From working with back pain sufferers my entire adult life, I've learned that when people are suffering, they will go to great lengths to find relief. Unfortunately, too many people are given very useful but incomplete information about what to do in order to get relief and regain control of their lives.
I also know that people who are suffering can develop feelings of fear, anger, betrayal, and even hopelessness when their treatments don't deliver as promised. The trust they once had with their health care provider starts to diminish, and they don't know where to turn. Here is an e-mail I got from a young girl that illustrates my point:
I've tried every homeopathic remedy and every remedy with all these anecdotal positive results. I will never again be duped. I'm sorry, but I am jaded with this type of thing. I'm not spending a dime on anything with promises. Mostly they are false.
It is my belief that if our health care providers helped to educate us a little more, we consumers would have a better chance of understanding our condition, and we could make better decisions about what is best for us.
A must-read book
To help you look at your back pain from a different angle, I want to tell you about the best book I have ever read. It's called "Think Inside the Box," by David Deutsch. Actually, I recommend that you listen to the audio CDs to get the full impact of how he learned to think in new ways and how he can teach you to do the same. The book is primarily about thinking creatively, but all the lessons can be carried over into your everyday life.
One of the most fascinating topics he presents is called "doing the opposite." I know the concept is as old as man, but what I'm about to tell you is so simple that you are going to have to try it for yourself.
Stop doing what people tell you
Let me give you two examples of what I'm talking about. There is a good chance that you have read an article about trying yoga or Pilates as a way of keeping your back healthy. Well, yoga may be just fine for someone who doesn't have a back condition. But here is what you must know.
No matter what condition you are suffering from, your back pain is a physical problem that was created by imbalances in your body. Therefore, it will require a physical solution--that's what rehabilitation is all about. Unfortunately, it is often the case that what is taught or done in your rehab does not work toward bringing your body back to a more balanced state.
Consider the yoga example: We know that yoga is a well-balanced program--and that's the problem. You need an "unbalanced" workout to get your body back into balance. With yoga, you will be strengthening all of your muscles. And if you strengthen a muscle--or a group of muscles--that is already too strong, you'll make your imbalance even greater and your condition will get worse.
The unbalanced workout has to be a very targeted action plan based on your specific imbalances. That's why you should never start an exercise program such as yoga or Pilates without first knowing where your body is out of balance.
The unbalanced workout is also referred to as "muscle-balancing therapy." It will only strengthen muscles that need to be strengthened and stretch muscles that need to be stretched. When you employ a therapy that has a very set program, it is easy to follow and results are easy to recognize.
Are you doing the same thing every day?
What you must also understand is that your imbalances are the result of what you do in your everyday life--your workouts, sitting, the activities of your job, and your own personal habits. I'm not going to tell you to stop doing what you need to do. But what if you slightly changed the way you do them, or even tried to do the opposite.
- Instead of sitting at your desk, try kneeling. I kneel at least 30 percent of the time I spend at my desk. I have a small foam pad that puts me just high enough to type.
- When I do sit, I sit on a therapy ball. And guess what? I don't sit still like my momma told me to. I move my hips in every direction, which means I'm working on my core balance all day long.
- When most people are standing in line at the store or talking to someone, they tend to stand on one leg and kick the other leg out to the side, with their hands on their hips. Instead, I try to stand at attention, with both of my feet exerting equal pressure on the floor and my hands behind me.
One more thing to try
Have you heard the phrase, "You don't know what it's like until you walk a mile in my shoes"? Well, if you're going to try that one, you're going to have to walk backwards. Yes, every morning I walk backwards for at least 20 minutes, varying the speed and the length of my steps. I've gotten so good at it that I don't even have to look back--even when someone is coming.
I know you are all going to go out and try this, so let me give you some quick tips: Start slow. Hold on to someone for support in the beginning. Walk on the edge of a path so you can use the edge as a guide. Know that the path you're walking on is smooth, like a high school track.
You're on your own
My hope is that you will read the book I recommended and learn to think a little differently. My hope is that you can change your daily activities just a bit. My hope is that you get my point that doing the same thing over and over again may not be the answer, and it may be one of the reasons you have struggled for so long.
You may not have to do the complete opposite to find the one thing that will give you relief. But whatever you do, be sure it makes sense for you and your condition.
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