My (Possibly) Expensive Back

How much would you pay to fix yourself physically?

I have been feeling a moderate amount of pain in my lower back over the past few weeks and while golfing I have almost been put out of commission by a sore lower back.  So I decided to go see a chiropractor, something I have never done before an appointment this morning.  During the initial assessment, a scan was taken of my spine and the results were kind of shocking.  Where most people’s back muscles should be equally strong on both sides, mine are most definitely not – looking something like a triangle pattern, which is not ideal.

I’m going in for my first adjustment tomorrow, and am hoping whatever I have done is fixable.  I am basically willing to do anything to get myself in shape, I’m just hoping that it won’t be extremely expensive.  My benefits cover the first $400 per year, but the initial appointment was $95 with each additional adjustment being $35 – this could end up being a $2,000 per year fix, which is not really good times for my budget.

For me, my health is my main focus (other then on Superbowl Sunday when I tried unsuccessfully to eat my weight in junk food).  I eat things that don’t really taste good because I know they are healthy.   I exercise when I really don’t want to because I know I am sedentary the rest of the day and the gym will help balance this out (at least partially).  If I am not healthy, then basically everything kind of goes out the window – how much fun would retiring at 45 be if I can’t even lift a golf bag, let alone swing a club?   There are a lot of things that I would like to do that would be less enjoyable or impossible if I were in poor health.

The problems with my back are probably caused at least partially (more likely totally) by the work I do.  I’m sure I could fix my posture and perhaps my workstation, but the main problem is that I am still sitting around all day doing nothing – something I’m pretty sure humans were not evolved to do (not sure if there was anything in a swiveling posturepedic style 20,000 years ago).  So  I’m not really sure what to do.  I guess listen to my chiropractor and hope that my back can be fixed and that I can spend another 15 years sitting around so that I can do whatever I want after that.

I’m hoping that whatever is the matter with me can be fixed, and fixed quickly (golf season is in less then 4 months now).  Then hopefully I can learn how to sit properly so that I can continue to do the job that I do and won’t have to look into a career change that could potentially add years to my early retirement.

I realize that I don’t necessarily need to go to a chiropractor, and that more traditional medicine would be more then capable in treating my back.  Yet having watched both of my parents go through back injuries, the only options typically offered by more traditional medicine are pills and/or surgery.   I am looking for something a little less invasive where hopefully I can assist in fixing whatever is the matter.  Having to pay for health care is a new experience, and makes me grateful for Canadian health care – no matter how messed up it seems sometimes.

I’m assuming that everyone in my situation would pay whatever it cost to fix what was wrong, but would you change a career, potentially changing your financial plan totally?

16 thoughts on “My (Possibly) Expensive Back”

  1. Ouch! Sorry for your pain.

    I would highly recommend getting an assessment of your work station. I had one done last year and it helped a lot with my lower back. My problems were not as bad as yours but I was amazed how easy it was to fix (raise screen slightly, lower chair a touch, tilt keyboard towards computer and use a binder to raise items that I read from while typing).


  2. You should find an occupational therapist in your area to come and fix your workstation to prevent injury and also give you stretches and exercises to counteract the effects of sitting for long periods every day. Also, an article for you, since this blog is about saving money, and chiropractic treatments can end up going forever and costing a lot – it is important to understand what chiropractic treatment can and cannot help:

  3. Man, I’m sorry to hear about your situation.

    I had a bad lower back in 2009, and all I can say is that even though I’m no doctor, after three weeks of pain, I decided to sleep on the floor in my basement (where there is carpet) and the pain went away after a few days. The hard surface definitely helped my whole back and when I would wake up, everything felt stiff – but a good kind of hard and stiff muscles. Of course, your situation could be very different.
    I really feel that the pain I was receiving in this case was more due to me going back to the gym lifting weights and not realizing that i’m in my 30s and no longer in my 20s. But I also think that shedding a few pounds helped for me to because when there is excessive weight on the gut – the back has to support that, particularly the lower back.

    One thing I would caution you with is the chiropractor. About four years ago I went to a chiropractor for a pinched nerve in my neck (probably because of my work station as Canadian Dream mentioned)and I went to one session and all I could hear was ‘snap, crackle’, pop’ and it was some scary sh#t so I refrained from going and waited the pain out and it eventually went away. Even though you are wiling to ‘pay’ for the repairs, just dishing it out, possibly in the wrong area, could make things worse for you in the long-run. Maybe going to see your family doctor instead first could be a better idea if you haven’t.

