Back pain and finding the right one

One day several months ago, I woke up with an intense pain on the right side of my lower back. I usually sleep on my side and swing my feet to the floor first thing then push my upper body off the bed to get up but I couldn’t get out of bed that way that morning. Trying to do so only brings tears to my eyes so I had to literally roll myself out of bed. By the time I was standing up, it’s obvious that there’s something wrong as I couldn’t stand straight at all – my lower body would look like normal (straight and all) but my upper body was conspicuously leaning to the left. Attempting to straighten my upper body would immediately cause pain to my right side. What a sight I might have been – the leaning tower of Raquel. Walking was slow and painful and attempting to run is even worse as there seem to be no support at all at the right side of my lower back. I didn’t immediately go to a doctor and just took it easy for the day, good thing it happened on a weekend.

By the next day, I was still leaning to the left and the pain hasn’t subsided any. I decided to go to a bulk-billing GP near where we live and consult as to what’s wrong with me and what I could do about it. The doctor took one look at me and told me to go see an osteopath. Say what? What the heck is an osteopath? He explained that they are practitioners who specialises with the musculoskeletal system. He said that they’re quite good and should be able to sort me out.

A quick search on the internet later led me to the Australian Osteopathic Association’s website where you could search for a practicing osteopath near you. I picked one about two blocks away from where I work and went in for my first consultation. The first consultation took an hour with half of it spent on a discussion of what my primary complaint was (I’m all crooked!) and other things that might have contributed to my plight (flat feet, sitting all day in front of a computer, almost no exercise). The second part of the consultation, the doctor had me take off my top and dressed on a green hospital gown opened at the back. He (yup, it’s a he) massaged my lower back while applying some warm oil and proceeded to chat me up. In between small talk, he’d explain what he’s doing and let me know what to expect (I’m going to crack your back now, just relax, okay?) Overall, the experience was a pleasant one, I mean, who wouldn’t want to get a massage? I was still crooked by the end of the session but he said it’ll take a day or two to settle. I scheduled another session anyway thinking I could always cancel if I didn’t feel like going back.

Two days later, I was able to walk normally (read:straight). I went back for my second session wondering what else could be done as the pain in my lower back was gone. I talked to the osteopath and we discussed the ache on my knee and the pain at the bottom of my right foot which had been there for a long time now. That time he had to work on my lower body and had me get out of my jeans as well as my top. I was still dressed in the green gown and had a towel draped on my lower body but having to switch from lying on my back to lying face-down was difficult trying to keep the towel and green gown in place. Additionally, I realised that I’ve all but ran out of small talk (he’s into sports and I’m clueless on that topic) and he seem uncomfortable with my silence (he was asking different questions on various topics). Needless to say, I was thinking of looking for another osteopath and didn’t go back after my third session with him.

As with all things that has no real urgency, I promptly forgot about seeing an osteopath again until I had another bout of lower back pain about a fortnight ago. This time, it was worse that the first one and was brought on by a weekend of re-arranging furniture about. I woke up with my upper body leaning to the left and I had to roll out of bed again. I got dressed and was almost out the door to go to work when I felt a spasm on the right side of my back and crumpled on all fours on the floor. Realising there’s no way I could walk a few steps without doubling over, I had to call in sick and rested the whole day. The pain didn’t subside at all the next day but I went to work anyway and had to find an osteopath in the city who could see me that day. The lady osteopath I saw that day was okay but wasn’t as good as the first and she charges more too. She gave me a massage to help with my lower back pain as well and recommended I take some pain killers. She wanted me to come in for a second session but as she was going away on holidays, she recommended that I see her male co-practitioner. With the higher fee and having to get used to another practitioner again, I decided I want to try someone else elsewhere.

Last week, I booked an initial consultation with another lady practitioner whose clinic is closer to where I work. She charges less than the other lady practitioner ($80 for the first consultation and $60 for the subsequent ones) and she’s quite good with her hands as well (although still not as good as the first osteopath). However, unlike the first two practitioners, she recommended strengthening and stretching exercises and trying to correct my posture. She mentioned that a lot of my problems could be caused by my slumping when I sit, leaning my head forward when working in front of the computer and not getting enough exercise. Last week, she asked me to do neck stretches, a lunge and had me sit on an exercise ball whenever I use my computer at home. I have to say that it’s quite difficult to slump or lean forward when using my laptop at home while balancing myself on an exercise ball. This week, she told me to do neck strengthening exercises and advised me to sit straighter at work with my back resting against the back of the chair. She also mentioned pilates and although I’m not considering going to classes yet, she got me curious enough to rent out a pilates DVD.

Getting into a professional/medical relationship with a practitioner isn’t exactly the same as finding someone to date but it does have some similarities. Since it’s most likely going to be a long-term relationship, I want someone who is good at what they do, preferably close to where I work and someone I’m comfortable with. So is my current osteopath the right one? I’m not sure yet but one thing’s for sure, I’m quite comfortable with her and she’s easier to talk to but I would readily go back to my first osteopath in a pinch.

Published in: on July 26, 2007 at 12:19 pm  Comments (2)