Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Back Pain: Important Facts, Inspiring Stories

Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Back Pain: Important Facts, Inspiring Stories

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780757305221
Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/26/2006
Series: Chicken Soup for the Soul Series
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen are the coauthors of the New York Times bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Jonathan Greer, M.D., is a physician in the Rheumatology Department at the Joint and Bone Institute at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Florida.

Hometown:

Santa Barbara, California

Date of Birth:

August 19, 1944

Place of Birth:

Fort Worth, Texas

Education:

B.A. in History, Harvard University, 1966; M.A.T. Program, University of Chicago, 1968; M.Ed., U. of Massachusetts, 1973

Read an Excerpt

Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Back Pain

Important Facts, Inspiring Stories


By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jonathan Greer

Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-8014-0



CHAPTER 1

A Reason for the Pain


Everything happens for a reason. My mother must have told me this fifteen thousand times if she told me once. The frustrating part is she nearly always turned out to be right.

When I moved to southern Germany for work, I had no plans to learn the German word for herniated disc. But just a month into my teaching job in Heilbronn I'd added Bandscheibenvorfall to my meager vocabulary. And I'd learned how the tiniest false move could send waves of bone-grating pain from the base of my spine to every cell of my body.

The pressure of the bulging disc on my spinal cord had me not just feeling pain, but hearing it in a kind of bodily shriek, tasting it as I tried not to scream and seeing it as my vertebrae freakishly contracted and my body twisted any way it hoped might alleviate the agony.

The crash course in the German medical system that followed gave me countless physiotherapy sessions and a regular regime of swimming, walking and faithful observance of the prescribed exercises. A year later, I'd almost forgotten it had ever happened. And that was the problem.

No pain, no brain. I used to hear it the other way around, but this time the lack of any reminders made me stupid enough to think that taking care of my body had become less important. On New Year's Day, alone in my flat and with all my girlfriends still away on their Christmas holidays, I woke up unable to walk more than a few meters. Almost worse than the immobility was the fear that the horrifying original degree of pain would return.

I had a very casual date scheduled for the evening. An ex-student of mine and I had agreed to meet for a drink at a nearby pub. But no matter how nearby it was, there was no chance I could make it. I suggested we cancel our plans, and he offered to bring the drink around instead and keep me company. The evening saw me lying on the sofa trying to be a good host, with little success. A call came the next day: he'd found a doctor who was open over the New Year break and had managed to wrangle an appointment for me, something my still-shaky German could never have done. Did I need a lift?

Did I ever. After he brought me home from the doctor, he stayed to play cards, to have lunch, to have dinner ... and he's barely left since. We're getting married next year. I religiously do my back exercises now, and swim and walk as much as possible. It's clear to me now why I had to suffer through this back pain, and I don't need it anymore. Now I need to be fit and healthy to enjoy the time with my dream man. I'm one of the lucky ones, whose back pain can be controlled and almost eliminated with the right exercises, so I'm taking advantage of it: but I'm still grateful for it. And once again, my mother was right.

* Amanda Kendle


Where Does It Hurt?

Point at your pain. Go ahead ... no one is looking.

If you pointed to your rear end, you might be in for a surprise. Most patientswho think they have hip pain point to their posterior buttock, but in reality, this pain originates in the low back and is called referred pain. This sensation happens when signals from several areas of the body travel through the same nerve pathways on the way to the spinal cord and brain.

The point of that little pointing exercise is to show you that back pain isn't as simple as it may seem, and that pain in other parts of your body—such as in your hips or legs—may actually be a sign of back problems.

In later chapters you'll learn all about the different varieties of back woes and what you can do about them—but right now, you need to know how to describe your pain so the doctor can diagnose you properly and set you on the path to feeling great. Here are some questions to ask yourself; you may want to write the answers in the worksheet at the end of this chapter so that you can show them to your health-care provider.


When did the pain start?

If you first felt the ouch when you lifted that heavy box at work, that's important information. Or perhaps the pain came on gradually after you joined a bowling league, started a new job or went through an emotional rough patch. Also note what time of the day the pain is at its worst; wear-and-tear pain tends to gets worse as the day goes on, while inflammatory back pain is worse in the A.M. and improves with movement during the day.


Where is the pain?

Try to pinpoint where you're hurting. Is it in your upper or lower back? Which side of your back hurts? Is the pain in your hip, and if so, which part of the hip? (Pain in the groin area is most likely from the hip joint; pain in the side of the hip may be bursitis; and pain in the buttock is usually from the back.) Or maybe it's your leg that hurts. You can even use a diagram of the human body to circle the areas that hurt. Another thing to consider is whether the pain stays in one place or radiates to other parts of the body.


