What does earthquake and backache (or slipped disc) have in common? Both are unpredictable. They strike at any time – at any unsuspecting moment. Let me share with you what happened in this second week of April.
On Monday morning, 9 April 2012, I was getting ready to go to our cancer centre. As usual I went to my computer to check if I have any emails waiting to be answered. The Google Chrome did not work! I looked at the wire connection and thought it could be due to some misconnection. I bent down to check. I turned a bit and twisted my back! I could feel the muscle “snapped.” Initially it did not feel that bad. I could still go downstairs to have my breakfast. Then I went upstairs into my study to try to “repair” my back. After all I expected to have a busy morning at the centre – formulating all those herbal teas that had to be replenished. But it was not to be. The problem became more serious. I thought I should just stay home. I sat on my reclining chair and did the e-Therapy, using my favourite program – Lumbago. It did not work! In fact, it gave me more pain. I felt tightness of my stomach muscle. I could not stand up straight after being in a sitting position. Then I found it hard to walk. Lying down or etting up was a torture. The amazing thing was – I did not feel any numbness in my feet.
So for the whole day, I stayed in bed – reading many books! Since I could not walk much, I had to take lunch and dinner in our bedroom! Wah, good to have a loving wife sitting together for (sorry, not candle light) dinner. Then it was back to bed again to rest by “fragile” back. I did more programs from the e-Therapy machine, such as Backache & Spasm.
Day 2: Tuesday 10 April 2012. I did not get any better! It seemed that the machine was “useless”. It was indeed a difficult day – painful to wake up, painful to sit up straight and painful to lie down. I had to use a walking stick to push myself up. But when I lie down on my back, I was just fine. But turning to the left or right was painful. Unfortunately, I did not video tape what I had suffered. But to give you an idea of I went through, just see the video of this Aceh lady – how she struggled to get up and walk. Yes, I was just like that, more or less.
Then I remembered that I had appointments with two patients on Wednesday (tomorrow). One was from India. It would be unfair if I could not meet this person who had to fly all the way from India. I managed to write an email to him asking if it was possible to defer his trip. I wrote the same to another patient in Kuala Lumpur. Good that both understood my situation and agreed.
I did not let up on using the e-Therapy but the problem did not seem to improve. I took a few doses of the Backache Wine over a period of time. These generally would help based on previous experiences. But the wine did not help either. What has gone wrong? With this same therapy, I managed to help others “like magic” but I could not do that for myself? Was this just a placebo effect that we the alternative practitioners are often being accused of? It is all in the mind! And my mind cannot work on me?
Day 3: Wednesday 11 April 2012. My condition improved slightly. There was less pain and less muscle tension. Actually when I was lying down I felt great. I was my normal self in that position. In fact I told my wife that if the person in India comes because he has already bought his plane ticket, then what we could do is – let him come and see me in my home. I can still talk – just cannot walk around too much. Fortunately we did not have to come to that.
In the late afternoon – the house trembled! I was in bed reading. I felt the bed shaking lightly at first and then it became more violent. The glass panels of our three-tier- from-floor-to-ceiling book shelf rattled vigorously. I thought it was going to topple down. The shaking lasted for quite a while and then stopped. That was the 8.7-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.
Day 4: Thursday 12 April 2012. I felt much better. I was able to walk downstairs and have my meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. It looked like I would be okay by tomorrow! I found out that the e-Therapy program: Muscle Spasm and Detox seemed to make me better.
Day 5: Friday 13 April 2012. This is our cancer care day. I was able to go up and down the stairs with a lot more confidence. I took a walk in the garden. And just be sure that I would be well rested for our afternoon consultation, I remained in bed all morning. Then at about 2.30 p.m. we went to see patients at our centre. About a dozen patients came for help that afternoon. The consultation session ended by 6.30 p.m. I came home to take a rest.
Day 6: Saturday 14 April 2012. Great day! I could manage to sit up in front of my computer and write the first draft of this story! Yesterday’s consultation session with patients did not cause any adverse effects. But I was aware that I was still fragile. I felt my back was still “soft” – perhaps could break any time! No, I have no more pains when waking up or lying down. There were no pains when I stood up. I could walk about without a walking stick. I could now bathe by myself but I could not bend down to wipe and dry my legs! Yes, I did recover. But not fully yet!
