This just in:  I just returned from Stanford University where they have accepted me as one of their guinea pigs in a study about lower back pain.

Lower back pain is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere.  I thought I would share some of my various treatments here.  The goal is two-fold.  First, I want to keep track of what I’m doing. This will include whatever it is that Stanford wants me to try.  Secondly, I want to share my successes and failures with the world-at-large in hopes that someone will find something here that works for them or someone will comment on this post with their own little secret treatment.

Background:  I’ve had lower back pain for most of my life.  Occasionally bad enough for me to stay in bed.  However, it became dramatically worse about a month ago. Since that time I have had two trips to the emergency room, one while strapped to a board.  I have never experienced a “10 out of 10” on the pain scale until these two visits.  Yesterday, I met with a spine specialist to review my MRI.  I have 2 herniated discs.  There is apparently no cure for this and they will only get worse.  Surgery is an option but I’m not there yet.  There are studies underway like one in Davis where they inject stem cells directly into your herniated disc to see what happens.  I’ll keep an eye on that one.

In the meantime, here is what I have been doing…

  1.  Everyone says “Core is the key”.  A strong stomach will help.  I’ve been starting every day with some sort of core exercise for about 5 years.  I think it helps.
  2. Yoga:  I have several yoga routines that I do in the morning with my core.  None take more than 5 or 10 minutes.  I won’t go into the details as the actual exercises change from time to time but they are always focused on the lower back.
  3. I have this thing called Teeter Hang Ups.  I’ve had it for about 3 years.  I hang upside down with it for about a minute in the morning and the evening.  The spine guy told me to use it for about 45 seconds every hour.  It has been my experience that this is the single most effective and immediate solution to pain.
  4. I don’t lift heavy stuff.  This is a hard one; mostly because of testosterone.  All men have a built in thought of “I bet I can lift that”. I need to fight this.  When I do lift something heavy, I first look for help or, at least use proper lifting techniques.
  5. I have inserts in my shoes.  Not sure if this is impactful or not but the people that sell them tell me they are…so take that for what it’s worth.
  6. I don’t carry my briefcase unless I have no option.  I use one with wheels on it.
  7. Ice works.
  8. I’m trying to lose about 10 pounds.  Every pound of weight is 7 pounds per square inch on your spine.
  9. When I do exercises, I do those that don’t make things worse.  Slow pushups and pullups give me all of the upper body I need.  I don’t do curls or anything that adds weight to my upper body and thus impacts my spine.  I don’t jog but I do walk.  Flat surfaces tend to be less impactful.  Note:  It’s important to find a way to stay fit.  A sore back is a ready-made excuse to be lazy.  Laziness will make you fat and unhealthy.  Just sayin…
  10. I spend 15 minutes in a jacuzzi every day with jets working on my back.
  11. I take a lot of Advil, about 1,000 milligrams a day.  The doctor says I can take more but I don’t.  In fact, I’m planning on tapering off in a couple of weeks.  I’ve only been doing this for about a month, since my first ER visit.
  12. I use a Netti Pot daily to reduce sneezing.  Sneezing and coughing are the most painful things I can do to my back.
  13. I use this thing called “Tens” which sends electrical signals to back through a patch that I attach there.  I thought it was bogus medicine but I tried it out of desperation….and it works!  I think it helps with the muscles around the spine that get tensed up when the pain gets bad…thus causing more pain.  My spine doctor like “Tens”.
  14. I don’t use any narcotic or opioid for pain.  I hear these are effective but highly addictive.  1 out of 5 people that take an opioid for back pain will become addicted.  I assume I will be that “one” so I just say no.  Having said that, when I go to the ER because I can’t move due to the pain, I’ll take whatever they want to give me.  I just won’t leave with a prescription for anything.
  15. Inflammation is the enemy.  Look for foods (and medication) that reduce inflammation.
  16. I hesitate to say this but….I also have a walker and a cane.  My vanity will only let me use these around the house and I only use them on bad days.  I can walk just fine but pushing down on a cane or walker takes some of the pressure off of my body.
  17. I’m thinking of getting a Zero Gravity Work Station.  It’s a bit pricey but it does look like something out of a spaceship so it does have that going for it.  My spine guy said herniated discs only get worse so the less pressure I put on my back on a daily basis, the longer I will be able to live a pain-free life.

The Stanford study will slot me into either a Mediation group to work on the impact of stress or another group that focuses on Behavioral Modification.  There is a third group that will use Acupuncture.  I’ve done that before with no positive results so I told them to not put me in that group.

If you have anything to add to my list, I’m all ears.  I had a guy on a plane last week tell me that when he sneezes, he lifts one of his heels and it make the sneeze hurt his back less.  Interesting.

Additions:  Thanks to cub reporter Sharon who reports that a friend had success with a Zaaz machine which is vibration therapy.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim