Feeling Better Than She Ever Has Part II - Fixing Herniated Disk and Reclaiming Active Life
Barbara lives in a little town of 300 people in Yukon Canada - map at right. Part I of Barbara's story last Wednesday described why it didn't take six weeks to fix Barbara's herniated discs and severe sciatic pain and numbness, but it was six weeks until the "light went on" and she did the things to stop the cause of the injury, so it could stop hurting and start to heal.
Here is an insider's peek behind the scenes week-by-week:
"Dear Dr. Bookspan,
"This is a bit of a long one, and probably reaffirms everything you've ever received in hundred and hundreds of emails and stories, but I wanted to share this with you anyway. I can’t thank you enough for working hard and sharing all your knowledge. I am almost completely pain free!
"After 6 weeks of severe sciatic pain and numbness and weakness of my left leg and foot, something just clicked on Thursday night and I became more determined than ever that I could get rid of the pain. Through your website, the Fitness Fixer, and reading lots of personal stories (on your web site and book), I realized that I had to fix (the) causes. I know this might sound dramatic, but you’ve changed my way of life.
"A cycle of: 1) a few months, everyday, of "power" exercising with all the unhealthful postures and movement habits you talk about, then sitting at the computer in all the unhealthy ways you talk about and drinking coffee and smoking, feeling like I’d accomplished something in my day; 2) followed by a few months of complete laziness (not even power exercising). Power exercising consisted of running (without stretching at all) with bad form, and Hatha Yoga (forcing myself into the stretches and tons of forward bending).
"First two weeks:
"I did absolutely nothing about it. I read stuff on the internet and was convinced from the stories that I had some debilitating disease that would affect the rest of my life. I thought the cause was that I didn’t keep up with my "power" exercising. But, I continued to sit bent forward in a chair, hunched over, bending wrong, doing yoga forward bends, smoking and drinking coffee. I know, how sad."
Here are posts and information Barbara used:
- Why bad forward bending is a major mechanism in disc degeneration and eventual bulging and herniation: Disc Pain - Not a Mystery, Easy to Fix
- Avoidable sources of bad bending that go unnoticed in common exercises: Common Exercises Teach Bad Bending
- How to avoid herniating forces on the lower back discs during yoga and fitness stretches for the hamstring:Healthier Hamstring Stretching
"Had to go back to work in the morning, teaching 4 and 5 year olds in a kindergarten class; in the afternoon, teaching reading strategies to Grade 1 and 2's - sitting in a chair all afternoon. No longer could I hobble around the house holding my backside and leg - full on activity - and pain, tingling, numbness in my left foot, and total weakness in my left leg. Felt like I was walking around all day with a Charlie horse going down my entire left side. Amidst all my continued Internet searches, stumbled upon your website when a friend said that slight forward bending doing dishes and getting ready in the morning leaning over the sink might be a cause. Your website made so much sense to me - if a slight forward bend is a bad thing, how much more unhealthy would my Hatha yoga program be, with all its constant forward bends. I might add here that the two people at work who talk about slight forward bending being a bad thing continually hunch forward while sitting and exercise using forward bends. Just something I’ve begun to notice."
Major news stories quote physicians saying that back pain is often a mystery and that no one knows why stretching isn't working. My readers regularly report that once they understand the simple principles, they see the unhealthful positioning that causes pain frequently - at the gym, in fitness magazines, and in exercise videos and classes:
- Fast Fitness - Fix Positioning by Watching Others
- What Does Stretching Do?
- Are You Making Your Exercise Unhealthy?
"I started with lying on the floor propped up, upper and lower back extensions, pec and trapezius stretches, isometric abs, being continually aware of my posture and not doing ANY bad forward bending. Tried to do the lunges and squats for daily good bending, but my muscles were so weak and I practiced them half-heartedly. I tried to apply them in daily life but life seemed so fast-paced at work and I was in so much pain constantly, that I would get _ way into it and then just try to lean to the side to pick things up - result, I was contorting my body in very odd ways! I ordered a support brace and special support backrest (now I know why I never needed them) and seat cushion for my chair from other web sites, but also ordered your book Fix Your Own Pain, along with a few of your other books."