What is the pain like?

Words you can use to describe pain include burning, throbbing, shooting, stinging, radiating, intermittent (comes and goes), sore and fluffy—okay, maybe not fluffy.


How does the pain affect you?

Let your doctor know how your back pain affects your life. For example, you may have trouble sitting at a desk at work, bending to pick up toys from the floor, reaching for a box of cereal on the top shelf at the supermarket, playing with your kids or participating in your favorite activity. Be sure to add whether the pain affects you at night, and whether you have numbness, weakness, or loss of bladder or bowel control, because these are all red flags.


Does anything make the pain better or worse?

Perhaps lying in bed or using an ice pack eases the hurt, or sitting too long in one position makes the pain worse. Think about walking versus standing versus lying down, and note how each affects the pain.


How much does it hurt?

It can help your doctor if you're able to rate your pain. You can use a range of words such as no pain, a little pain and lots of pain, or perhaps a scale from zero to ten, with zero being no pain at all and ten being the worst pain ever. Using a system like these to rate your pain helps your health-care provider determine what the problem is, prescribe a treatment, assess the effectiveness of the remedy and adjust the treatment when necessary.


Keep a Pain Diary

No, we don't mean that you have to spill your deepest secrets in a flowercovered, locked diary. We mean that you should keep a log of your pain: when, where and how much your back hurts, what activities you took part in that day, what your mood was and anything else you think might be important. Keeping a pain diary may help you and your doctor see connections that you might have missed otherwise, such as that your pain occurs when you're feeling stressed or that it feels more intense when you sit too long at work. The diary can also help you track which medical treatments and lifestyle changes work best for you. So let's get started: "Dear Diary ..."


Think about ...

my treatment goals

The reasons I want to heal my back pain are:

__ To be able to participate in my favorite sport.

__ To be able to play with my kids—pain free.

__ To do a better job at work.

__ To allow me to be a better spouse.

__ To be able to sleep.

__ To function better in the home.

__ To enhance my sense of well-being.

__ To help other people, whether carrying groceries for my elderly neighbor or helping a friend move.

____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________


Think about ...

how it feels

This is where I can write the answers to my pain questions. I'll show this worksheet to my healthcare provider.

When did the pain start?

____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________


Where is the pain?

____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________


What is the pain like?

____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________


How does the pain affect me?

____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________


Does anything make the pain better or worse?

____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________


How much does my back hurt on a scale from zero to ten?

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

CHAPTER 2

Regaining Life


It was the end of 2002 and my life was in shambles. My marriage was over, I hugged my friends and family good-bye, and finally let go of any dreams that I would ever return to work. To say I was in the throes of major depression would be an understatement.

I had been living with back pain most of my adult life due to degenerative disc disease and arthritis. Bone grafts and rod placements were used to stabilize my spine in 2001, but four months later the pain returned. I couldn't leave home without my cane in hand and couldn't shop unless the store provided an electric handicap cart. I was sent to a pain management clinic that prescribed medications to help me function better. I never knew how far I was going to be able to walk before the pain would hit and stop me in my tracks. Many times I was left frozen in place while someone ran to get the car or a wheelchair.

With mounting medical bills and my income gone, I filed for bankruptcy. I gave up the house I loved and was so proud of. I used to spend hours gardening; I was reduced to staring out the window at the empty field dreaming of what I would plant if I could. Slowly, it seemed that everything that had ever brought me joy was gone. I couldn't go to the stadium and sit to watch my daughter play in the marching band or my sons play football because the hard benches hurt my back. I would pretend it didn't bother me to be left behind but there were many tears shed in silence.

It was just after moving back in with my mom that I had the worst night of pain in my life. I don't remember what I had been doing that day, only the gradual onset of breakthrough pain and going to bed to rest. I awoke not able to move or turn over without screaming in pain. My family called 911. I screamed as the medics moved me with a sheet to the gurney.

It took the medical personnel hours and much morphine to get my pain under enough control that I could move. I was discharged with orders to see a surgeon.

All of this led to another MRI and another surgery with rod placement and bone graft. I knew what was expected of me in rehab and that made the process easier. I found myself progressing much quicker than with the previous surgery.

I remember the day of my ultimate challenge. I was on a table at physical therapy wearing my turtleshellbrace and working out with leg weights when another patient's wife approached me to talk. She told me she recognized the brace and we began to share the histories of our back surgeries as I continued to work out. I shared that my goal was to someday be able to return to work. She quickly said I would never be able to work again, that she hadn't and we had the same medical history. As she walked away I felt tears and anger of frustration. I thought to myself, We may have the same histories but we don't have the same resolve! I began to work even harder at my strengthening exercises.

