Well this is not the most interesting or uplifting post I have written, I will admit that.

I have been a suffered of chronic lower back pain for over a decade. That is such a long time. For many years I did nothing about it, assuming this was just how people felt. But as I began my quest for better health and a more productive life, I began to realize that this level of pain and discomfort was really not normal. It was not even close. How unacceptable to live in such pain and discomfort. So I have slowly begun to compile a list of many treatments, remedies, and activities that have helped me over come this issue.

Let me start by giving you a little background information on my lower back pain – when I was quite young, in my early teens, I was in a couple of car wrecks. Unfortunately my mother was not the best driver, a very nervous woman, and wrote off several vehicles. I was in 2 cars which she totaled. Obviously I survived, and with minimal injury at the time. However I did suffer from extreme impact, whiplash, sprained/torn muscles, dislocation of my left hip and shoulder, and wrenching impact to both my knees. As such, the resulting pain and immobility of several of my joint left me unable and unwilling to participate in any sports or much physical activity. My muscles became weak and inflexible over the years of a low level of physical activity, and little to no treatment for my injuries. My parents were fairly low income and could only afford a small amount of chiropractic care at the time of these accidents. In my later years, as a teen and in my early twenties, I began to try being more active. Unfortunately the activities I seemed to enjoy (and still do actively) include riding my dirtbike, hiking, yoga, 4x4ing, kickboxing/boxing, and horseback riding. With the exception of yoga, none of these are very good for back pain and back injury sufferers. I highly recommend them as awesome, fun, wildly interesting activities, but not necessarily for those of us with chronic pain and injuries. I have just chosen to bear whatever pain comes my way from them because of the great joy I get from doing these things. Later on in my life, I worked in retail for some time, which was just awful for inflaming injuries to my knees, hips, and back. Constantly standing on concrete floors in less-than-comfortable footwear for hours on end.. I would leave my job, limp to my car, cry for a few minutes, drive home, sometimes frightened that my left leg would give out or lose feeling (as it has done in the past), and when I arrived home, have to crawl up the stairs to my house because I physically could not walk. When I went to multiple doctors regarding this pain and immobility, I was frequently laughed at, told I was “just fine” or that I was being very silly. I even had a doctor tell me that if I lost 10lbs, all my pain would go away, my legs and back simply could not support how chubby I was. (At 5’4″ and 130lbs, I found this to be ridiculous and even borderline offensive) After a heated argument with one doctor, I demanded he write me a referral for Orthotics – for those of you who don’t know what these are, they are inserts which go into your shoes and “force” your feet into proper position. Lucky me, I was also blessed with a genetic predisposition to very poor flat feet which greatly affects my ability to stand for long periods of time, balance, and move about. Unfortunately these insoles did nothing to help, in fact probably doing more damage than good due to the fact that the practitioner I saw seemed to be an incompetent boob and did a very poor job. Fast forward a few years again and here I was working in health care, nursing the elderly and disabled. Boy, what they do not tell you in school… how physical a job it is to care for the invalid. It was so physically taxing that I ended up filing more than one WCB claim due to my back giving out on multiple occasions. I was worked to the bone at the care homes I was employed for, and the management there absolutely did not care if I, or any other employees, were in pain, all they wanted was the job done. (If anyone is interested, I may pen an article about the serious issues and disgusting treatment I have witnessed in senior’s care homes) This job wrenching and tore my lower back muscles to the point where one day I simply walked off the job. I couldn’t do it anymore. My lower back was in excruciating pain, swollen beyond recognition, so sensitive to touch that the slightest poke of a finger into my back would bring tears to my eyes, I could barely bend forward far enough to tie my own shoes, and I was an absolute miserable wreck from being in such constant and unforgiving pain.
And that’s just the half of it.

Now moving forward, I am writing a list of things that have helped me in my journey to overcoming this pathetic excuse for an existence. How can you enjoy your life when you can barely stand up straight? Can barely walk 2 km? Struggle to make it up and down a small flight of stairs? 

Please remember that this is only a recounting of my own personal experience – it does not substitute for medical advice in any way. Always consult a medical professional.

