One of the paradoxes that confront most chronic back pain patients is the fact of sticking religiously to prescribed medicines and the reality of still living in pain. How is it possible for a back pain patient who has depended on a specialist in the medical community for relief and still experience continuous suffering? What can a person do when caught in the tension between the realities of persistent pain and hopefully complying with prescribed drugs and longing for its release? In my years of practice as a physiotherapist and also consultant to number of hospitals in Onitsha, I observed with dissatisfaction the treatment of patients who had chronic mechanical back pain with prescribed pain killer medicines. A sizeable number of these patients either derived transient relief or none all. Many of them became despondent and decided to seek relief from their distresses by consulting traditional doctors who would attribute their back pan to bad blood and later perform ‘Ochi’ (Igbo word) , Tsaga ( Hausa word), Gbere (Yoruba word) on their backs and sometimes on the associated painful leg. With sharp razor they make some small cuts or incisions on the back to let the ‘bad blood’ trickle down. Some victims of chronic back pain visit massage centres where their backs were massaged. Regrettably, these efforts have no long-lasting effects on the disturbing and agonizing pain in the back.
Madam Iyabo, 75yrs, from Lagos state, narrated to me how she often groan each time she lunges for her drug box. She has suffered lower back pain for ten years. She has been abroad several times for check-ups, at the invitations of her daughter who has four children. Each time she is abroad, dozens of different drugs are given her to take home for her back pain. Before she chose obtaining treatment abroad she has tried several hospitals for her condition in the state but to no avail. She has developed so much dislike for her routine drugs because of stomach upset she got each time she takes them. As a matter of fact, taking these pills has become a nightmare. She resorted to a customized corset/brace to support her unstable back. She felt a bit comfortable with it than the drugs which are not only ineffective but unnecessary since its effect is transient, if at all and upsetting the stomach.
You may take your back pain medications in one gulp, and would smile at how quickly it works. Well, wipe that smile off your face. That drug you’re probably thinking is your friend is anything but something else why:
Not all pain relievers work alike. What worked for someone you know may not work for you. What your doctor prescribed may not work for you, even. Your doctor gives you a prescription, you buy it, you take it, and hope for the best. How long can you endure this cycle of trial and error.
On the upside, your constant use of back pain medications means you’re bound to find one that works for you. On the downside, trying one drug after the other will not always be pleasant and may even take a toll on your health.
Do you know how your back pain medications work? They either block the pain signals to your brain or interrupt your brain’s interpretation of these signals. In other words, they make you feel pain-free by making you incapable of feeling pain — for a few hours or days, anyway. But remember: feeling pain-free and being actually pain-free are two very different things. To get rid of the pain, you will need to find out the cause of the pain and remedy it accordingly, that is what skillful physiotherapy thoughtfully performed is set to achieve.
Medications may help you get through your day, but if you rely on drugs as your only pain treatment, you’re stuck with them for the rest of your life.
Yes, you can reclaim your right to a strong, healthy back; but the answer is not inside your drug box, and it’s definitely not your back pain medications. Start your journey to being pain-free by making rational choice of health facility to attend for your disturbing back pain or obtain referral from your doctor to a reputable physiotherapy clinic. Your back will thank you for it. Don’t continue to suffer with crippling neck or waist pain, it is not worth it. There is remedy.