Life changing help for an artist with back pain
Our team offers life-changing care, sometimes through the use of surgery and sometimes, as in Karl's case, through non-operative treatment.
Karl Bright, an artist from Birmingham, had suffered with debilitating back pain for a long time. Life was a constant struggle and there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, Karl's GP referred him to our amazing Functional Restroation Programme at the Centre for Musculoskeletal Medicine. Here Karl tells his story:
18 months ago I was so crippled with back pain that I could only walk with a stick, I couldn’t stand up straight, even sitting down was agony, and I was relying on pain-killers and anti-depressants to get me through the day. Things were pretty bleak.
On bad days there was a tremor in my hands that was so strong I could barely function, I had numbness down one side of my body, and my senses were all over the place – tastes were vile, smells too strong and my vision blurred. I had to stop riding my motorbike (something I used to love) and the poor dog’s walks got shorter and shorter. I was convinced there was something really very badly wrong with my back, but two separate MRI scans showed up absolutely nothing: bar a little wear and tear, my spine was completely healthy.
The pain had come on very gradually but was getting progressively worse.
Without an identifiable problem there was no treatment and I was left unable to work or walk or properly function. The stress of not being able to pay the mortgage or cover any bills was tremendous. So I begged my GP for help. I was expecting him to give me even stronger painkillers or painful exercises but he refered me for pain management. I didn’t even know such a thing existed.
But that’s how I ended up at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham on a four-week course (three hours per week in two group sessions) under the care of physiotherapist, David Rogers and Dr Grahame Brown.
The first hour changed my life. Like me, everyone in the room had been in debilitating pain for months, and not one had a satisfactory diagnosis. But we were taught about the ‘biopsychosocial approach’ and the fact that stress, tension, anxiety and fear could be making our pain so much worse. I’d worked in mental health for many years as a nursing assistant so I knew a bit about the power of the mind. It gradually became clear to me that my years as an ambulance driver, carrying adults up and down flights of stairs had clearly put a strain on my back. It hadn’t been a problem. But when a simple shoulder injury at work (I wrenched it carrying a patient)in 2014 refused to heal I could no longer do my job. I got very stressed and my back started to play up. I’d never been out of work since the age of 13, but suddenly I couldn’t pay the bills. The sessions made me realize that my anxiety and anger was as much a part of my pain problem as my back. It was a revelation.
In that first session we were taught some simple breathing exercises and stretches. I remember being asked to get up from my seat without using my hands or arms. I could only manage 18 lifts in two minutes. But by the second week I was off the painkillers and by the third week I was no longer taking anti-depressants either. The swift improvement proved to me that mine was more of a brain issue than a back issue. By the end of the course I could easily do 50 rises from the chair.
Now I’d say I’m pretty much pain free. I do various breathing and stretching exercises every day. The dog gets a proper 1 ½ hour walk and I work as a freelance artist, help in a local picture frame shop and I’m registered as a film and TV extra. I even helped a friend lay a vinyl floor – that’s not something I ever thought I’d be able to do.
The course has been life-changing for me.
Back to Life
Clinicians, Dr Graeme Brown and Dave Rogers recently published a book entitled 'Back to Life'. Based on their revolutionary and already hugely successful approach, Back to Life offers a whole new way of dealing with back pain including:
- Understand the psychology of pain
- Debunk the myths
- Find the source of your pain
- Manage your pain – including all the emotions and anxiety that go with it
- Master exercises and stretches
- Identify and solve the social factors
- Get lasting relief