These are some techniques used above:
- Lie on floor propped on elbows - Fast Fitness - First Morning Stretch
- Pectoral stretch - Fixing Upper Back and Neck Pain
- Trapezius stretch - Nice Neck Stretch
- Lunge for daily good bending - Strengthen Legs Without Knee Pain - Standing Lunge
- Half squat for daily good bending - Free Exercise and Free Back and Knee Pain Prevention - Healthy Bending.
"Limping and terrible pain, my boss told me to visit the nurses station -living in a town of 300 in the far north, we have one general store and a health centre, doctor visits once every two weeks - and take every afternoon off during this week to rest up. He still needed me at work in the mornings. Taking my new prescription of Naproxen and trying the lunges and squats and some stretches but not really trying to apply them to the rest of how I was moving and bending and sitting. I would be in quite a bit of pain coming home from my mornings at work. In the afternoons I would basically throw in some stretches, but generally read (sitting badly) and nap for an hour. A lot of the pain would dissipate after my stretches and a good nap - only to be set into full force the next morning at work.
"Your book came in on the Friday and I was very excited. I read through it and practiced the retraining stretches that show how to restore straighter positioning throughout the day. I felt much better by Sunday night with the stretching. Still only half-hearted attempts at lunges and squats."
"Decided to start my morning off by doing my full range of stretches instead of sitting in the computer chair smoking and drinking coffee. I felt pretty good when I left for work. People at work were starting to call me "feisty" saying that I seemed to be walking better (that was probably because of my better posture from applying your method instead of just doing stretches!) Sitting in a chair almost killed me - after 25 minutes in a chair the pain was almost unrecoverable - to be endured for the next hour and a half at work."
Barbara was getting the idea about healthy movement, but was sitting in the same way that causes discs to be pressured. She thought it was "taken care of" because she used a commercial lumbar support she purchased the first week. However she was still sitting in unhealthy ways, right over the support:
"I could manage the pain better with frequent relaxing on my stomach propped up on arms and stretching, but I never felt complete relief until I got home at night. I still didn't realize it was bad sitting position, so decided to get rid of my chair and stand to teach. This was better, but the pain still kicked in(especially in my left buttock!). Once my left buttock got hit with pain it went downhill - down my whole leg, followed by the numbness and severe tingling. Midway through the week I went to see our visiting doctor - quick visit and the prognosis that I had a herniated disc L5-S1. He said it would heal. I was feeling pretty positive about this, as it seemed to coincide with what you say about herniated discs. Meanwhile, the sciatica was taking it out of me. I felt I was always either in pain, or awaiting a painful episode. I made it through, relieved that the weekend was underway. I decided to trying walking - every couple of hours I'd walk on my treadmill for 20 minutes and then do my stretches. I did this two times in the day, and then went for a walk outside in the evening (-35 degree weather so I bundled up really well). My dog and I headed out for what was to be the most agonizing walk for me. Half hour into the walk I started to get that butt pain but I was only half way home. By the time I got home after an hour walk, I wanted to hit the roof and I although I could alleviate some of the pain through lying on my stomach propped up, and stretches, I could still barely sleep. I was also completely consumed by whether or not I had slacked in my posture somewhere along the line while I was walking, or whether I was too tight or loose (still missing the big picture)."
"Still determined. Began the week at an all-day staff meeting where I lay on a gym mat on my stomach, propped up on my elbows- all day. Stretching at lunch and a couple of other times I walked out of the meeting to stretch. It almost floored me to do a 20 minute standing stint that we had to do during our meeting. Followed by a 2 hour course via video-conferencing where I did the same thing. When I got home the pain was less and I didn’t want to "over-do" it again, so I gently did my stretches throughout the evening- I didn’t try to walk. Next day at work, the pain was pretty bad from the beginning, but it was -60 degrees F outside and not many kids came to school - more time out to stretch when I needed to. Wednesday - more of the same. I tried to walk at night but got discouraged when I couldn’t walk for more than about 10 minutes without pain. Thursday - same thing, but I almost ran out of the school at the end of the morning to go to the nurses station. (We both wrongly assumed that I had overdone walking, not just walked in injurious ways.) She prescribed more Naproxen and told me to make sure that I walked but more frequent intervals. She also told me to keep stretching, but that lunges and squats were simply out - don’t do them. I kept wondering about this advice as I reread Ivy’s story and looked at the pictures of her doing those amazing squats and lunges. I spent most of my evening on the internet reading and rereading stories."
