DRHOOK- Aching back: Try yoga, Pilates, acupuncture for relief

the handsome doctor John Hong


Whenever I sing "New York, New York," I grab people from the audience to form a chorus line. The problem with an unrehearsed chorus line is we end up kicking each other. 1-2-3-Yeow!

The Rockettes make it look so easy. However, during a party, I did one too many kicks because I could barely get out of bed the next morning. I felt as old as Methuselah just trying to put on a sock.

How does one live with chronic lower back pain?

Eighty-four percent of adults experience low back pain sometime in their lives, and 90 percent or more of the time it goes away within a month. People who have chronic pain, meaning lasting more than three months, should consider some serious causes, like vertebral compression fractures, spinal stenosis, ankylosing spondylitis, metastatic cancer to the spine, etc.

For those who can't be "cured" of lower back pain, managing the pain becomes the goal. Stress management can be helpful because people who want to strangle the living manure out of some people might also be strangling the muscles in their body. Muscle relaxants can help loosen things up, but these medicines can make you yaawwn– zzz.

Yoga has been shown to be beneficial in pain management, and it is something I do on my own because it helps me sleep. (I've been struggling to read Eat, Pray, Love, which also makes me fall asleep.) 

A news story reported folks with chronic low back pain said the mantra, "I don't have pain. I don't have pain," which reduced the pain they experienced. It isn't a cure; however, it's a way to manage pain, because our frame of mind obviously influenced how we feel. 

Massage therapists tend to cost a lot of money, but in the long run, it might save a person from bleeding ulcers, heart attacks, and chronic kidney disease from NSAIDs (like naproxyn and ibuprofen). Drew Gandley of Wellmassagecenter.com says, "Stress is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

My skating coach asked me for years to take Pilates to improve my ice dancing. After failing another ice dance test, I decided to see Kate Nesbitt at Pilates Virginia, and wow, wow, wow! Not only did my skating improve (and I passed my dance test) but so did my running, lifting, and biking. Also, my lower back pain improved.

Remember a few years ago I wrote a somewhat skeptical article on chiropractics? Well, Dr. Scott Wagner changed my mind, as well as my neck and back, because he did more than just adjustments to really help me. 

Along the lines of chiropractics, physical therapy has taught me a lot. Physical therapist Heidi Crawford made me do exercises that I still do every day. (Okay, so I don't do them every day and, but then I pay the price.) Different back conditions require different exercises, and she gave me the ones that work for me. 

Acupuncture? A lot of people ask me about this, and I point to my face, "Hello! I'm Asian!" But like with physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, or whoever, you have to find a legit acupuncturist or you might end up with a needle in your kidney (or some other inconvenient place) by accident.

The saga of lower back pain is an ever-growing experience. My goal is to create a medicine to cure all back pain. I'll call it "Back Off."


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.


1 comment

I have been wanting to write for many months now and let the good doc know how much I appreciate his columns. Yes, the humor helps take some very serious matters and take the edge off of the sting. Please know doc that even though most don't take the time to thank you, you are appreciated and you offer one of the first columns I read when accessing The Hook online. I for one would like to see you continue offering this much needed service. I am sure that you have helped a lot of folks that you are unaware of. I hope that 2011 is one of your best.