Once I found out that my back pain was not caused by cancer, I had to figure out what to do next. The pain was unbearable and constant so there was no way I could continue with doing nothing. I first followed up with the physiatrist and booked another back injection. The injected helped temporarily. It took away the constant pain, but didn’t help with the issues I’m having with standing or walking (which means I cannot hike and I cannot even walk around the block!). I asked for a referral to the neurosurgeon – the next step in this process.
This involved MRIs and x rays, which showed that I have some spinal compression and a herniated disk. The surgeon did a really good job of explaining what was wrong, and what the surgical option would be (fusing a couple of my vertebrae in my lower back). The recovery alone would take at least 3 months and there is no guarantee that the surgery would help. Also, there is a risk that longer term, the surgery would then cause stress on discs further up my spine, leading to the same problem just higher up. That being said, I need some form of relieve.
I went to see a disc specialist – technically a chiropractor, but one that specializes in disk injuries. He looked at my MRI and showed me what was wrong with my back, and put together a non-surgical treatment plan that involve spinal decompression therapy. The treatment is a bit intense – three times a week for 8-weeks – but also holistic. They do decompression, but also muscle stimulation, cold laser therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and exercise therapy. The idea is that as the spine gets decompressed (using a special machine), this causes negative pressure between vertebrae, which then allows fluid to go back in and rehydrate the discs – leading to healing of the disc. The exercise therapy helps to build up the necessary muscles to help keep the discs hydrated – which is seen as the core of the problem.
I decided to give it a try. I read some of the criticism about the research – which I see the bias in right away – that is, they complain that there isn’t a “blinded study” and such. The challenge is, that this isn’t something that you really want a blinded study on. I have seen enough of the way some of the cancer trials are done – many are not blind – they cannot be. I cannot see how this could be blinded, as you feel the traction – so you would feel if you were not getting it. I think the blinded trials in mouse studies makes sense, but I’m not convinced they make sense in studies that involve human bodies – bodies that are so individualized and complex. Epidemiological studies make more sense but they are only useful with interventions that are done on large populations.
Either way, I decided to give this a try and I have some hope that it will provide not only relief from the pain, but a lasting way in which to address it non-surgically. Crossing my fingers that this works!