Health Bites – “Ouch! My back hurts”
Do you recollect how many times you visited the doctor for your back? In today’s world, where most of us lead a sedentary lifestyle and spend more than a third of our lives in the godforsaken work chair, which probably has the worst ergonomics, there is obviously a lot that we’re all missing.
Few months ago I learned that I had chronic backache, resulting from improper posture of more than 8 years. And two years ago, I realized that I couldn’t sit for more than 5 minutes! Stress accentuated the pain. So, I consulted my Jewish doctor who was board-certified. “Looks like you’re carrying the world’s load on your shoulders”, she said noticing my stiff shoulders. She indicated that I have minor muscle spasm and that I should undergo physical therapy. “That was easy. No X-ray/MRI/chiropractic treatment, doc?”, I exclaimed. Chiropractors are normally frowned upon as they ‘crack’ your bones which I think is quite scary.
The therapist she suggested was quite knowledgeable. But I felt better only for a very short period. A year later, I visited a spine specialist at Lilavati in Mumbai who recommended another therapy. Lilavati is one of the most sophisticated and well-equipped hospitals in Mumbai, frequented by notable personalities, such as Amitabh Bachchan. Later, I returned to New York and consulted a doctor I found on ZocDoc. Located near Columbus circle, his clinic was equipped with high-tech touch-based equipments. But I remained focused on the objective rather than the exhibit. Like a loaded artillery shell, I fired away with anecdotes not letting him speak at all. Highly impressed with my knowledge, he confessed that he felt insecure of his own and recommended that I get digital Xrays & MRIs and undergo yet another therapy. I declined initially but very reluctantly underwent a third one. My father also suggested an Ayurvedic doctor and a deep-tissue Kerala massage.
Ultimately, I said to myself, “What the heck is missing? This pain isn’t rocket science, and even if it were, I would know how to deal with it”. With a solid grasp over human anatomy, I meticulously studied the detailed reports and searched for every possible piece of info on the internet for back pain and muscle spasms. Eureka!
PROBLEM: Accurate analysis revealed that I have a condition called Nerve Root Compression or a pinched nerve referred to as Radiculopathy. Mind you that this isn’t a disease. It is a condition that had developed as a result of spending hours in an improper posture and which the workout exacerbated. Most of us go to the gym and focus primarily on the anterior portions of the body: the chest and biceps. As a result, the muscles in the back that support the spine remain under-developed. This uneven development leaves the spine vulnerable to damage, such as a sports injury, or even a poor posture. My vertebrae was pinching a nerve, branching out of the spinal cord, whenever I sat. And because the nerve is part of the bigger nervous system, which is controlled by the brain, the pinch generated muscle spasms that induced an intolerable and acute pain, with mental stress further aggravating it.
SOLUTION: Do the exercises to strengthen back muscles so that they support and return the spine to its destined position. Supplement it with heat & cold treatment and if possible, a massage. I spent paltry sums on diagnosis as I had my insurance cover for it but the bills ran over thousands of dollars. Don’t forget to watch this educational Livestrong video and save your dollars spent on medical bills and expensive ergonomics equipment: