Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Managing Mid-Back Pain

Those of you that follow me on Twitter (either officially or through this blog's sidebar) know that I'm afflicted with mid-back pain. In this post, I am to share my experience and what I do to manage as part of Canada's Pain Awareness Week.

When I was a kid, playing video-games, I would sit leaning forward. Not just a little. To the point where my back was almost rounded. My parents would come up to me and say "Sit up straight! You're going to have back problems later". As a kid I was comfortable that way and didn't believe them (Ah, kids!). Many years later, more or less 15 years later, in my old apartment I had a loveseat (small couch). One Sunday afternoon, I fell asleep on it. When I woke up, this is when it started. Pain like I haven't felt before.

Ever since I've been going through cycles. The mid-back is a very hard place to exercise to strengthen your back against back pain. It's the least flexible section of one's back. For years I just tried to look after my posture when I was in pain until it went away. Sometimes, this took weeks to really get better. It would get worst if I did a bad movement, but sometimes it would just come back without really knowing why. My physician couldn't figure it out back then either.

Last year I had little to no back pain. It was a great year for me. I was "relatively" fit (compared to my usual) and very well rested. This lasted until last Winter. In January, while shoveling, I hurt my back again. I went through my usual "rest a lot and watch my posture" phase. One Sunday night, after my back started to get better, me and Stephanie met with some friends for a social night with a few drinks. All went well until we came back and I went to bed. I felt the worst back pain I've ever felt. Worst than when it all started. I couldn't figure out why.

A few days later, I casually talked to a doctor at the office. He lead me on a very odd potential cause. Not the cause of initial injury, but the cause of pain during the recovery phase. Something I hadn't encountered earlier even with Google.

It made sense. Alcohol can increase blood sugar and the spot where I have pain was exactly there. The next few weeks I decided to test this out. At first I reduced my blood sugar a tiny bit by adding food that lowers or controls blood sugar (like garlic, lemons, cinnamon, vinegar, drinking more water, etc.). Relief didn't take too long. However, as soon as my blood sugar spiked a tiny bit, I would feel pain.

Blood sugar only affects mid-back pain if you're already injured. If you're proned to back-pain but have recovered, this won't prevent from getting injured in any way. The real secret to mid-back pain is to exercise, eat good and be constantly mindful of your posture. This greatly reduces the risk of injury. If you happen to hurt yourself, continue watching your posture and try adding to your diet blood sugar reducing food on top of resting and the occasional back pain medication. If you're hurting while trying to rest, listen to music or have a TV running to try to get your mind off of your back pain. Take deep breath and relax. Patience is needed. Recovery takes quite some time.

Massage-therapy and Chiropractic aren't good for all cases of back-pain. In some cases or with some people, they can make it worst. I hope the above, albeit lengthy, can help some people to start managing their mid-back pain. I understand the frustration in trying to find good information. As soon as you read about back pain, you immediately face lower and upper back. There's very little information on the mid-back. Throughout the years I learned that managing my mid-back pain is a constant process. Even if I recover, there's always a risk of injury. I cannot take this for granted.