I am 30 years old and started having low back pain 10 years ago. At that time it was pretty mild and I continued riding dirt bikes as I had been since age 13. I also got into weight lifting around 10 years ago. Between dirt bike riding and weight lifting I believe I trashed my lower back. (But who knows, because other people have done the same and are fine) I quit riding and lifting in 1997 completely and have seen a slow descent of my back over the years with flare ups many times. Most recently, since the July 4th weekend, my back has been bad and hasn't returned to "normal" pain. A four hour drive seemed to bring on the hurt and it hasn't left since. I went to the doctor and I started physical therapy on July 26th. It hurts pretty bad today and I do all the exercises and stretches everyday as they prescribe. Has anyone seen great results from PT? If so, how long did it take and could you eventually just maintain your back by doing exercises at home? I would love to strengthen my back to the point where I could get a roman chair and use that carefully to strengthen my abs and back so I wouldn't get these flare ups so easily. I know this is a lot of rambling but that is my situation. By the way I work in an office and sit most of the day. I get up quite a bit to try to keep my back loose, but sitting seems to be the worst for my back. Back pain really really sucks, it is like life can never be fully enjoyed again.
Boy, I do know how you feel, except I had back surgery a year ago. I did all the exercises, chiro, acupuncture, bla bla bla bla, nothing helped. I am personally a fit person, and I don't know if really the type of exercise you talk about would do it. I tried PT and that made it worse. I only swim every other day and that seems to get the pain much better, however, I must tell you that sometimes nothing seem to help. Things are getting better since I did surgery.. but in a very slow rate... and things started to improve rally much better in the last 3 months with flare ups every now and then. Sitting kills me.. hate it.
Have you had any type of MRI that shows a problem? Have you talked to a Neuron surgeon?
My physical therapist is a guy in the area that everyone claims is the guy that has saved lots of people from surgery... so I believe that in many cases it can work. He believes strongly in core strengthening to improve the back support so vertabrae are more able to maintain space and alignment and hopefully flared symtoms tame down and things resolve without surgery! I personnally know several people who swear by the McKenzie exercises and think they alone saved their backs. 2 of them were people with a long history of low back problems and MRI proved disc herniations. It wasn't overnight... but they feel that they began having improvement following adding these exercises into their regimin and swear they still do them when they get occasional flare-ups and it gets them back to NO pain within a short time.
Personnally, I'd give conservative stuff a good effort before resorting to surgery. I think fear and stress compound the problem, so try to do what you can to get into a lower stress, patient mode for awhile and maybe you'll see some results. I'd recommend taking Bextra or something for inflammation and giving different pain medications combined with relaxation/meditation to deal with pain.
I'm having improvement in last few weeks since I saw a highly regarded surgeon who told me he could operate and probably resolve my pain faster, but reassured me that backs really can heal on their own in many cases... it just takes time and discipline. It's been about 6+ months of some pretty severe symtoms, but honestly until the past month or two I was still doing stupid things, not reducing my activities very much, and not sticking with programs enough to really know if they'd work. I'm considering my herniated disc as permission to relax a lot, take time off work (not everyone has this luxury), lower my responsibilities, and take lots of long baths or hot tubs!! I'm a princess these days, letting others help me with driving, lifting, etc., to allow my back the relief it needs to heal. My pain is more managable lately and my back feels stronger... so I'm still an optimist!
Interesting info, I have tried to reduce my activities but you can only do that so much. (You still have to go to work, take out the trash, etc.) I used to enjoy riding my bicycle, tried that for 15 minutes several weeks ago, I was hurting pretty badly after that so I won't do that anymore.
I did have an MRI in '98 and it showed the lowest two discs as being very thinned out. I brought it to the doctor before I started the PT. He said a study was done where many cases of MRI's show herniated discs in people who have no pain and people who have gone under the knife were found to be without any herniations after an MRI showed a herniated disc previously. So, I guess he was saying MRI's aren't that reliable.
btw, the doctor is saw is a doctor at a hospital in Physical medicine and Rehabilitation
PT needs to be "tailored" to the individual, but most surveys of back patients have shown that the number one most helpful thing for them was walking. If you can do that without aggravating things, it's a pretty good bet!
I tried PT 3 times, to no avail!! I've heard that as long as you start the PT right away, you have a good chance of it helping, but I've yet to meet someone that it has done any good instead of making them worse!
After reading some of the post surgery horror stories on here, I am REALLY motivated to make this PT work, or at least give it 100%. I agree, walking seems to be good unless it is during a bad flare up, then stretching and rest seems to be the best. I tried walking Monday night when my back was bad, and I think it made it worse. But when my back is just "normal bad" walking seems to be good. It is pretty bad today, but I took 2 aleve and that helps, it is so hard: you do too much and you screw up your back, but if you don't do enough (exercise, stretching, activity) you screw up your back.