Within three months I had easily weaned myself off all pain meds. I was walking farther and began leaving my cane behind. I pushed myself harder until I learned what my limits were going to be. I could soon walk more than a mile before feeling any discomfort and even that was tolerable. I felt like a new woman!

After nine months of freedom from pain pills, walkers and canes, I started interviewing for jobs. I knew it would take a special company to give me a chance to return to the work I loved and also be willing to work within my limitations: no lifting, twisting or bending, no standing or sitting for long periods and the ability to work at my own pace. On my second interview I was hired as a home health RN, the same job I had left four years before. I was allowed to start slow, just a few patients a week, and when I tried to work a full-time schedule and back pain started to return, the company allowed me to slow down to a parttime pace I could handle.

I have been working for two years now and cannot express the joy I have of walking into a patient's home and saying ...

"Never give up."

* Janice Bazen


Ouch! Acute Back Pain

You're hoisting a heavy box when suddenly your lower back cries out, "I give up!" and the pain makes you head for the couch. Or maybe you slip on a patch of ice and end up staring at the sky with your back in agony. Or perhaps your lower back starts giving you grief for no known reason at all.

Acute pain is pain that lasts anywhere from a moment up to three to six months or pain that comes from tissue damage (such as when you slipped on that ice). It can be deep, aching, dull, burning or spasmodic, and can stay in one area of the back or travel down one or both legs.

Acute low back pain is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits, so you're certainly not alone! A few causes of acute low back pain include back strain, osteoarthritis (where cartilage in your joints breaks down so that bones rub against one another) and disc herniation (where a disc—the cushion between your vertebrae—moves out of place and presses against a nerve).

It's a good idea to get medical help for acute low back pain. The longer the pain lasts, the greater the chance of it developing into a chronic pain problem. You might also develop depression or anxiety, and you may avoid exercise to prevent making the pain worse—only to discover that lack of exercise leads to weight gain, obesity-related diseases and weaker back muscles!

Luckily, most acute low back pain is caused by something unscary, like a strained muscle, and is rarely a sign of a serious disease. But you should immediately see your health-care provider for treatment of acute low back pain if:

• You experience numbness or difficulty moving a leg. Such sensations can signal nerve damage, either to the spinal cord or to the nerve roots that travel from the spine down the legs.

• You're pregnant. Some women feel the pain in their back instead of the usual locations when they go into labor, especially when the baby is traveling through the birth canal face up instead of face down. This is called back labor.

• The pain is worse when you're lying still. Cancer is always a concern when rest pain is described.

• You have a fever, feel poorly and have severe symptoms such as a bad headache.

Infection is a possibility here, specifically meningitis, disc infection or even bone infection.

• You're over 60. Older patients are more likely to have infections, nerve damage, cancer or compression fractures from osteoporosis.

• You have pain in your left arm or the chest. Such pain commonly signals a heart attack, so your physician will first want to rule out heart disease, then other causes, such as pneumonia, pulmonary embolism or muscle strain.

• You have loss of bladder or bowel control. This condition implies damage to the spinal nerves that control bladder and bowel function and requires immediate attention.

• You've been taking steroids for many years. Steroids cause the bones to become weak and brittle (osteoporosis), which can lead to collapsed vertebrae or compression fractures.


You'll probably want to see a physician even if you lack these symptoms or conditions—after all, back pain is no fun! Your doctor might refer you to a physical therapist or chiropractor (see page 81 for more information on these professionals), recommend an exercise regimen, prescribe medication or send you to a lab for a scan such as an MRI or a CT scan (see page 69 for the scoop on these and other tools healthcare providers use to diagnose back pain). Acute disc herniation occurs in only 5 percent of acute back pain cases, and this pain usually responds well to time, exercise and medication. Very few people in this situation need surgery!


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Back Pain by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jonathan Greer. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction: You Can Beat Back Pain Jonathan Greer, M.D., FACP, FACR,
A Reason for the Pain Amanda Kendle,
Regaining Life Janice Bazen,
Smoke Free, Pain Free Liz Clark,
A Slave to Bed Rest Darcy Silvers,
From Back Pain to Backbends Ingrid Bairstow,
Back to Normal Phyllis Hanlon,
Dodging the Indoor Hammer Dr. Paul Wright,
Not Born to Run Hilary Hart,
The Spirit Can't Be Broken Mary Cook,
What I Am Made Of Andi Blaustein,
Child Therapist Phenix Hall,
One Newspaper at a Time Michelle McLean,
Resources,
Who Is ...?,
Contributors,

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