Columnist of the day - Dr Wren

Physiotherapy can ease back pain
Physiotherapy can ease back pain

I have generally adopted the view through my life that if I keep active and keep going most things that hurt will eventually get better. I have learnt through experience that focusing too much on the problem is not as fruitful as investing in the solution.

After having several months of severe nerve-type buttock pain, I was referred by my GP to a specialist. The MRI scan showed a disc prolapse pressing on the nerve and a nerve root injection was suggested. This seemed a good idea at the time and I booked a date.

Now this isn’t the first time I have had back problems. The same disc prolapsed when I was 20 resulting in three weeks in hospital, a slow recovery and intermittent problems since. An MRI scan 16 years ago showed multiple worn-out discs and I was led to believe that my back was not in good shape. Apparently, my three- times-a-week swimming was making the difference between being able to work and not.

So back to now. I suddenly had this strong urge to not have the injection and to go and see a physiotherapist-something I haven’t done before and humanly had no desire to do. I think, to be honest, I have been rather suspicious that it wouldn’t really do that much. So I followed the nudge and booked in with Phil – a recommended physio – and turn up really rather sceptical. He took a very good story of the problem, got me demonstrating my lack of flexibility and poor posture and gave me some rather painful exercises to do, encouraging me to “lean in to the pain”.

Now when I have a project I have decided to commit to, I go for it-so I have worked hard on those exercises the past few weeks. I have also had my first pilates class and started to become aware of body positions and how my back moves. Already I am seeing benefits. I feel like I am standing straighter, my back feels more flexible and the pain is less. So I am reconsidering my opinion of physiotherapy. I have realised how much we abuse our bodies-slumping in chairs, slumping over mobiles, constant typing at computers, rushing around lifting, pushing and pulling things without thinking what we are doing. I have also been reminded that a large part of our health is in our own hands and the choices we make.

I am going to persevere and hopefully out of this experience will come a more healthy, strong, flexible body and a greater care over what I do in the future.

Just as a little aside, the MRI scan also showed that the rest of my back is in very good shape for a near 50-year-old.

This directly opposed what the previous scan showed and made me remember that doctors are not always right, predictions are not always correct and my prayers over the years for my back had not been in vain.