I started writing this blog post 4 months ago with hopes of publishing it. Well here it is, and my back is healthy again!
What was wrong with my back?
In December of 2014, my back pain got progressively worse, to the point of debilitating. Out of the blue! No trauma, just severe upper back pain and pain down my left arm. It got so bad, I couldn’t surf. I know, unimaginable.
So while I was daydreaming of all the swells I was missing, fixing my back was (and is) a top priority.
What was the cause of my back pain?
I tell people it was from doing a triple backflip on a dirt bike.
Not so much… My initial thought was that it came from working at the computer for 10-16 hours each day combined with carrying my new, very-heavy baby around for the remaining hours of the day. Throw in a pinch of rare exercise and a dash of unhealthy lifestyle. It was a recipe that can concoct all kinds of ailments.
As it turns out, I most likely had some kind of trauma earlier on in my life that began the problem, and the above causes might have inflamed it. It took me 4 months to get an MRI (because Kaiser only covers 1/2 of it.) It showed compressed, bulging disks between C5-C6-C7. It also showed bone spurs a plenty. All were impinging on my nerves and causing pain in my neck, shoulder, and down my arm. I hadn’t felt my thumb for months.
Who I saw (and see) to fix my broken back on Maui
I’m a believer that in a perfect world, the East and West would come together and be able to fix any medical problem. So, I’ve seen everyone and done everything under our Maui sun to find solutions, including:
Maui’s Best Massage did wonders for releasing the knots and pain stored in my back. These Maui Massage Therapists are in tune with what I needed to get through the pain. One of the things that make it so great to work with them is that they come to my house! No driving means I get to live my life and not waste additional time. (808) 426-7418
Peter Hofmann LMT has helped in relieving some of the pain and breaking up blockages within my tight, jacked back. No lie, his treatments hurt, but I almost always feel better afterwards. I went to him weekly, but it was a challenge because of his location in deep Kula. (808) 298-8971
Maui Nutritional Therapy
Nicole Brown Busto has opened my eyes to how poorly I ate/drank, even though I ate better than most people in this country. It’s been a challenge, but I’m making small steps and adopting them. Her knowledge of supplements is crucial too. She goes the extra mile with additional research and outreach to others in her field to get the most comprehensive path to health. Nicole is a major part of my recovery and ongoing health. (808) 463-7783
Kenneth Busto is in Makawao and does wonders. At the Community Acupuncture & Herbal Clinic of Maui, I always feel better and improvement after seeing him. I’ve seen quite a few acupuncturists in the past, and he takes the cake. And though it’s one of the weirdest things I’ve experienced, he does cupping too. It feels a lot like getting cozy with a giant octopus, but it’s worth it. After a session, I can feel my back releasing all the bad stuff (yes, I’m technical.) It’s been so good that I’ve now got my own set of cups. (808) 315-5020
Ace Physical Therapy was great for diagnosing me even before I got the MRI. Matt also helped me to understand exactly what positions my body should be in to eliminate pain and cut down on inflammation (at night when sleeping, sitting at my desk, and moving around doing the day to day.) They’re located in Kihei at Dolphin Plaza with a beautiful facility. My visits with Amanda and Matt were crucial in understanding my injury, and knowing how to keep from aggravating it. (808) 873-8478
Erika Fabian is another physical therapist I saw, and she helped a lot with finding exercises that would build muscle around my spine and neck without injuring it more. She’s kind of like your mom on a bad day…every day. She tells you what you don’t want to hear and gets on your case. This is exactly what I needed. She also came to my office and corrected all of our postures and seating arrangements, which is most likely why I was injured in the first place. (808) 872-3333
I also saw a PT at Kaiser but was disappointed. She gave me a book about neck pain, which she admitted to having not read herself. After our first visit, and her explaining that I need to stop everything else I’m doing, I realized it would be a very long road to recovery with Kaiser. Even longer than it has been.
Dr.Michael Morrison is a magician. He has a way of finding the exact spot that needs attention, with very little verbal input from me. He’s been really helpful in understanding what my body needs to heal. (808) 879-0638
I’ve had good and bad experiences with the western side of things in the past. Unfortunately, most of it was bad this time.
- One doctor said, “Sorry, I wish I could help. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and hopefully it’ll get better.” 2 hours of my life for that… I wanted to punch her.
- Orthopedic Doctor: He was helpful in explaining what had happened, but he couldn’t help and gave me a referral to:
- Physiatrist: He said I could only find relief with massive doses of pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories or “risky surgery” as he put it. I asked him if there was any alternative to the drugs, and he said that,”I only do drugs.” with a snicker.
The Kaiser Physiatrist explained in no uncertain terms that the only way to recovery was with surgery. As you can imagine, this ruined my day, until I did enough research to realize that he was full of shit. Bone spurs and bulging discs can be repaired without surgery. His words inspired me to make changes and prove him wrong.
My personal changes
- Nutrition: I’ve cut down on some nasty stuff like thick, dark coffee, sugar, and processed foods. Thankfully, I live in Paia next to Mana Foods and a few pretty healthy restaurants. I drink a lot more water, eat healthy-alkaline foods and start the day with lemon water. I eat a lot more ginger and turmeric root, make bone broths, and eat anything else that will cut down on inflammation. For a treat, I’ll have some dried mango.
- Relaxation: I used to finish my day with a glass of wine or scotch to wash away the stress and treat myself for my hard work. Alcohol is an inflammatory, and not a healthy way to finish a day. Instead, I’ve gotten WAY into hot teas (my collection is pretty epic), and every night, after the kids are down, I take an epsom salt bath. It’s almost better than scotch. Almost.
- Sleep: This is the hardest thing. My wife and I are night owls. My kids are early risers. I’m forcing myself to be in bed by 11 at the latest, and it’s helping quite a bit across the board.
- Stretching: It’s a no-brainer and feels good. Finding the time each day needs to become routine though. Otherwise, I forget.
- Light-Exercises: My PT has given me mild exercises. I only do them if they don’t hurt. The goal is to build up the strength in my back so that my spine doesn’t feel the need to compensate by growing more bone.
- Posture and Breaks: There’s no getting around being at a computer all day, so I’ve made sure my desk/chair are ergonomic and I take breaks as much as possible to walk around. I’ve also set up a stand up desk.
- Limited Strain: We’ve changed up our duties at home where I take care of our older daughter and my wife handles our baby boy. He’s a BIG boy, and picking him up is hell on my back.
- A good long break: I took a little over a month off from work to travel around with the family. As much as carrying luggage and cramped airplane seats don’t help your back, the break from my desk was so good for me. It’s been a month since I’ve been back on Maui, and I’m not feeling the pain come back yet.
- Supplements: I take all kinds of things, but I’m careful to not take things for the sake of taking them. This is where Nicole Busto with Maui Nutritional Therapy is incredibly helpful. I take:
daily multi vitamin
extra C, B3, zinc, E, A
A horse-pill anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical (this I did for a few months.)
A quick recovery?
No. I was told to be patient with my back’s recovery, which has been VERY HARD. All I want to do is go surf (I missed the best south swell in 20 years), pick up my baby boy, or get some cocktails. BUT I had to be smart about it, which came down to months of hard work and money spent. I’m proud to say that I’ve proved that doctor wrong and don’t need surgery.
Now, I’ve lapsed a bit here and there. Most of my regular regiment is in tact, but I’m getting in the water when I can. Thankfully, I’ve had very skilled, educated people on my side warning me of relapse. They’ve kept me from pushing myself too hard. I’ll keep you all updated on my journey to optimal health here in Maui, Hawaii! ALOHA!