At the end, I realised that the e-Therapy did not let me down! Perhaps I was expecting too much too soon. Okay, let me go back to my bed and rest. I should not be sitting down in front of the computer for too long!
In the evening we brought our visiting relatives for dinner in town.
- I am aware that there is no cure for low back pain. It will recur and recur. I just have to be careful and try to avoid any situation that can cause it to come back. Indeed it is hard to anticipate. It can strike at any odd moment at any place. I just have to learn to live with it.
- This was not the first time I suffered from such problems. It happened many times before. The first two times landed me in hospital. That was in the “good (or bad?) old days” when I believed modern medicine could solve all the world’s problem. I have written about this earlier (see My Own Personal Experience With Lower Back Pain) With a problem like this, the obvious reaction is to rush to the hospital. No, I did not do that now. I just wanted to relax and allow my body to heal. It is not an emergency!
- This week’s episode is just unfortunate but it was one of the worst that I have ever suffered since the past many years. Nevertheless, I thought I could handle it myself. My earlier experiences with the orthopedic taught me that I need not rush to the hospital for this kind of problem. I just need to take care of myself. I would “reserve” going to the hospital for some other more serious problem!
- While in bed, I took time to read many books. I read Mitch Albom’s – Have a Little Faith and Randy Pausch’s The Last lecture. Professor Pausch had pancreatic cancer and underwent surgery and chemo. Then he ended up with 10 spots in his liver and was told he had a few months to live. Read this if you have time. I also read Life Before Life – documentation about young children telling about their past lives. Then I read some chapters of Michio Kaku’s, Parallel World, Bruce Lipton’s, The Biology of Belief and Jerome Groopman’s, How Doctors Think. So, it was a time well spent in bed.
- Those of you who have this e-Therapy machine – can you read at the same time you do the program? No, you have to hold the hand-set! About a month ago, I made a bit of modification and instead of using the hand set we could also use a stick-on electrode (used for ECG, etc.). So, this time I have the opportunity to try out this hands-free treatment on myself for the first time. So with my hands free, I can do other things. Real cool!
Let me conclude by quoting some of what Dr. Jerome Groopman wrote in his book, How doctors think.
- How doctors think about a problem like chronic low back pain is heavily influenced by the speciality that they are trained in – who you see is what you get.
- Each of the various muscles, tendons, bones, joints and ligaments in the lower back contains sensory nerves that can transmit messages of pain through the spinal cord to the brain. There are also organs in the abdomen and pelvis that, when they become inflamed or diseased, can signal pain in the back. Given all of these structures, the source of the chronic low back pain is often a mystery. Doctors can be hard-pressed to identify why a patient is uncomfortable.
- Each approach to diagnosis and treatment is essentially a “franchise,” and that too many franchises are battling for control.
- The technology has also developed rapidly. New sorts of screws, rods, and cages, as well as other devices, can be inserted into the spine. These instruments are aggressively marketed and generate high profit margins for both the manufacturer and the hospitals that use them.
- Research showed that 85 percent of patients who suffer from low back pain cannot be given a precise diagnosis; the pain is usually vaguely ascribed to “strain” or “sprain” in the lumber region. It turns out that the diagnosis is not critical, because the outcomes tend to be similar anyway. With acute low back pain, 90 percent improve within two to seven weeks without specific therapy. Even with an acute ruptured disc … 80 percent feel significantly better within six weeks without surgery. Over time the disc retracts, so it no longer presses on the nerves and the inflammation subsides.
Wow! Lower back pain heals by itself but it takes about two to seven weeks to do so. So, I am not doing badly – being able to be on my feet after a few days!
Update: 30 April 2012
I was able to drive to the Botanical Gardens and walked around. There was not more pain anywhere in my body. It appeared that I was back to my normal self again. One lesson learnt: As one gets older, the body will need more time to recover from any health challenge!