By Joy Pape, FNP-C CDE CILC
Okay. I almost did not write this month. Why? Because I had back pain…AGAIN! Have you ever had back pain? If so, you are not alone. The number of people who experience back pain is growing. Over one-third of American adults have some sort of back pain which affects their ability to carry out daily activities—going to work, being active, sleeping, and being nice to others. Yes, pain affects mood and usually not in a positive way. I haven’t even begun to mention the cost—the dollars lost from missed work and spent on medical care.
There are many causes of back pain. These days, in this information age, people often talk with others and compare their symptoms to those of friends, family, and neighbors or go to the internet and seek self-help information before finding out the root cause of the problem. They may try this or that treatment and sometimes it helps, but many times it doesn’t. Sometimes these treatments can even cause harm if one doesn’t know the cause of the problem. As with almost any problem in life, it’s hard to solve it if we don’t know the underlying cause.
Back to my problem. Several months ago, when I started having back pain, the onset was unusual. I didn’t lift or strain anything, but it came on with a vengeance. That often happens. I, being a healthcare professional, realized that I should check out the cause. I found a fantastic physician (not surgeon) at the Hospital for Special Surgery who took X-rays, evaluated my pain, and recommended physical therapy (PT). I went to my PT sessions religiously and followed the recommendations which consisted of specific exercises, heat treatments, and ice treatments.
After two months, I didn’t think that I was getting the relief I expected. I didn’t want to hurt my physical therapist’s feelings but I told her and she agreed that I should inform my physician, which I did. The physician said that it was time for an MRI. I underwent the MRI and guess what? There was a problem that was not going to be fixed by physical therapy. I learned that it’s a chronic condition that puts pressure on a specific nerve. By knowing what it is, what to do, and what to avoid, the pain eventually settled down. Since last November, I’ve continued to have some pain, but it’s pain I understand and have learned to live with.
Two weeks ago, I could hardly move without feeling like electric shocks were running through my body. Being a nurse, I knew pressure on a nerve could cause that. I also had a diagnosis so all I had to do was reach out to my doctor. I told him that I thought there was pressure on the nerve again. He agreed, told me that it was probably inflamed, and that we needed to reduce the inflammation. Steroids and rest—yes, rest—was recom-mended. And guess what? I’m back writing to you. Why? Because I didn’t waste time. I received a diagnosis. My health care professional and I knew what we were dealing with and took the right steps.
So, my advice to you is this: If something isn’t working right in your body, save yourself some time, and more, by getting a diagnosis. And, if you aren’t getting the relief you think you should be, continue to communicate with your health care pro-fessional until you do, so that you can enjoy!
Joy Pape is an internationally known board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, author, writer, and presenter. She believes that every person is an individual and deserves personalized medical, integrative care, and hope for a healthy and full life. She can be reached at (212) 933-1756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.