The following story is from a previous patient who had recurring backache caused by a herniated disc for almost 20 years.
The bones (vertebrae) that form the spine in your back are cushioned by small spongy discs. When these discs are healthy, they act as shock absorbers for the spine and keep it flexible. But when a disc is damaged, it may bulge or break open. This is called a herniated disc. It may also be called a slipped or ruptured disc.
I had been through a back surgery twice. I waited for three days for the third surgery at a hospital in Silom area, and the doctors told me I did not need any more surgery since the symptom was not too serious and that I could still live a normal life. I accepted the experienced doctors’ advice then but I was still left with this on-and-off pain that could not be cured for quite a long time.
Fast forward to this day, I can now say that I am in a better condition, and I want to share my experience so that it may be of good benefit to some of you.
The symptom first started with my inappropriate lifting posture. There was a streaking pain at my waist area and I could not move my legs. After five minutes, the pain ceased. I slowly dragged myself and limped my way to the car and drove to see the doctor. The doctor at the clinic said that it was a muscle inflammation and gave me the medicine for pain and inflammation. I stayed at home for three days. I could not go to work because I hard such difficulty walking.
From then on, such streaking pain would occur each year for at least two to three times that lasted for many years. Every time the pain occurred I had to stay home for three to four days to recuperate since it was so painful to stand up and walk. I went to see a popular Orthopedic doctor in the province, and I was on treatment for many years, from taking pills to getting injections and undergoing computerized x-rays. The doctor then sent me to do an MRI scan in a very expensive hospital in Bangkok (the only hospital that had the facilities at the time). The films showed that the intervertebral disc was out of place, and it was pressing the spinal cord and nerve that caused numbness down to the back of my feet. The doctor decided to perform an operation. He made an incision of about five inches and scraped out the broken invertebral disc and cut out part of my pelvic bone to replace it. The pelvic bone on the upper part will gradually weld to the lower part to become one piece. But then my vertebrate lost its elasticity. It took me almost a month to recover.
After the operation, I had to see the doctor periodically for a follow-up check. This went on for weeks to months and years. The symptom was a lot better than before but it was still there. The doctor then decided to do another operation. This time, the cut was made from the back. He put the instrumentation to connect the upper and lower vertebrate to strengthen and prevent it from pressing on the nerve. It took me three weeks to recover. For years, the numbness on the back of the feet remained and from time to time the pain was severe. I gave up and accepted it that way.
In 2001, the pain became more frequent to the extent that I had to stay in bed. I went again to see the doctor at another hospital. I had been through x-ray many times: both the standard and computerized x-ray. The x-ray picture did not come out good so the doctor put me through MRI again. The reflection of the instrumentation inside my body made the picture blurry. Finally, the dye was injected into my spine and the picture of the standard x-ray was used for diagnosis. The picture showed that there were more herniated discs: the upper and lower part of the former problematic one. It was because of that bone (which was operated on years ago) has lost its elasticity, thus putting more burden to the upper and lower invertebral disc. Boy! I did not know whether it was because of my bad deeds when I was a child (hit a few snakes and broke their back to death) had come back to get me!
I waited at the hospital for another three days before the doctors finally decided not to proceed with the operation. The reason, according to them, was that it was not worth to take the risk with this repeat operation on the same spot for many times. So, I had to live with the severe pain for several times again each year. In 2003, I went to work in China for three years. I was lucky enough that during that time there, the severe pain rarely occurred. Most of the times when I started to feel a little bit of pain, I immediately took painkillers. I took extra caution with the way I move but every time I came back home I needed to see the doctor and asked for more prescriptions to help me cope with my pain to last my stay in China. The medicine, each time, cost me almost 10,000 baht. I became desperate to see every doctor that was known for the treatment of the pain. Most of them are widely known nationwide. I went to see and consulted every Orthopedic doctor I could find just to make sure I would not get so sick to the extent of interrupting my job contract in China.
There was a doctor at another hospital in Thailand who told me directly that the symptom would never go away. If the pain is too frequent and the numbness of the feet is increased to a great extent, the only way out is to undergo an operation; the more areas with pain, the more operation should be performed. To prevent and decrease the chances of experiencing pain, I was told I needed to exercise my back muscle to make it strong enough to securely connect and support the vertebrate. I agreed with that opinion but there were just too many exercises to be done and it was so time consuming. The exercise plan would not suit a person like me, who is not so eager to push oneself to exercise. I did it for only a few days and gave up. The exercises were too complicated so I will not talk about it here but I just want to mention that the heart of the problem is the back muscle.
Finally, I came back from China when the pain recurred. I met an Orthopaedic Surgeon named Doctor Somsak Laowattana at another hospital in Thailand and it changed my life! And when he learned about my past treatments, he told me that if it was he, who performed the previous surgeries, he would have forced me to follow the back muscle exercise plan right after my wound had recovered. I would not have to do frequent visits to the doctor from then on. The exercise will strengthen the back muscle and prevent the problem from recurring, and it is imperative to be done daily. When he explained the exercise to me, I found out it was very easy and not time consuming. I followed the exercise routine continuously for the next three months, and I can now feel that my back is stronger and my abdomen is firmer. The most important thing is that I am no longer feeling streaking pains up to now. The pain is gone for good! The exercise, for me, is the real treatment. Now… it’s time for you to learn the exercise.
Every morning when you get up…
- Lie on your back, stretch your feet and keep them close together
- Lift your feet about one foot above the floor (not to lift higher)
- Keep your feet in that lifted position for 10 seconds
- Lower your feet and rest for five seconds… this is one set
- Continue with the exercise for 10 sets; that means it will only take 150 seconds of your time per day
Can you see that? It’s so easy just like a piece of cake!
- Each week, increase 500 gram of the sandbag weight around your feet
- The increased weight will strengthen the back muscle and solve the problem
- How much weight should you carry? The doctor says gradually increase it until you can not lift it anymore
- The minimum weight for each person to carry can be calculated as follows:
Minimum weight to carry = (body weight – weight of both legs)/10
In general, both legs weigh about 10 kilograms. If you are overweight or underweight you can adjust accordingly (don’t tell me your leg weighs 50 kilogram each!)
I hope that this 150-second exercise will be of help to the ones who suffer from back pain. And I wish that this good deed of informing everyone with this message will help me live a normal life away from back pain forever.
Dr. Somsak’s Patient
7 August 2007