My story

My Story

Aviemore Station Thumbnail example

Hello to low back pain

Looking back I suppose it all started when I was approaching 50 years of age. We had just returned from a swimming weekend in Aviemore. It was a winter's swim break with my daughters swimming club. I did nothing unusual on the weekend but by the time we reached home, after the two hour drive. I must have twisted awkwardly when getting out of the car. By the time I got into the house the pain was so intense I could hardly move. I decided that the best cure was a trip to the local swimming pool. After collecting my swim gear I made my way out to the car, only to discover there was no way I could get in to the car.

I had just joined the bad back club and didn't quite know what to do! I managed to get into bed but once lying down I discovered it was excruciatingly painful to move.

As a newcomer to the bad back club I was also a little scared. I lay there wondering how I was going to get out of bed and go to the toilet. Eventually I did manage to get out of bed, to my great relief - both mentally and physically. The best way for bad back sufferers to get out of bed, or swing off a couch, is to roll over into the foetal position with your lower legs at the edge of the bed. Push yourself upwards using your arm while swinging your legs over the side of the bed.

Next day the doctor came and examined me while I was still in bed (lying on my back). He checked how far I could raise each leg and after noticing I could only raise my left leg a few inches before experiencing excruciating pain he diagnosed a slipped disc and recommended I keep laying on my back. He checked that the mattress was quite firm and provided good support and prescribed bed rest. A slipped disc is now, more often correctly, described as a herniated disc. And while years ago the bed rest was often recommended, modern thinking suggests that one days rest is long enough - followed by getting mobile as quickly as possible.

After a weeks rest and generally taking things easy, I was almost able to resume work. Over the next few years, I had only minor re-occurrences which lasted for a few days at most. I thought I was in control.

Thumbnail example

Back again

Five years later just before setting off on our annual vacation to California something went in my back. I don't know how it happened. Our daughter gave us a run to the airport, a journey of about 30 minutes. By the time we arrived at Edinburgh airport I could hardly get out of the car.

The hours flight to London was pure hell. I suddenly realised how uncomfortable airline seats were. When we arrived at London the pain was no better or no worse.

I stood for a large part of the long haul flight to San Francisco. It must have seemed funny to fellow travellers when we arrived at San Fran, to see my wife lug all the baggage while I stood by and watched

Two days into our holiday we visited Monterey where the streets are paved with Chiropractors. I thought this was a message from Heaven; God was trying to tell me something. Next day I visited one of the towns many Chiropractors, a block away from our hotel. He put me in a swing type contraption and spun me upside down. After checking my alignment, a few X-rays and a couple of bone crunching sessions he sent me on my merry way; my pockets a few dollars lighter. He gave me a set of daily exercises to do.

By the end of my holiday my back felt a lot better. To this day I don't know whether this was due to the exercises, the Ibuprofen, or simply nature taking its course. I was determined this would not happen again and I purchased three books, the first was one describing how to massage the bodies accu-points. The second was called "Breathworks for your back by Nancy Swayzee - which I recommend as well worth reading. The third book claimed all back pain was due to oxygen deprivation to the nerves in the muscles. It claimed all back pain was in the mind and could be cured by auto suggestion.

The holiday was an early warning message that all was not right with my lower back and I would need to be careful. Strangely enough on the subsequent occasions when I suffered from back pain it was never through heavy lifting -it was always through bending or twisting awkwardly.

Thumbnail example

Hello Sciatica!

A few years later, shortly after my 59th birthday, when I was out walking our dog I noticed I was getting a pain in my calf.

Over the course of a few weeks the pain became progressively worse and within a few months I could only walk 100 meters.

To get relief I had to crouch down for about a minute. I was then able to continue for another few meters.

By the height of summer I could no longer walk the dog. I had intense pain in my left leg and also in my left hip region. I could hardly walk and when I lay on my back I experienced intense pain in my leg. I could only sleep lying in the foetal position. Strangely enough I could cycle without feeling any sciatic pain in my leg. My wife used to walk the dog while I cycled alongside!

As far as I can ascertain the cause of my sciatic pain was one of three things

  1. I was painting the house and somehow over stretched.
  2. I took up cycling again and was a bit over zealous going up a hill on the first day.
  3. I started doing some stretching exercises for the first time, and overstretched.

I attended Physiotherapy without much avail and after six months I enlisted the help of an osteopath. He correctly diagnosed a herniated disc between L3 and L4. I had 3 treatments and after the third treatment disaster struck.

I was admitted to hospital and underwent emergency abdominal surgery. I had peritonitis, caused by a strangulated appendix. I had felt no appendix pain, only severe abdominal pain. I was in hospital for almost 3 weeks and although I had a morphine pump and various drugs they could not mask the pain of my sciatica and I spent a few nights sleeping upright in a chair!

Every cloud has a silver lining. As a result of being in hospital, I was referred to the pain clinic where I saw a consultant anaesthetist who also fully understood the musculoskeletal system. He recognised that my lower back muscles were still tight and recommended a further spell of physio with acupuncture. He went on to say if that didn't work he would give me some "deeper acupuncture with larger needles and if that wasn't successful then perhaps I could have a spinal injection. They would also put me on a mild does of the anti depressant drug amitryptilene. The suggested dose was 30mg. In addition to all this I was also put on a waiting list for an MRI scan. The consultant anaesthetist said that over time the human body would mop up the parts of the disc which were causing the problem and this would take about 2 years.

I underwent another course of physiotherapy - which was mostly acupuncture and a series of exercises. Simultaneously I started on 10mg of amitryptilene working up to 20mg. I also purchased a TENs machine.

Three months later I was able to walk without pain in my leg. The pain in my hip had almost disappeared.

The MRI scan results showed that I had a herniated disc between L3 and L4. I made a return visit to the pain clinic to discuss the results. I saw a different consultant anaesthetist who suggested I should continue with the present treatment - he also went onto say that the human body would mop up the excess disc particles. He concluded the consultation by saying that after 5 years there is usually no discernable difference between those who undergo surgery and those who don't.

After 6 months my hip pain had almost totally disappeared and after a year it was gone.

I have been pain free for over seven years now with only the occasional twinge. I have a slight frozen feeling in my big toe on my left foot. This serves as a reminder that there is still something pinching on the sciatic nerve.