From fear to hope “I’ve still got a lot of life to live”

My first encounter with back pain started about 6-7 years ago when I was sweeping up outside. It was literally excruciating, so bad it made me feel faint and I had to drop down on my knees in case I passed out. After a few minutes I did try and stand but it was so bad that I ended up crawling on my hands and knees to get inside the house to take some painkillers. The shop-bought tablets did not touch it enough to be comfortable so my doctor prescribed strong painkillers and diagnosed the problem as a possible pulled muscle. After approximately three days the pain was not so intense and was moving from the centre of my back gradually towards my side and hip and after approximately 8-9 days had gone completely. At this time I breathed a huge sigh of relief and concluded that I never wanted that pain again. Since then my back has gone into spasm 3-4 times a year, always when I was least expecting it and always with the same magnitude of pain. It always followed the same pattern of starting in the centre of my back, moving outwards towards the side and hip and then completely disappearing.

My doctor sent me for physiotherapy. I was given exercises to strengthen my core muscles as they thought the probable cause was a weak back from an operation done years earlier. The back spasms continued the same until February this year. My back went into spasm with the usual pain of an axe going into my back, but this time it was different, it didn’t go away. It wasn’t excruciating all the time, some days were good, but many days were bad. I just seemed to be living on strong painkillers. At this stage alarm bells started to ring and depressing thoughts were taking over. I envisaged ending up in a wheelchair and even dare I say it, I thought it could be cancer. I became fearful and very, very scared about my future. After 5 weeks of suffering I saw my doctor, he changed the painkillers I was taking and suggested I see another physiotherapist. He also sent me for blood tests and an x-ray which all came back clear. I knew it would take some time before I would receive an appointment so in the meantime I saw an osteopath who was recommended to me by a family member. I’m not really sure if it helped me or not, but it certainly did not instil any confidence in my mind that this was going to go away.

Finally my appointment came through for physiotherapy. After the initial assessment my physiotherapist went through some exercises with me, clearly explaining everything from how to move and how to breathe whilst doing the exercises. We spoke about any fears and how that affected my movements, walking, sitting etc. and how relaxation could and would improve the soreness I was experiencing. After that first appointment I came away with a list of 5 different things to do. The first four were different exercises and breathing techniques for my back, the 5th was what I classed as an exercise for my mind, and I quote “Your back is healthy, it may be sore, but it’s safe for you to move”. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. I’ve seen my physiotherapist twice since and just about to embark on my 3rd visit. Each visit is full of encouragement and my list of exercises have got more challenging each time. My confidence is returning and my back pain has almost gone. I spent five hours gardening this weekend without a problem. Now my thinking is completely different, I may be 61 years old but I’m looking forward to the future, I’ve still got a lot of life to live.

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