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The benefits of exercise are insurmountable. It can help improve your mental AND physical health. I understand people who do not exercise because they are ill, or have some physical ailment, chronic pain, or the doctor told them not to. But what about the countless others who there is nothing wrong with, who are too busy or too lazy to get their body moving. I find it incredibly frustrating and upsetting to hear of people like this. They have a body that is free of ailments, fully able to move, but they do not.

I have had back pain for the past 1.5 – 2 years of my life. Before I hurt my back a couple years ago, I was exercised a lot. Perhaps too much. I was just starting to train for a triathlon when I hurt myself in the gym doing a squat. Initially I did not stop exercising, I just kept on going. In the summer I saw with a physiatrist in California, who told me to lay off the exercise for a while. When we got back to Canada my chiropractor said I would be able to start exercising soon, but to just stay where I was (not doing a heck of a lot) until we had sorted myself out. Which I am still trying to do, but remain hopeful that I can get out of this cycle.

People who have no physical ailments have no idea how lucky they are, and most might not realize it until something does happen that they cannot. Hopefully that’s not you.

I went to the Physiatrist this afternoon. I am not sure what I was expecting, I think I was hoping for some more insight or a magical cure to what I have been experiencing over the past year. I did not get any of that. I got more of what I already know, basically “yup you have pain in your lower back”, of course he said it more graciously than that, and explained everything to us. He was a good doctor. He was not conclusive and was not convinced that it was all sacral joint inflammation. He thinks that there could be an inflamed disc too, as when he presses on my lower spin it hurts. He does not think that I have any nerve damage.

The short story is he thinks there is some inflammation in my lower back most likely caused by trauma of some sort. Somehow we have to decrease that inflammation. There are two possible treatments at this point:

Treatment option 1) a prescribed anti-inflammatory and perhaps some physical therapy.

Treatment option 2) injections to try and treat the inflammation, which has more risks than the first treatment option.

Side effects to treatment option 2) can in very low cases be death (he has never heard of it or experienced it himself, but has happened so they have to mention it) or bleeding, or increased pain. He said it is similar to an epidural women get in child birth but directed to the inflamed area. Treatment 2) also is not a definite solution, because on an MRI inflammation does not show up, they could possibly get the wrong area, whereas oral drugs treats all inflammation.

Side effects to treatment option 1) possible upset stomach with the pills (in that case he recommended taking them with food). Drugs could make me feel slightly tired.

Because I am not thrilled with needles, we have decided to go with the anti-inflammatory drugs and more physical therapy first. He also said that I was basically to stop my physical activity, and lift no weights above my hips. No physical activity…. boo! Not happy about that at all. He said he knows it is hard for people my age to not be active and be a slug for a little while, but it could help my recovery. None-the-less I will do what the good doctor tells me (for at least a week 😉 ) and if it helps and allows me not to have sharp objects poked into my body, it has gotta be worth it right?

February 2005 I was in the gym doing an assisted squat on a smith machine and hurt my back, it was not the first time. I have hurt my back several times in the past, the first time I remember hurting it was when I was about 15 years old and I was working at a grocery store. I am not sure what happened, but I must of leaned the wrong way to lift something, the next 2 days I could not move. It healed on it’s own and I was okay within a week. Another time I hurt my back was snowboarding at Sunshine Mountain in Alberta, this time about 23 years old. I was going down the hill and slightly moved one way and I felt my lower back. It was fine that day, later the next day I was in severe pain. I went to my first chiropractor, Dr. Fox in Calgary, he was wonderful, he got me back on my feet in no time at all (a couple weeks) with muscle therapy, adjustments and stretching, that was probably about 2-3 years ago now.

Last February I went to the physiotherapist (or called physical therapist in the USA) until about mid or the end of April the same year. When I stopped seeing him I felt I had my full range of motion back. July 2005 my back started hurting again, but due to no incident this time. It would just feel stiff and uncomfortable when I got up in the morning. It now has progressed over time, now I cannot stand for over a couple minutes and lying flat causes me extreme discomfort. I went to a chiropractor in Vancouver a couple of times (only went a couple times because I moved to the California) and saw no great improvement. I moved in USA in November with my now husband and did not treat my back, lack of medical insurance, and worry that we were not covered, and expense. Lloyd felt it would be much too expensive to go and we could not afford it so I did not. I tried to continue stretching, but it did not seem to help, nonetheless I continued. Now sleeping also causes me discomfort and I wake up due to the pain after about 6 hours. Finally in March I went to the doctor and found out I was covered if referred for a few visits. She referred me to the chiropractor, who I went to see for about 7 visits in about 4 weeks time. I did not feel any better when I finished, she did mainly adjustments. I went back to the doctor and was referred to a physical therapist, who I went to see for 8 visits in 4 or 5 weeks, again feeling no real improvement at the end of treatment. The physical therapist did stretching, muscle work/massage. Seeing little to no improvement she recommended that I return to my doctor to see what was next.

I went to the doctor this afternoon (my regular doctor is away so I saw a different one, but still very pleasant lady). She has now recommended me to a physiatrist. She said… a physiatrist is in between a physical therapist and a orthopedist. An orthopedist would mainly be able to recommend surgery, and if I needed it would perform it, but if not would not be able to do much for me. She said for a person my age we want to avoid surgery at all costs and a physiatrist would be able to do some injections to decrease the inflammation in the area bothering me. She did examine me and said that it did not appear to be in my spin, so I was not to worry about spinal problems, but it seems to be in the joints next to my tail bone, the sacroiliac joints. She thought it could be Sacroiliitis, an inflammation of these joints (which is what my doctor in Vancouver thought it possibly might be in October but recommended a new bed, stretching and yoga).

Injections sound scary to me! I am wondering if I have gotten to the point and need this type of treatment or maybe I just need more physical therapy time? I am returning to Canada in September for some coursework, which I made my doctor aware of, she said I would at least be able to see the physiatrist once maybe twice before I leave. I asked if I should have an MRI or Xray done, and she gave me an order for one just in case it was something else and said they would call me once they received the results.

In the USA there is a limit to how much physical therapy and chiropractic you receive. Being on an HMO plan, I am entitled to 6-8 visits maximum. I cannot help but wonder if I continued to go to the physical therapist for another month would I get better? When I was injured last February, it at least took 15 or more visits (2-3 months worth!) before I left okay. However, if I was in Canada I do not think I would ever get to a physiatrist, and if I was finally recommended to one, which would be after at least 6 months of physical therapy that was going nowhere, I would then be put on a wait list for 6 months minimum to a couple years to see a physiatrist. So is the USA to quick to jump to a conclusion and should I be continuing to see the physical therapist, or is it indeed time to step it up to a physiatrist and Canada is too lax?

I am going to go through with it and see the physiatrist while I am in the USA, maybe this is indeed the treatment I need? But I am not going to be quick to get the injections if the physiatrist suggests them, being scared of needles and apprehensive about such an invasive therapy. Returning to Canada in September I will again have no extended medical for chiropractic treatments, which run at minimum $35 a visit. Lloyd being thrifty will probably want me to wait to see if we can get some kind of coverage before seeing anyone. My girlfriend Ali has seen a chiropractor in Victoria who did wonders for her, but wondering if mine is too far gone, or perhaps we she has a different problem with her back. I hope to try Ali’s chiropractor when we return if I still am in pain, if we can afford it of course. I am at the point where I think I am doomed to live with his pain for the rest of my life, and also think I am too young to have back pain, how did this happen?