The fact that nearly 80% of all Americans will suffer from some type of back pain in their lifetime becomes crystal clear once you join their ranks.
One day, you are fine and the next day, you feel a twinge in your lower back. You start to wonder if this is something serious or you might think that back pain can’t happen to you- you are too young, active, healthy, whatever.
As a chiropractor in Anchorage, I see patients with low back pain every day of the year. While most of them are easily treated, due to ongoing medical conditions, such as spinal stenosis or disc degeneration, some patients can only be monitored, and their pain controlled.
For those who suffer with chronic low back pain, I’ve noted that there are 13 definite struggles these patients share.
1. It Will Wake You Up at Night
Unfortunately, your back is completely unaware of what time it is and even if it did, it won’t care. If you find your back let’s you know at 3:30AM that it hurts and wants attention, you might want to try a different mattress, pillow, or adjust your sleeping routine, such as putting pillows under your knees or against the small of your back.
2. I Will Get to Know You Better Than Some Family Members
Well, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I’ve made many friends through my practice, but some people find it disturbing when I wish them a happy birthday and their in-laws completely forgot it.
3. You Can’t Stand Up
Occasionally, you might find that you can’t stand up after bending over to do the most ordinary thing, like pick up a pen off the floor. While this might lead some people to think that you’re a hypochondriac, I know better. You can help to prevent this from happening by making sure that your muscles are warmed up a bit before you attempt to bend over. Try the adhesive stick on heating pads to keep the muscles in your lower back warmed up during the day.
4. People Will Make Assumptions
Friends, co-workers, and even some family members might assume that, after a visit to your friendly chiropractor, you are all better. Then you complain about your back hurting and they wonder if you are just a big attention hound or if you are really so out of shape that you can’t bend/sit/walk for even a short period of time. Don’t bother explaining unless they ask. They probably won’t believe you anyway.
5. You Will Hear “Sit Up Straight!” More Than When You Were a Kid
Low back pain prevents many people from practicing good posture. This isn’t by choice but by necessity. After complaining about back pain, everyone you meet will be insisting that you sit up straight, not realizing that you would if you could.
6. You Will Buy Stock in Ben-Gay
When you need some quick relief, heating creams like Ben-Gay can be a real lifesaver. You will find that you keep a tube of cream everywhere and buy so much, you use Amazon’s automatic reorder service.
Those electronic muscle stimulators that relieve pain, known as TENS units, are so addictive that your family members might mistake you for a DVD player with all those wires. While they can do wonders for stopping back pain, if you find that your skin is becoming red, irritated, or if you develop a rash, you’ve overdone it.
8. You’ve Turned the TV in Your Bedroom Upside Down
This is so you can lie on your in-home spinal decompression apparatus and watch TV without getting nauseous. While you can always have this done at your chiropractor’s office, many people love these devices that they can use at home anytime. If it works for you, keep doing it. Hopefully your spouse won’t mind watching TV in another room.
9. You Can Read Your X-Ray Back to Me
You know that your chronic back pain has hit a high note (so to speak) when you’ve had so many x-rays explained to you that when I take one now, you can read the results to me! I’m always amazed at the number of people whose skills are so good, if it were not for their back problems, they would make amazing chiropractors!
10. You’ve Tried Every Alternative Treatment There Is
No matter how painful or ridiculous something might seem, patients with chronic back pain always seem to be up to try anything that might offer them a cure or even long-term relief. I admire their dedication and pain tolerance.
11. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a Joke
If you suffer from chronic back pain, you have been icing your back for so many years that the old Ice Bucket Challenge feels like a kid’s game. Some days, you have told me that you feel like the iceberg that hit the titanic wouldn’t be big enough to help you and while it makes me laugh, your comment also strengthens my resolve to find more ways to help you.
12. You Have Tried Every Stretch Known to Mankind
While some of my patients with chronic back pain are not able to do much more than the lightest and easiest of stretches, I’m often amazed at the number of stretches other patients have tried. Gumby, literally, has nothing on you and your stretching capabilities.
Unfortunately, for many people who must live with chronic back pain, their social lives often dwindle away due to their lack of mobility. I always encourage my patients to get out and be as active as possible, to socialize even on days when they just want to crawl under the covers, because the isolation and depression chronic pain suffers deal with is all too real. Many people have learned to embrace their solitude, however, and it’s worthy of applause and admiration.
Dr. Brent Wells is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab, who believes in treating his patients the way he would want to be treated. Born and raised in Southern California, Dr. Wells received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nevada and his Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine degree from Western States Chiropractic College. He, his wife Coni, and their three children live in and enjoy the great outdoors in Alaska.
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