Back Pain Case History

These are the un-shortened emails my long standing client, Eric, who suffered with lower back pain sent me:

“On 31 December 2003, I saw my GP who said that the pains in my back and left leg were due to sciatica. He said I should take pain killers and anti-inflammatory tablets and come back in two weeks if the pain hadn’t gone. Two weeks later, the pain was worse. My GP recommended physiotherapy. After nine physiotherapy sessions over a period of six weeks, the back pain was gone, but the referred pain in my leg was worse. I found it difficult to walk and almost impossible to drive (at that time I had a manual car and operating the clutch was very painful). I was off work for most of January, February and March. My physiotherapist and GP suggested I consult a Neurosurgeon. This I did.He diagnosed, and a subsequent scan confirmed, a prolapsed disc with an extrusion pressing on the sciatic nerve. The neurosurgeon offered three alternatives, keep taking the tablets, have a steroid injection which would provide temporary relief, or have an operation to remove part of the prolapsed disc. The operation seemed to have the best chance of success, so we set a date. Meanwhile, I was made redundant and, at the age of 63, took early retirement at the end of March. At that time I thought that the retirement activities I had planned (e.g. furniture making, sailing, and spending more time with grandchildren) wouldn’t be possible. About three weeks before the operation was due I met an old colleague and friend who suggested I try exercise before surgery and recommended Dani.

I arranged an assessment session with Dani. She talked a lot of sense. I told my GP and the neurosurgeon of my plans. My GP was doubtful. The neurosurgeon was supportive, and said that if the exercise didn’t work I could have surgery later. He recommended a Pilates teacher. However, I decided to continue with Dani. I’m glad I did! Now 5 months and and 20 exercise sessions later, I’m practically pain free (I stopped taking pain killers three weeks ago). I’m feeling much fitter and am able to do many of the things I want to do.

In time, I believe I’ll be able to do MOST of the things I want to. I’m now walking our three dogs twice a day in places where I don’t need to put the youngest dog on the lead – she still pulls and I think holding her back wouldn’t be good for my back. I haven’t done any sailing yet, but over the past four weeks I’ve made some trellis for the garden and have almost completed a bird table using similar processes to furniture making but with much lighter pieces to handle, AND, most importantly, following Dani’s advice on posture! On Tuesday this week (June 2004*) my wife and I took a nearly five year old and a six year old to Chester Zoo. We were there for over four hours. Yesterday I drove from Manchester to Easingwold in Yorkshire with my daughter and two grandchildren aged three and seven – a 220 mile round trip in a day. In both cases there were no adverse effects.
*Eric sent me this lovely picture of one of his many re-discovered sailing adventures and writes:
“The photograph was taken while my son and I were sailing a Hawk 20 on Lake Coniston in July last year.  We had a great day. It was quite breezy so we had a good sail. We tried to catch the steamboat Gondola but she out ran us when the wind dropped.

Dani’s approach is gradual, knowledgeable, very careful, and educational. She explains how the exercises relate to the body and to the problem, and she encourages me to feel what is right, and to stop if anything feels wrong.  After several training sessions Dani encouraged me to train between sessions. I believe that doing this regularly and thoroughly has been essential to my progress”.

*Dani’s comment: Eric’s progress has been steady and he has, and is, training in-between sessions. Initially, Eric and I were working together twice per week to sort his lower back pain. We could reduce this to once per week after roughly half a year. After one year of training, we could move on to ‘proper’ fitness training rather than concentrating on ‘recovery from lower back pain’ These days, Eric does BodyMax™ training and weight training in my own private gym. As a bonus Eric’s blood pressure, which was elevated when we started exercising, is now at a low-normal. Congratulations Eric. You’ve been working very hard on your recovery and you continue to do so. Below is Eric’s update in 2005:

“In the last 12 months I have done indoor rock wall climbing, been swimming, played table tennis, made some fairly large furniture items and done my own gardening. Three months ago I acquired 16 wooden railway sleepers, each weighing about 80kg.With the help of a friend, I carried them from the front of the house to the back. I was able to manhandle the ones that I wanted to cut in half, and with the help of my son I was able to move them to their final positions for the raised beds in the garden.(n.b. when moving the sleepers, I chose to walk backwards as it gave me a better posture. Half a sleeper (40 kg) is at the limit of my present lifting capability.)

I recently bought a “Mantis”, which is a petrol engine driven rotary cultivator. It’s light, but it has a powerful pull which has to be resisted. I found the resistance was easy to apply for periods of up to 10 minutes, thanks to strong legs, a strong lower back, and the beneficial effect of horizontal rowing. The trick is to always keep a good posture, and to rest for long enough BEFORE you get tired. Last Sunday, and on Sunday three weeks ago, I helped my friend move some of his mother-in-law’s possessions to the tip.  Some of it were heavy things like old white goods and books.  They had to be carried up metal stairs to be put into the skips at Blackpool tip. I was able to carry them up the stairs with no problem.

My back is amazing. Within its current limits I can probably do 95% of the things I want to do, provided I keep a good posture and take my time. For the others, I’ll get help. I value having a fit back. I am aware of it. I listen to it. There is no way I would push it beyond its limits”.

*Dani’s comment: Eric is still my “client” in 2012, one of my longest standing clients of almost nine years to date. Not because Eric still needs my professional help regarding his lower back pain of the past but because he enjoys working out in my own private gym. And we improve and increase his workout sessions all the time. Eric, you’re a star! You have demonstrated that your trust in yourself and the specialised personal training sessions with me saved you from surgery.