Back pain disability is the all too common eventual effect of many chronic syndromes. Acute back pain is perhaps the worst possible pain to experience in life.
Interviewed patients have described their pain as:
“worse than childbirth”
“beyond any pain I thought was possible”
These quotes give me the chills when I remember the real patients who were describing how back pain has changed their lives. Of course, the effect is doubly strong when I remember the decades that I suffered with my own all consuming back pain. Being that I suffer every day, I do not have to think too hard to empathize with your agony.
This discussion focuses on why so many back pain patients become disabled and how to prevent this fate from occurring in your own life.
Disability from back pain is rarely the result of a person physically not being able to function. The physical bodies of most patients do not have any nerve or muscle damage that would actually prevent them from getting around. Instead the reason for the disability may be fear or the pain itself.
Fear of chronic debilitating back conditions can create true disability. Back pain will scar the soul 1000 times greater than the body. The physical body will heal, often faster than one would anticipate. However, the intense agony caused by all types of back ache will cause the patient to avoid anything that they feel might contribute to another bout of acute misery. The effect of the pain is really that strong!
In other cases, fear is a minor factor, but the symptoms themselves are simply too much to bear. Most of these patients become disabled out of activity avoidance in an effort to minimize symptoms. Basically, the patient does not move much, if at all, and eventually can not move.
A patient has an acute flare-up of pain. The pain will eventually subside, but the emotional response to the agony will last forever. The patient is left with feelings of dread, apprehension, and fear. They do not want to endure another episode of this unbelievable suffering ever again.
Of course the fear and perception of permanent back injury causes a powerful nocebo effect on the patient’s psyche. Long-term medical treatment for their back problem will increase this nocebo effect exponentially.
Eventually, the pain returns and the patient is traumatized again. After months or years worth of recurrent episodes of acute back pain, the patient has built up a sizeable amount of back pain prohibitions. These behaviors will come about due to the perception that a given activity causes pain.
If the patient sits and has pain, then sitting will be out of the question. If the patient bends and has pain, then bending will become off limits. If the patient walks and has pain, then who needs walking?
All these prohibited behaviors are what create back pain disability in so many scenarios. Before long, the patient has a very short list of activities they can actually do. It is a shame to think of the number of chronic pain patients who lose literally years of their lives suffering in bed-ridden agony.
It is more of a shame to realize that they may have actually helped create this disability themselves.
For some the pain became too much to bear, so they simply surrendered to it. For others, their emotional state escalated their suffering to new heights, literally turning the world into a hellish nightmare. Some had no choice in the matter due to purely physical or purely personality-based circumstances beyond their control.
I know you are in pain. Trust me, I know! Pain might cause you to want to simply lie down and acquiesce to the suffering. This is the worst possible solution! You must not accept defeat. A positive mental state is key to overcoming any illness or injury.
Restricted activity actually contributes to the pain in the majority of back conditions. Limited activity decreases cellular oxygenation, leading to oxygen deprivation back pain. Restricted activity also cause the muscles to atrophy, heightening the pain due to poor muscular condition.
Psychological back pain is a lesser considered cause of partial to complete disability. The process of becoming disabled simply reinforces the reason for the pain to begin with. It serves as an utter and complete distraction from repressed emotional issues.
The solution to mindbody back symptoms is knowledge therapy. It is the only treatment which can address the emotional source of suffering which will never respond to medical care.
How do I know that back pain disability can be reversed? I know because I did it. I have seen many others do it. I was at the end of my rope. I was ready to give in and accept a life of progressively limited behaviors. I was a beaten man and back pain was the apparent champion standing above my knocked down body, in the last round of the title fight.
The referee was counting 5...6...7...8...9... and suddenly I was up.
Next thing I knew, back pain was knocked out!
I won this battle, even though the pain eventually returned. Who will win the war has yet to be determined.
The point here is that once you set a goal to be free of pain, the hope will carry you through the bad days even when the agony is dragging you down. Life is our gift and we must try our collective best to fight for it each day of our lives. When things are the hardest, we must fight harder. On the good days, we can rest and save our strength while tasting a bit of sweet freedom from the pain.
To all of you with actual back pain disabilities, such as spinal cord injury or paralysis, my heart is broken for your loss. However, I must say that in my own extensive experience working with literally tens of thousands of patients for decades now, I find those patients with actual physical impairments to be the least disabled.
The worst cases of disability typically exist in people who are full of fear, but with otherwise mostly able bodies. Please, consider this and try to apply it to your own circumstances. This lesson has helped millions to live better.