Friday, May 30, 2008

I Feel Your Pain

I do.
Actually, worse than that (for me, at least), I feel MY pain.
And it hurts.
I've said it before - I'm no stranger to back pain. It is how I got into this profession in the first place (for the free care!) and although I manage quite well these days, I am still human (for now) and vulnerable to the same problems that plague you, the non-chiropractors. Patients often find this surprising, that their chiropractor should experience back pain. I suppose it is ironic (in the Alannis Morrisette incorrect usage of the word way), don'tcha think, or perhaps there is an element of shadenfreude involved - the chiropractor has back pain!!
But... ouch.

So what's an achy chiropractor to do? The first thing is to ice the injury. Ten minutes on, ten off, ten on again. The goal is to reduce inflammation - it is the key to most acute problems, and breaking this cycle is paramount. Whatever you do, don't heat a fresh injury! You wouldn't put heat on a sprained ankle - don't treat the back any differently. When in doubt, use ice. Some people find taking an anti-inflammatory helps, but this may not be appropriate for all people. Ice really is the safest anti-inflammatory, and natural substances such as ginger and bromelaine (from pineapples) can reduce inflammation too.

The next thing to do is to get care. Whatever care works for you - a massage, an adjustment, acupuncture... do something. The goal here is to prevent the compensation that your body will implement to guard the injured area. These things escalate - best to nip the problem in the bud. When people come to see me with a week-old injury, I not only have to deal with the original problem, but remove all the guarding and spasm that have built up since. ASAP is usually best.

Stretch the area, gently. Immediately stop any stretch that causes or increases pain especially sharp pain or leg pain. In the neck it may be best to avoid forcing the joints to move - focus on stretching the shoulders instead. Don't bounce into your stretches or force them - relax into the movement, use your breath. Stretch many, many times a day - hourly if possible. Once before bed is not going to be enough. Watch the video below - my basic emergency low back stretches. (oh, for crying out loud, I made an Oscar-worthy movie for you, and I can't upload) (Ok, praise be the internets, the video is now up... but the instructions are too small to read. Oh well. Just follow my lead, do what I do. Sorry about that!)

Finally, take deep breaths, relax, meditate a bit. Let your body heal, and know that this pain is temporary. Give your body the rest it needs.

I know personally that this last part is easier said than done. I tried to paint my porch on the weekend, and only got so far as stripping loose paint when this episode hit. Now my porch looks worse than when I started, I have to put my workouts on hold while I heal, and not to complain too much, but did I mention the pain? Poor me. I'm reminded of being in similar pain a few years back, and frankly it scares me a bit. Patience is not coming easily right now. Frustrating!!

But I'll try my best to relax. I'm going to ice the area and get adjusted by Dr. Bain. I'll make the time to see Lisa Quaning for some acupuncture, maybe get another massage. I'll opt for light yoga instead of push-ups, and well, I'll just have to deal with this minor, temporary set-back. I like to think that when my back is sore, it is just the universe giving me a refresher course in empathy, reminding me what it must be like to be a patient coming in, scared and in pain.

I know.

I'm feeling it too.

To all those suffering with me right now (and judging by my schedule lately, there are a lot of you!) hang in there... we'll get through this!

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