I could not walk more than five minutes without having to sit down. Some nights I barely slept because I couldn’t find a position that would lessen the pain.

I went to two doctors: a neurosurgeon and an orthopedist. Both back specialists. They admitted surgery was not “guaranteed” to solve my problem, but they recommended it. I decided to put it off until I did some serious physical therapy.

I talked to a few therapists and read a few books. Then I developed my own program. (I’ll show you that program in another blog.) It was based on the theory that my pain was caused by a lack of oxygen in my bones and surrounding tissues… and that was caused by “muscle tension syndrome.” (See “Kennedy and his back pain,” below.)

The idea was that if I could attain certain levels of flexibility, the blood (which carries the oxygen) would get where it needs to. If and when I achieved those levels and still had pain, I’d get the operation.

I gave myself four specific goals. By the time I reached 75% of those goals, my back pain was gone. And today, so long as I maintain that flexibility, I have no pain.

I am proud to be the publisher of Independent Healing, the best natural health newsletter I’ve ever read. It covered back pain, in detail, in the current (September 2017) issue. Here are some excerpts:

About back surgery (and especially spinal fusion)

  • Spine fusion operations work in only one case out of five cases. And in one case out of six the patient gets a life-threatening side effect.
  • [One] study found that physical therapy is more effective than surgery in terms of getting people back to work and activity in 2 years.
  • Gordon Waddell has a harsher assessment. He is director of an orthopedic clinic in Glasgow, Scotland. He says back surgery in general has left “more tragic human wreckage in its wake than any other operation in history.”
  • Another study in 2014 at the Mayo Clinic showed that disk degeneration is normal at all ages. More than a third of 20-year-olds with no back pain have bulging or herniated disks, researchers found.
  • Economic Incentives: It’s a cash cow. The operation costs an average of $80,000. It brings in more revenue than any other elective procedure in the U.S.—some $40 billion a year.

X-rays and MRIs

  • Cathryn Jakobson Ramin is author of a bestselling new book on back treatment. It’s called Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery.
  • She says the diagnosis of back pain with X-rays or MRIs is a racket.
  • Doctors often point to abnormalities on the imaging as a reason for surgery. They show their patient a picture of their bulging disk and insist it must be fixed to relieve their pain.
  • But here’s what they don’t tell their patients… Most adults, whether they have back pain or not, have bulging or worn disks.
  • A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that 64% of people without back pain have disk “abnormalities” that show up on MRIs.
  • Another study in 2014 at the Mayo Clinic showed that disk degeneration is normal at all ages. More than a third of 20-year-olds with no back pain have bulging or herniated disks, researchers found.
  • A study in the journal Health Affairs found that when an orthopedic practice buys an MRI machine, the doctors immediately start ordering 38% more scans. Since the surge of MRI machines, diagnoses of spinal disorders has increased 14 times faster than the U.S. population.

 Kennedy and his back pain

  •  In October of 1961, John F. Kennedy secretly put himself in the hands of Dr. Hans Kraus, an Austrian who specialized in sports medicine, which was then in its infancy.
  • Kraus felt exercise was the best treatment for the president or anyone else with back pain. He believed back pain was caused by what he called “muscle tension syndrome.” It was common in people under stress, he said.
  • The lack of movement causes tension in your muscles that reduces blood circulation to the back. In turn, this leads to lack of oxygen, lack of flexibility, and pain.
  • During their first session in late 1961, Kraus found that JFK’s back was so weak he couldn’t do a single sit-up. When he tried to touch his toes, he couldn’t even reach his knees.
  • Kraus put the president on a workout routine that he performed twice a day, three days a week. It included low-impact aerobic, strength, and flexibility exercises.
  • Within a year, JFK was able to lift his children, dress himself, and even play golf for the first time in years. Kraus told him he no longer needed his back brace. But it remained a psychological crutch, if no longer a physical one.

 Back pain and chiropractic therapy

  • In 2017, the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the highest-quality trials published in recent years. They included 1,700 patients.
  • The review found evidence that chiropractic brings modest but significant pain relief. Spinal manipulation caused an average improvement of about 10 points on a 100-point scale.
  • Chiropractors often recommend “maintenance” adjustments to keep pain away in back patients who are in remission. The review found no evidence that preventive chiropractic treatments are effective.

More information about Independent Healing