I recently began physical therapy to see if I could find relief for my chronic back pain, which hovers between about a 2 and a 6 on a 10-point scale but shoots up to about a 20 when my back spasms, which is seldom.
My parents each turn 89 this year, and the best indicator of life expectancy is genes, so I figured some relief would make whatever time I have left on this planet a bit more pleasant. I often refer to my back pain as white noise, but no reason not to try to turn down the volume.
The best part is the PT is helping, although I do wonder if it is the warmer temperatures. The second-best part is that it has not cost me one penny, although the free sessions will be running out soon.
Thank you, Medicare. You have made me soften my stance on socialism.
I have whined about back pain in this space before, blaming it on a slightly bulging disc, but my PT guy said I am mostly suffering from stenosis, compression of the discs, and arthritis, joint pain from aging; both can be blamed on my unwillingness to die. It is a tradeoff.
PT, for the most part, is no sweat – and I mean that literally. The sessions are about 45 minutes long, and following a warmup on a rowing machine, I go through a series of exercises, all stretching, that are designed to strengthen the core, which on me is cleverly disguised as a beer gut.
The hard part is deciding to do them independently while at home instead of on command, which will be the challenge after my Medicare-financed sessions expire.
During the most recent session, the physical therapist introduced me to dry needling, which I thought at first was ribbing someone in a calm and non-expressive way. I was wrong.
Dry needling is a cousin of acupuncture that is used to treat many musculoskeletal conditions, including low back by increasing blood flow in the targeted area, releasing enforpines, which are the body’s equivalent of ibufrofen.
Acupuncture, which is based on Chinese medicine, intends to affect the flow of energy throughout the body, releasing endorphines as well, but treating the body’s overall wellness.
Yes, I Googled.
Both dry needling and acupuncture use fine filament needles that are inserted into the body. In advance of my first session, I was talking to a buddy who had experienced dry needling, and he said “be prepared to be uncomfortable.”
Sorry I asked.
But when my PT guy began inserting the needles into the affected region, I felt no pain. He said he was going to insert four and I said, “Insert 20 if you want.”
He stopped at six, and then I felt the needles pulsate, which continued for about 15 minutes. I could have laid there for much longer.
When I arose, the tightness in my back had gone away, and I made a mad dash to the driving range, where I hit about 60 golf balls without pain or tightness. The relief was mostly temporary, but nonetheless welcome.
The second session, which was Wednesday, produced similar results, and I headed on Thursday for three days of golf with old – and I mean old – fraternity brothers, with handicaps that are best described by paragraphs, not numbers. They manage what few can, which is to make me feel younger.
Dry needling has had a similar effect. It I were a rich man, I would pay someone to insert pulsating needles into my lower back in advance of my first cup of coffee each morning as a way to jumpstart the day.
Instead I will continue to do my stretching exercises, and hope that they continue to provide relief. They fit my budget best.
Reach Robesonian Columnist Donnie Douglas by email at [email protected]