Case Study

exercises for lower back pain relief

Below is the experience of Carmen Hyde, this is her documented memory of events.

“In 2002 I damaged my back while working in a job that involved much lifting. What started out as some discomfort in the lumber region of my back turned into more of a sharp pain and I decided to visit a McTimony chiropractor.

After several sessions, my chiropractor hadn’t told me much, other than my spine wasn’t straight, my posture wasn’t correct and there was some compression on my lower discs.

A year later I was still suffering from discomfort such that it prevented me doing all the things that I wanted to do. This is difficult to accept when you are 29. After spending plenty of money with this chiropractor, seeing him sometimes twice a week, I knew that it wasn’t working.

I was constantly in discomfort; sometimes it would feel like a knife in my back the pain was that sharp. It would feel hot around certain vertebrae and it began to affect my upper back, some days I would feel like gnawing my arm off because it felt so heavy. One day I was walking to the bathroom and it felt like someone had grabbed my hips and shunted them from side to side, I hit the floor in agony and felt faint and sick – what was wrong with me? I decided to see another chiropractor.

He worked on my lower spine and told me I was lopsided. His technique was rough but maybe that’s what I needed because the McTimony chiropractor had been gentle. After the first session it felt a bit better but then a month later I would feel the discomfort again and carried on visiting this chiropractor at least once a month for two years. All this chiropractor told me was I had a rotated sacro illiac but not why it had rotated. I had decided during these two years that I had to try to help myself and started Pilates. I also swam twice a week and walked every day but, even though this helped, I don’t believe it was the correct exercise for my particular problem. Nobody was giving me any advice; I just needed someone to tell me what to do and I would have done it. Instead, I was in the dark trying all sorts of different things to help aid my recovery. It was frustrating being on the scrap heap and, because nobody could actually see anything wrong, I felt a fake, I felt useless and I felt miserable. I asked questions but I didn’t get straight answers.

It came to a head at Christmas 2005. I was in some discomfort so I visited my chiropractor; after that visit I was in total agony. Something else was happening to me and I didn’t know what. When I called my chiropractor he advised me to spray on Ibuprofen.

I couldn’t stand up straight or put any weight on my right leg. My right thigh felt hot and burned down the leg and behind the knee. The pain went into my right foot, down to my little toe. The heel of my foot went numb and all I felt was pins and needles and shooting pains.

I had to roll to my left and push myself up out of bed. I couldn’t dress myself, or put on socks or shoes. I could no longer walk: I would cry out in pain even trying to walk. I suffered spasms in my right buttock and was unable to function normally. My whole life stopped.

I lost all hope and resigned myself to a life that was no longer packed full of walking, dancing, laughing and fun. The pain consumed my every thought; pain that would wake me from sleep just by the slightest of movements. Then a friend recommended I should get some advice from a different physical therapist: Russell Jenkins. I saw Russell and immediately I had answers.

I then went for an MRI scan (arranged by Russell) which confirmed my condition. It was like someone had lifted a weight from my shoulders: Russell explained in laymans terms what had happened to my back, finally I knew what was happening and that my recovery would be down to me by doing prescribed stretches and strengthening exercises in a set order from Russ.

What had been happening all these years was my muscles had been in spasm trying to protect the original injury. No matter how often and how many times my chiropractor ‘cracked me back in’ the muscle spasm would pull on the spine and vertebrae around the injured area. I was going around in circles and the continued manipulation left me with a prolapsed disc and two herniated discs. Russell explained all this in plain English.

After a week of rest, with gentle movements when I could, Russell gave me some stretching exercises to do: exercises that would help my particular condition. There were only three different stretches at this stage and I started them immediately. The first time I tried the stretches I was so scared I would do more damage – at this point I wasn’t flexible – but I persisted with them. I got through the pain by breathing correctly: a Pilates technique shown to me by Russell.

Another morning of spasms in my right buttock and down my leg woke me up. I had a little cry and thought ‘I don’t want to live like this: I can’t even walk my dog or look after myself’. I got up feeling dejected and after a cup of tea I did my first set of stretches. After doing them I remember standing up gingerly and steadily, expecting the usual twinge down my leg but it didn’t happen, well not immediately anyway. In fact it took five minutes the first time but that got me hooked because after weeks of continued severe pain, something had stopped the pain albeit for a few minutes but that was the best thing to happen in ages. So I persisted with the stretches three times a day, then four times, then five times and within one week there was a change in my posture and movements. It felt a lot easier. I continued with stretches and then exercises to build up the affected muscles. Eight weeks later I am able to walk my dog, I am able to drive, I can work, and I can laugh and think about something other than pain all the time. I’ve started to swim again and, although I still have much work to do, I know that it’s now down to me.

With hard work and continued exercise my back will and has got stronger. My flexibility is much better and every day I thank Russell for giving me the advice and knowledge to deal with my condition, and the courage to try to get better on my own.

Ten weeks later I am now living a fairly normal life again. There is no quick fix but taking 10 minutes in the morning; 10 minutes in the afternoon and then 10 minutes before bedtime has made me recover as quickly as I have. I would even do my exercises on the office floor – my boss didn’t mind, at least I was coming into work.

Doing exercises and stretches has been the best thing I could ever have done; if I had not done them I would be in as much pain as I was at the beginning. At least this way each day I make a little progress forward and I thank Russell for that progress and I thank myself for making the effort.

Update 2017

Carmen now runs her own business, has had 2 children with her partner, walks miles everyday, enjoys life again, there is nothing she doesn’t try and is in total control of her ‘bad back’.

She checks in with me twice a year for a check up, a half hour visit puts her mind at rest that all is well, her back has ‘gone’ occasionally but only when something silly was done. She always stays calm now, lets it settle for a day or two then resumes her exercises. Every time within two weeks she has regained full control of her back. She puts the effort in and reaps the rewards. She no longer needs to do the exercises every day, she does them 2-3 times per week, the medium rehab program.