- Walking wasn't Barbara's problem. She was overarching the lower spine while walking, making a hidden problem - Spotting Back Pain During Running and Walking - What Do Abs Have To Do With It?
- Barbara was lying face down propped up on elbows for long periods in a way that hurt instead of help. Instead of letting the entire spine gently extend backward so that the upper back "unrounded," she was "folding" a crease at the lower back, increasing pinching in the lower back.
- Posts about how reader Ivy stopped the same sciatica problem: Inspirational Ivy and Inspirational Ivy II - Beating Foot Drop and Sciatica, and Getting Healthier
"Friday of the Sixth Week: True Awakening!
"I took Friday off work and first thing in the morning while I was doing my usual morning stretch routine, it just hit me! I became so obsessed with my posture, thinking that stretches should magically make my pain disappear, but I wasn’t viewing my body as how I used it during regular activity; I was also very guilty of giving up on certain things when they got "too hard" (lunges, squats). My balance was bad (despite trying to practice it while putting on my socks and shoes), my walking gait was horrible, I wasn’t really trying to do anything that required some effort, and I was continuing my bad habits of resting for hours before I tried to get back up and stretch again. Having reread some of the personal stories, I worked on my walking: feet straight ahead, feet hip-distance apart, heel to ball of foot, using my whole foot to walk - I was so focused on posture that I was holding myself stiff while walking instead of walking naturally with a bit of rotation at the waist). When I thought I was using my muscles, I was really just tensing them right up instead of truly using them. Reading posts and walking also made me realize how tight my Achilles tendon, hamstrings, and hips are. I decided to work on this through my stretches too. Next hour I was back up and walking, and stretching those areas after (using a counter to hold onto while doing a full squat, doorway hamstring stretch, and stretching my hip sitting on a chair rather than lying on the floor). Every hour I walked and stretched, and every walking session was longer, every stretching session I could actually stretch farther! Halfway through the day - now it was time to really engage myself in those lunges and half-squats - just do them and do them properly - no excuses - I need them for everyday life and unless I go beyond what I think I can do, I’ll never get to that point. They’re definitely not just part of an exercise routine, but unless I could do them with strength and stability in my living room, I knew I couldn’t do them in a fast-paced setting when I needed them.
"Time to stop making excuses. I was up and about constantly all day, walking, lunges and squats, stretching. By the end of the day, I can’t even describe my feeling of elation when I went to bed completely pain free, with my left leg hardly stiff at all, and some of the numbness in my left foot gone! Actually having been rather lazy, and in fear of lunges and squats doing more damage, they turned out to be the best stretches and strengtheners...now why wouldn’t I want to use these in all situations to get a beautiful natural stretch during my day! The confidence and calmness that all using your principles, and truly using my muscles to engage in activities is giving me give is fabulous. Not to mention all the energy! This is a new way of life for me. And quitting smoking is not a different story...it’s the same story...and my next step is to look into my eating habits and to quit smoking. It’s my life and my body is a temple...I’m sick of mistreating this temple with lethargy and apathy. No more unhealthy exercises in "power" work-outs and yoga for me...strength, balance and flexibility will is every moment, every day. Now I'm ready for your Healthy Martial Arts book...
"Thank you! Thank you! You (and Ivy) are my inspiration!
Wishing for you all joy and true happiness in life (which I know you already have :) ).
"I'm truly thankful for your hard work and great insight into pain and how to live healthy in every day life!!
"PS I was frightened when I was told I had a herniated disk at L5-S1, and this was great news to me as I know I'm healing and I won't need any physiotherapists, etc. to help me through this! Your book Fix Your Own Pain is amazing - I think I've almost memorized it; two people at work have borrowed it already (including my boss) - I think they're seeing how much it has helped me. I'm thinking about giving your book to people for Christmas."
Summary "take-home" message - Barbara found that she doesn't have to "do" any exercises. That is the difference with this method and others. Moving for daily activities using the retrained healthful positioning stops the source of the injury. At the same time, it just happens to give much built in functional healthful movement. That is how exercise is supposed to be - a natural part of your human life.
There is more good news to Barbara's story, but that's enough for now.
Recent Blog Posts
Mar 09, 2010
New Healthy Employment Programs for Developmentally Disabled
Mar 04, 2010
Reader Uses Fitness Fixer Advice to Shovel Snow Painlessly and Beat Mother Nature
Mar 01, 2010
Lactic Acid Myths