    Again, I am the furthest thing from a medical professional, just my thoughts. Best of luck Davve

  4. Man I can relate. I have a herniated disk which I got through some heavy lifting about 10 years ago. I could barely walk and the pain was unbearable. I went to see a real back MD not a quack. They prescribed some medication for the pain but what really helped was some physio which used a TENS unit. Fortunately I needed only about 2 months of physio to get me back walking pain-free.

    However daily since that time I have been doing exercises to strengthen my back muscles. These exercises are outlined in books by Dr. Hamilton Hall which you can probably find in the library. They work and are effective.

    Since the physio the pain has gone away. The exercises have enabled me to do chores around the garden and the house. Since I too sit all day working away at my computer I have to make an effort to exercise. It is the only way,

  5. I can wholeheartedly recommend a chiro therapy. I went to a Chiropractor for the first time last year and he explained the whole process (wrote a blog about the experience at Snap Crackle and Pop: Chiropractors are Good!). What he said came true. Additionally, my back is a lot looser now, so I can crack it by myself when I stiffen up.

    The main thing to know is that after just one or two treatments it might feel worse. That’s because your body might have muscles locking up your back to protect against something from your history. That original thing might be gone, but the paranoid muscles made something crocked and opposing muscles are also working hard to keep you upright so your whole body is stiffer. When you the chiropractor moves you he’s going to be moving against all these locked up muscles. For me, it was an instant of pain followed by amazing relief. But the muscles resumed during the day and following days to go back to their old ways, so I went again. After a few visits the muscles relaxed enough to let the “corrected” posture stay and it’s been way better.

    I learned from my father, and the chiro reinforced this, that joints are not nourished by blood by by their own movements sloshing in joint fluid. If joints don’t move they don’t get better very quickly if at all. The chiropractor is just moving the joints of the back, which most people don’t know how to move.

  6. Oh, forgot to mention that spending money on feeling better is reasonable! The pills are not going to improve your root cause, so you will have to take some initiative yourself as you mentioned to correct your workstation, sleeping arrangement, pot-belly if you have one.

    One of the best things for a bad back is exercise as JVR mentioned. If you have strong enough stomach muscles they will take some of the burden of holding up your body. But if your stomach is weak and your body is held upright all day by your belt then you will not be able to move after awhile.

  7. I am a chiropractor who has been practicing for 10 years. The best advice I can offer is to give chiropractic a chance, and if it doesn’t work for you, feel free to try an alternate method. My patients with acute low back pain do get results from treatment (and here I generally recommend about 6 weeks of treatment), combined with lifestyle / ergonomic changes.

  8. As others said, yeah have your workstation at work AND at home assed as fast as possible.

    You said you go to the gym, you must discuss your condition with your trainer. If you dont have one, take at least an appointment every month to ensure your workout is properly balanced! Beleive me (I am a trainer more than 10 years of experience) and unproperly planned workout can harm yourself very badly.

    A chiropractor can help you gain back some range of movement, but as a permanent solution you’ll better to opt for yoga or pilates, even if you take only one class a week. Yoga and pilates can help you to raise your kinestetic consciousness, so you improve your posture, gain flexibility and strenght. Bye bye chiropractor 😉 but as a temporary help, in your situation a chiropractor is a good option.

    Good luck managing your pain.

  9. I will echo what has been said above. I have had back problems for years and have been to the chiropractor umpteen times, but what has really helped is strengthening the core muscles in my back. Your chirporactor should be able to provide you will some easy at home exercises that will help immensely. Chiropractors are good at resolving the issue, but to keep it good you need to strengthen your back.

  10. Sounds like a wake up call.

    I have had back problems for years. I have had a few times when I could only lie down on the couch for a couple of days.

    Prevention is the key. Daily…Daily…Gentle exercise that strengthens and stretches the back muscles is the solution.

    Find ways to spend less time at the computer and more time taking care of your body. Build stretching time into your work schedule. Get up for frequent breaks. Walk to the farthest bathroom you can justify. Go visit so and so for a couple of minutes down the hall. Any excuse you can find…get moving.

    Make taking care of yourself your first priority in life. Without your health nothing else matters.

    Been doing that for decades.

    A couple of everyone can do it tips..

    Always sit on the floor to put your socks on. Three year olds do it…so can you.

    Always take the stairs when you have a choice between an elevator and the stairs. If you have to start out easy…take the elevator part way, then take the stairs.

    Hope this helps a little.

    ps…chiropractors don’t make money by giving you a permanent solution. They are a good short-term fix it.

  11. I concur with these other replies. I have suffered from a bad lower back for decades. Lesson learned? DO the exercises and stretches the Chiro recommends. Learn your limitations.

    I work contract so have a new workstation almost every year. Most companies are very good about Occupational Health, assessment, etc. and it can help tremendously. If you can’t access that resource, look for tips on Google and do it yourself.

