Monday, May 6, 2013

Body & Soul

In this section of my blog I would like to share with you what I am doing for myself. Things I am committed to that help me feel good; any and all exercising activities even products I may be trying. I will be sharing it all because as we age we need to keep in touch with each other regarding what's working and what's not. I love talking to the girls in my office, we could chat forever about our vanity. I realize this may not be for every one, but this is my reality. I am not growing old with the outlook "I have earned my wrinkles" as my son quotes the woman from the movie "The Guardian" with Kevin Costner. I am fighting it every step of the way and if Botox works, I say "bring it on."

A couple of semesters ago I took a yoga class (I think I mentioned this in one of my blogs) it was a life saver after a trip to the orthopaedic doctor. Last week my mother had an MRI done on her back. A few days later her doctor called her and said "I don't understand how you can even walk! Your MRI was so bad." He wants her to go see a neurology doctor to see if he can do anything. Her back is giving her legs severe problems to the point she is having a hard time walking. The doctors could not explain why she was having problems walking since she has had both knees replaced in the past two and half years. We are finally figuring things out. Her doctor asked her if anyone else in her family had back problems, and immediately she said, "YES!" Almost all of my aunts and uncles have back problems. I've had problems since my early 20's and several of my cousins have problems. Obviously this is genetic. I asked my mother if I could accompany her to see the neurologist. I would like to hear what he has to say not only for her but for the rest of us family members suffering with the same symptoms. I looked online and it sounds to me like our family ails from degenerative disc disease. The treatments range from conservative to major surgery, below is what I found.

Conservative Treatments

  • Learn/practice proper posture and body mechanics
  • Rest and restrict activities
  • Limited bed rest to take pressure off the spine 
  • Mild activity (exercise) such as walking, biking, and swimming
  • Apply cold and/or hot packs
  • Wear a brace for support (may not be helpful in all cases)
Therapeutic Treatments 
  • Chiropractic treatment to manipulate the spine
  • Acupuncture to relieve pain
  • Massage therapy to relieve muscle spasms and tension
  • Physical therapy to improve function and increase flexibility and strength
Medications to Treat Degenerative Disc Disease
In some cases, medications are used to supplement conservative therapy.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs; e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • Pain relievers (e.g., acetaminophen)
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Spinal injections (anesthetics or corticosteroids)
  • Antidepressants
  • Sleep aids 
Other non-surgical treatments include ultrasound therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) pain control units. Ultrasound uses sound waves to warm the area, increase blood flow, and relieve discomfort. TENS units use electrical stimulation of the nerve to interrupt pain signals. I have one of these units, it doesn't look like the one below but the idea is same.

Surgery Treatment
Symptoms of degenerative disc disease usually can be managed without surgical intervention; however, patients who experience debilitating pain and disability that does not respond to other treatments may benefit from surgery.  
  • Relieve pressure on a nerve root or the spinal cord 
  • Stabilize an unstable or painful vertebral segment
  • Prevent or limit radiculopathy (nerve damage)
  • Reduce deformity or curvature of the spine (e.g., scoliosis)
As I read through the list above, many of the treatments concern me.  I would like to think I know my body well enough I can say this would or would not work for me - I cannot say the same for my mother. Remember I went through this with the orthopaedic doctor. I proved to myself then what worked. It would be meaningless for me to try some of these other methods when I know the benefits yoga offers. There are a few procedures like using the TENS unit, massage therapy, chiropractic sessions and acupuncture that I would consider in conjunction with practicing yoga. Funny how this all came out suddenly because I recently enrolled in yoga instructor training program at my local community college. It's going to be a busy summer.

I will share with you all I am learning in the class, my progress and let you know what the neurologist tells my mother. I am very concerned about her but also curious to see if he can offer any advice to me being her daughter, the fact I severe back problems and I'm over twenty years younger. It should be interesting.

Coming up in my next Body and Soul blog - I recently went on a hike and had quite the adventure! I'll share what NOT to do when hiking.