  • Heat bags. The use of heat is a great soothing technique for chronic, lasting, long term pain. (Heat is NOT good to use for acute pain – if you have recently injured/inflamed your lower back, DO NOT USE HEAT. It will make it worse.) I use a product similar to the ever popular “Magic Bag” which I heat in the microwave and apply to my lower back for about 20 minutes. Sometimes longer or 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, depending how I feel. Heat is great because it increases circulation to the area being heated, which means bringing more blood flow to the area. Blood helps to heal damaged tissue by bringing nutrients and oxygen to the area.
  • Massage. I can not say enough for how helpful massage can be. The gentle touch of another human being is so healing. Please please please find a REGISTERED Massage Therapist who is fully certified and knows what they are doing. Someone who does not know how to treat chronic injury can really hurt you and set you back in your recovery and healing. For me personally, I find the best person to massage my lower back and do it exactly correct is my partner/boyfriend – whatever you want to call him. It is best for me because I feel extremely comfortable with him, and I can fully relax my body, and not hold tension due to nervousness of basically being naked in a strange place with a strange person about to touch my in an area that I have guarded almost my whole life from touch, due to pain. Also I am comfortable enough to tell him exactly what hurts and what feels good, too much/too little pressure, etc. However please note that you can be just as comfortable with a truly talented and compassionate RMT as well. Also, I use essential oil as massage oil (clove, orange, and clary sage mixed with jojoba) as it has anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
  • Yoga. Call it yoga if you like. Call it stretching if you like. I look up yoga for lower back pain or similar searches on YouTube, and follow their videos to the best of my ability in the comfort of my own home. Never do this if any of the stretching/poses cause you pain. I find some of the most effective ones are with my lying flat on my back and doing different varieties of stretching my legs up toward my chest etc. Always remember to stretch not only your lower back, but also the surrounding area, such as the glutes, thighs, hip flexors, abs, mid-back, sides, etc. When you have a back injury, other muscles often tighten up and work harder to try and compensate for the area that is weakened by pain. Stretching and Yoga are some of the MOST helpful things I have been doing to slowly heal these old injuries.
  • Herbal remedies – rubbing certain essential oils on the area can have great pain relief/soothing/anti inflammatory effects. Some that I recommend are clove, Clary sage, and lavender. (Always dilute essential oils with some carrier oil such as jojoba, coconut, olive, etc.)
  • Good posture, good seating, good sleeping habits all help. If you work at a desk job, get up at least once per hour to do a few minutes of stretching and re position yourself. When sleeping, the best position I find is on my side, with a good pillow firmly supporting my neck, and thin pillow between my knees, and knees bent to about a 45 degree angle at least. Others find that sleeping on their back with several pillows or a large triangular pillow-wedge under their knees helpful. I cannot do this one because it makes me snore like a freight train 😛
  • Gentle core strengthening exercises. The stronger your core and your back, the better it will heal and prevent you from injuring it again. Look online for gentle core exercises and start out slowly, stopping at any signs of worsening pain or inflammation. Trial and error – eventually you will find some that work for you.
  • On occasion, I do take some over-the-counter medicine for my back. I am a big believer in natural and herbal remedies, but sometimes I just cannot get enough relief, or am in a rush and need something RIGHT AWAY. In this case I highly recommend using a pain killer that is also a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory. That way you cover several problems and get relief in many ways. The products I use are Robax Platinum (ibuprofen – trade name Advil, which is an anaglesic (pain killer) as well as anti inflammatory, and methocarbamol, a gentle muscle relaxant). I take 2 or 3 of these tablets, and an additional 400 – 800 mg of ibuprofen (Advil). If you read the ingredients you will notice that taking additional ibuprofen does not exceed the recommended dosage of 1500 mg for a person of my size. As a side note, Robax Platinum can be very expensive. I often buy the “no name” brand version, only after reading and comparing the ingredients to ensure they are exactly the same. This saves me up to 50% on the cost. Same with buying “Advil” – you can buy “no name” brand Ibuprofen which is exactly the same thing, just less expensive.
  • Warm bath with Epsom salts or baking soda and some lavender essential oil or clove essential oil does wonders to alleviate minor pain.
  • One last tip is to also manage anxiety and stress – being anxious can make your muscles tense, and this will only cause you more pain.

So these are a few of my personal tips to help manage lower back pain for chronic sufferers. I hope this helps.

A lot of my progress has come from trial and error, and process of elimination. I urge you to try new and different approaches, naturalists, physiotherapists, personal trainers, acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, herbalists, doctors – see what works best for you.

Please let me know any tricks you may have used in the past that have helped with your pain!

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