    I almost want to purchase a good chair and take it with me from job to job, because the pain can be quite debilitating occasionally.

  12. @ Canadian Dream, Blond Heretic:

    I have an assessment booked in the near future, hopefully it’ll help.

    @Blond Heretic – I’ve heard good and bad things about chiropractors, I’m pretty proactive with my health so I’m hoping for a push in the right direction.

    @The Rat:

    I’ve waited the pain out previously, and it always comes back, I’m hoping for something more long-term that won’t flare up.

    @ JVR: I booked a physio appointment (never been there either) after your post – I’m thinking a combined attack (strengthening the muscles as well as correcting what’s wrong) may help more.

    @ Customers Revenge – I enjoyed your post – I am also more in favour of working the muscles out to strengthen them rather then taking pills. My mother has had 2 pretty major back surgeries caused by a degenerative disc, and I hope I can avoid that.

    @ Laura – I’m willing to give most treatments a try, I would love to see results in 6 weeks.

    @ Mama Zen – Like most men (according to the trainers at my gym) I have been resistant to Yoga and Pilates, but will give them a shot in the near future

    @ Canadian Money – Other then my back pain I would say I am in excellent health (like running 10-15km with minimal effort health) – I think I need to focus some energy on gaining core strength and flexibility and maybe spend less time in front of a computer (which is hard to do when its -15c outside).

    I agree wholeheartedly in putting health first and hope I will learn from this pain about how to reduce chances of hurting myself in the future.

    @ Robert – I am open to any and all stretches I’m given – thanks for the tips!

  13. You can’t look at any health maintenance concerns as an expense. It will be much more expensive down the road to have your back fixed through surgery or whatnot if you don’t maintain your body now. Either the expense will come out of your pocket, or out of the taxpayer’s pocket. The best thing to do is continuous preventative medicine. Good health is one of the few things that money can’t buy: once you’ve lost it, no amount of money will get it back for you. Think of it as an investment for yourself, just like an education is an investment.

    Living in pain is not fun, I’ve lived with back pain for 6 years now. I have back pain from the base of my skull, all the way down to my hips, and every area in between, I’m constantly in pain. And having to deal with a 10 month old baby and breast feeding doesn’t help the matter. I see a chiropractor every 2-3 weeks and a massage therapist every 3-4 weeks. It costs a lot of money, but most of the costs are recovered through our Extended Health benefits (fortunately!)

    Some people have already made some very good suggestions like having someone check your workstation and to read up on ergonomics for your home workstation. Invest in good quality keyboard trays and chairs (it does make a difference over cheap ones). However, the reality is that the human body wasn’t made to sit in one position for any length of time. Get up from your desk every 20 mins, stretch your body and move around.

    Find different ways to exercise. If you’re taking the bus, get off a few stops earlier and walk. Park your car out further. Take the stairs (run up them if you can!) Play with your kids! Even though it’s winter in SK, there are open gyms at the community centres. You are modeling good healthy habits this way to your kids, so this is an added bonus.

    I would suggest hiring a personal trainer at your gym to give you some routines to do, it may make exercise a little more interesting for you. Make certain that this person teaches you proper form. I see many people at the gym doing exercises improperly, which can lead to injury.

    You mentioned that you need to do core exercises. There are more to core exercises than just crunches. Your core actually consists of muscles in the front and the back of your abdomen. I did core exercise in the 3rd trimester of my pregnancy, and didn’t do a single crunch. Pilates is great, even my husband did it with me pre-baby. He does notice a difference when he bikes to work (~16 km one way) and doesn’t do Pilates for a few months.

    Get your Chiropractor/Physio to show you some stretches and exercises you can do on a regular basis. If you feel like you need to work out tight muscles, and don’t want to fork out money to see an RMT, a tennis ball is a good option (it’s like using an elbow to dig into a muscle knot). I have a stretch routine that I do every night to help work out the kinks, and that includes time with the tennis ball. It makes it bearable for me in between RMT visits.

  14. I would highly recommend taking a closer look at your benefit plan. Is your annual benefit limit on Chiropractic appointments linked to other services? For example, my Chiropractic limit is completely separate from my limit on massage therapy, acupuncture and a naturopathic doctor. I don’t have to see my chiropractor as often, because I see my massage therapist and my acupuncturist, as well.

    It’s important to ensure that your maximizing your benefits. It’s really boring, but I would highly recommend taking the time to review your benefit plan in detail. Otherwise, you’re just throwing that money away and you could be negatively affecting your health.

  15. @ Dana – Part of the reason why I’m going to a chiropractor is that I just found out that it wasn’t linked to my naturopath, so I can max both out this year.

Comments are closed.