep muscle manipulation and would torture me for a full hour. (I wanted to get my money’s worth!) Driving home from the appointment I’d feel as if I’d been run over by a  truck, but in a good way. I also committed to doing daily exercises designed to strengthen the postural muscles or, muscles in my lower back and butt. (Now, when I say someone is a PAIN IN THE BUTT, I mean it literally.) I’m happy to report that after all those reps, I can actually hold a “plank” for a full minute! (Sure, I tremble and feel like I’m gonna pass out, but still…)

Dr. John E. Sarno to the Rescue!

A couple of months later an acquaintance recommended I read, The Mindbody Prescription, by John E. Sarno, MD. She told me it was controversial but that it was worth reading. Long story short, I’m certain that my pain was brought on by repressed emotions, anger, to be exact. (Pleasers, type A personalities, perfectionists and people who are just generally super nice like me, are at risk) When you repress anger, according to the author, your brain redirects the tension to your postural muscles, effectively cutting off the oxygen and blood flow. (This is why the pain is real.) Since your brain doesn’t want you to deal with this ugly, messy emotion, it distracts you by creating physical pain, instead.

Dr. Sarno makes some excellent points:

Dr. John Sarno
  • Everyone’s back starts degenerating in their 20’s!!
  • The back is one of the strongest structures in the human body. It’s not frail and weak. It can withstand tremendous abuse!
  • What appears as scary issues on the MRI are just “Normal Abnormalities.” Everybody has some back irregularities but the average person doesn’t usually get an MRI so they’ll never know.
  • Migraines, shoulder and neck pain, tendonitis, gastrointestinal disorders, such as ulcers, etc. would all fall under the category of re-directed and repressed emotional pain! (anywhere your body can redirect emotional tension.)

This explains why the pain, which by the way is VERY REAL, pops up at random times  and doesn’t necessarily coincide with rigorous back activity. It’s all in my head!!

“Gimme a break!”

And as a total confirmation, John Stossel of ABC news, interviewed Dr. Sarno on 20/20. John Stossel himself subscribes to this revolutionary idea and has been pain free for years. If John Stossel of, “Gimme a break” fame, believes it, then so do I!!! I mean, c’mon, gimme a break!

* Pain disorders have reached an epidemic in the U.S. There’s a chiropractor on every street corner. Something’s up, ’cause it wasn’t like this when I was growing up. Obviously, you should check with your doctor to see if there’s a medical reason for your pain. I believe exhausting all possibilities SHOULD include reading this book. Your welcome.