Monday, 24 June 2019

Living With Chronic Back Pain



I can't really recall when back pain became a real issue for me but I have a feeling it was at a kettlebells class around six years ago. Something that started off as an irritating niggle in my lower back has stayed with me and it's now something I have to actively and regularly remedy with stretching and repeat visits to the chiropractor. Part of me wondered initially if this was just part and parcel of getting older and more aches and pains presenting themselves but the day my back locked and I couldn't move was a real indication that something more serious was wrong. 

I guess it's like anything else, it's only once you experience something like this for yourself that it becomes apparent just how debilitating living with chronic pain can actually be. The same could be said for anxiety and panic attacks - I never even had a proper understanding about either until it actually happened to me. 

I'm very fortunate that my back pain doesn't completely prevent me from doing the things that I want to do. That being said I do worry that the ongoing pain and discomfort is impacting on me in ways that I don't even really realise. Maybe I do refrain from doing certain activities and pushing myself? I also often contemplate what that continual underlying pain is doing for my mental health. I struggle with low moods and get irritated quite easily. Perhaps my back pain is contributing to all of this?

In many ways I feel like I have just got used to the pain always being there now. It's almost become a part of me and who I am. I live with it, I manage and well.... just put up with it.  

One lesson i've learnt the hard way over the past few years is that maintenance is key. When my back pain is prominent it's on my mind more than ever, but when I can't feel it I almost completely forget about it. This in turn then means I easily forget to do my daily stretches and before I know it I am back at square one and hobbling around again. 

Some days are better than others but something i've come to learn this year is that exercise, particularly running, can be a real trigger. It feels like a case of i'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't. When I wasn't exercising at all other than my daily dog walks I didn't feel very good at all and my whole body would often feel completely stiff. I have been really enjoying running over the past 6 months so it's frustrating that the back pain has presented itself as another hurdle to overcome. I know for sure that I would be able to run faster and further if I wasn't contending with this. I also think i'd be enjoying it a lot more than I currently am. 

One thing which has definitely helped keep the problem in line for me has been regular visits to the chiropractor. Having my back cracked and manipulated has become something I weirdly find myself looking forward to now! My chiropractor also teaches me the best stretches to do at home daily which help to keep the pain at bay. Regular appointments with him also act as a reminder that I have to keep on top of the problem and not just hope that it's going to go away on its own some day. Because its not. 

Yoga and Pilates have also been suggested to me as another helpful avenue to explore so i'm definitely going to look at getting back into that soon. I just want to find a class that I enjoy and that isn't ridiculously fast paced or fitness orientated. I have also been advised to work on my core strength so i'm going to start incorporating planks and wall squats into my routine to see if these will help at all.     

I'd love to hear from any of you who are suffering with ongoing chronic back pain and how you manage it. Be sure to send me over any recommendations you may have! It would be great to hear about some of your experiences and whats worked for you. 

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1 comment

  1. Hi Sarah,

    I live with chronic fatigue and chronic pain, though not just in my back. I can relate to a lot of what you are saying here.

    It does impact my mental health as it wears me down, it just feels like one more thing to contend with on a daily basis.

    However I have found some things that generally keep the pain at a manageable level. What works for me is not sitting still for too long which is tricky when you work in an office! I get up from my desk and walk to the teapoint/toilets/printer/to discuss something with a colleage as often as I can. It doesn't have to be a lot but I find that little bit of movement really helpful.

    I also use the rowing machines at the gym, its low impact but I've found that overall it really helps lessen the pain (other than the slight after-exercise muscle aches!) I believe it is a good workout for a lot of muscle groups, core included. All I would say is that if you're going to give this a try, make sure someone shows you the correct technique or you could do more damage than good!

    I've found yoga really helpful as well, for both mental and physical health.
    Otherwise I take turmeric supplements, whether this actually helps or is just a placebo I'm not sure though.

    Anyway, it's really brave of you to share this post and I just wanted you to know you're not alone. I hope you find what works for you x

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