I developed excruciating lower back pain in 2001. I was a tennis player, downhill skier, and a marathon runner. I was also under a lot of financial pressure in a stressful job as a consumer class action lawyer with my own firm.
Excruciating back pain challenged my ability to continue working. Forthepeople.com
My doctor diagnosed me with a herniated disc at L4-L5. He said that a piece of my disc was sitting on the spinal nerve. I tried everything to stop my pain but nothing worked. In January 2002 I underwent a laminectomy which removed the piece of disc and some of the vertebral bone next to the herniation to make room for the nerve root.
A laminectomy is a common lumbar surgery to remove some or all of the lamina (a part of the vertebra) to relieve pressure on nerves trapped by herniated discs or stenosis (narrowing of the nerve canals). Wikipedia
After the surgery, my back pain was more intense than before. It was very difficult to get out of bed in the morning. My five-year-old daughter imitated me doing a sort of downward dog yoga pose, with a lot of groaning, just to get out of bed in the morning. I could not move comfortably, nor could I stay still. I remember business meetings in restaurants—just looking at the chairs there I would feel pain.
Few modern chairs help us to sit well. Most chairs either encourage a swayback (left) or a tucked pelvis (right). Wikipedia
I also tried acupuncture treatment, but it was too painful to lie down. It hurt. Hurt to stand. Hurt to sit. Hurt to walk. Hurt to sleep. Everything hurt.
I received cortisone injections from a pain specialist. I was ecstatic to get a needle in my spine because it gave me temporary relief from the agonizing pain that radiated all the way from my lumbar spine down my leg. Unfortunately, the relief didn’t last.
Pain from pressure on the sciatic nerve can radiate from the origins of the nerve in the lumbar spine all the way to the foot. Wikipedia
I seriously considered a spinal cord stimulator. It was like an implanted super transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine, but I am very glad that I changed my mind as it required subsequent surgeries and I really did not want something implanted in my body. I was prescribed multiple pain relieving medications.
I participated in a number of lengthy courses, including some pilates and Bikram yoga, that focused on cultivating more strength and flexibility to relieve my back pain. Yoga gave me some temporary relief but nothing permanent. I also used a pilates reformer once a week for several months but it didn’t help. It started to remind me of a medieval torture device.
Using specialized equipment without knowledge of primal architecture can hurt rather than help. Wikipedia
I also went to a physical therapist and my pain was still not relieved.
Massage from a skilled practitioner can help alleviate soft tissue tension and back pain. Ideally, it would be combined with posture training to get to the root of the problem. Pixabay
In an attempt to relieve my pain on the way to court, I would slouch in my car almost horizontally, with both an ice pack down the back of my pants and the seat warmer on. I remember the pain forcing me to lie down on the floor at an arbitration where I represented a class of homeowners in a case worth tens of millions of dollars. Other lawyers stared at me as if I were a defective space alien.
Despairing, I thought I would never get better. I knew people with similar levels of pain who had retired. Because of my love of being a consumer protection lawyer and my financial responsibilities, this was not an option. The stress caused me to tighten up even more, worsening the pain. I felt like I was trapped in a downward spiral.
I explored the principle of mind over matter. I meditated daily and continue to do so. I read Dr. John Sarno’s books. Dr. Sarno would say first eliminate any physical cause, then heal back pain by dealing with any repressed anger or other negative emotion. But my pain persisted.
Eventually I came across Esther Gokhale's book, 8 Steps to a Pain Free-Back, and subsequently took the Foundations Course in 2011 with a Gokhale Method teacher in San Francisco. As I have said many times, Esther Gokhale is my hero! I have given her book to numerous family members and friends. They don’t believe me that there are 21 pages about how to sit in a car—or a restaurant chair—but every one of those pages is precious to me as they have saved me hours of agony. The Stretchsit® Cushion and Esther’s instructions allowed me to drive without pain. The Gokhale Pain-Free™Chair is still my favorite office chair. I still use the stretchlying technique that I learned in detail there, gently introducing traction to one segment of my spine at a time.
This healthy neck stretch is from a recent 1-2-3 Move class for our Alumni.
Stretchlying helps to ease tight back muscles and remove painful compression from the spinal nerves, discs, and bones.
I now have zero back pain. Because of the Gokhale Method I can finally lie comfortably in bed, sit, stand, walk, bend, and live my life. I returned to running six mile runs along California beaches and trails all over King's Mountain. Due to wear and tear on my knees over the years, I am now an active swimmer, hiker, and biker.
Out on my bike, I enjoy being physically active again, with the occasional wipeout.
My back has tolerated a recent move into a home with 41 steps. I carry furniture, groceries, etc. up and down those steps with no back problems. I am once again enjoying being the pain-free, calm, and happy person that I used to be.
Out hiking with my wife, Susie.
Awesome, Micheal.Well done.
Awesome, Michael.Well done.
That is such an inspiring
That is such an inspiring story, Michael! Thanks for sharing it.
Tiffany Mann (Gokhale Method teacher)
Love the bike tumble picture!
Love the bike tumble picture! Gives us all permission to go for it anyway!
Michael, this is such an
Michael, this is such an inspirational story, thank you so much for sharing it. Wishing you many more happy, pain-free years!