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Old 17-01-2012, 17:42   #31
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

Back pain sucks...little pills suck even more...couldnt do the back surgery that would suck too...hope all that suffer find relief...beware the little pills ,I have friends that had back problems now they have more than back problems..becareful what you ask for from a doctor...DVC
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Old 17-01-2012, 18:20   #32
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

Having suffered a long history of similar episodes I can say heat is the worst thing you can do. My chiropractor tells me No Heat!!! .... even in the shower. He recommends to ice it.

I used to get at least one episode a year, and sometimes two or three with debilitating spasms lasting months at a time. I haven't had a bad spasm in over a year and a half.

Sailagain has given you sound advice, which you should heed to find out what's going on. But MDs don't cure back pain unless they do surgery -- they only medicate the symptoms, and surgery should be your LAST resort. Meds always have side-effects, and can ruin your quality of life. Therapists and chiropractors can cure pain without surgery or meds. Acupuncture might also be helpful for some but it didn't help me when I tried it. Again, surgery should be your LAST resort.

Here is what has worked for me:

I was seeing a chiropractor and a massage therapist, and both of them explained (separately) and showed the muscle charts that illustrate how the abdominal muscles are key to stabilizing the lower back. During one of my worst episodes the massage therapist had suggested I lie on a carpeted floor with legs elevated (calves resting horizontal on a folding chair) and do stomach crunches to help strengthen my "core" and back. It works, and I follow that by pushing the chair away and (with shoulders square on the floor) swivel slowly so my knees touch the floor one side then the other a few times. Then I move to the Spine Worx for 10-15 minutes. It makes me feel great! Amazon.com: Spine-Worx Back Realignment Device: Health & Personal Care

Spine Worx and exercise works for me. Now I do 80-100 crunches with calves resting on a chair. Then I move to the Spine Worx for 10-15 minutes. NOT ONE VISIT TO THE CHIROPRACTOR since starting this routine. If I lapse for more than a week I start to feel mild pain/spasm in my back again, but going back to this routine keeps it under control and it goes away.

I have NO RELATIONSHIP to the maker or sellers of Spine-Worx. Just a satisfied customer. I bought a second one to have on the boat and use it when we go for anything longer than an overnight.

PS -- start slow on the crunches, and work up to it. Just laying in that position is helpful.
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Old 17-01-2012, 18:32   #33
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

Although I've benefited from physical therapy and message in the past, when I get lower back muscle spasms the best solution has been Cyclobenzaprine, a muscle relaxant. And ice, lots and lots of ice.

Helps to find out what's causing the spasms. In my case, I had an examination by the ergonomics consultant who works for our university, and she recommended a different desk chair. Wow. What a difference that made.
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Old 17-01-2012, 18:39   #34
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

I can recommend 2 things for your back problems:

Read the book from Pete Egoscue and try some of his easy exercises, they work for us!

Get a big 4x6x1 magnet and put it behind your back when you sit at the computer or eat, or read or watch TV ... it will increase circulation and it has eliminated my lower back problems

You can find more details about the Pete Egoscue on my website in the health & wellness page. You can get the special bio-magnets at A2Z Health products in Las Vegas or some other places.

Good luck and don't give up cruising!
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Old 17-01-2012, 18:42   #35
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

I have dealt with that issue for more than 30 years. Initially, my description would be just like yours. If your doctor determines that it is a back spasm, and does not involve a disk problem, you are likely to have the same experience as I did. The good news is that your life can continue with the same activities, but you will have to do some exercises to keep it under control. Over time you will learn how carefully you need to keep up with them to avoid trouble. The safe course is to do the exercise consistently. I have learned to wait until I feel a little back pain, and then get on to the exercise to keep it under control. I have not had a serious recurrence that has prevented me from doing my scheduled activities, including boating.

One of the things that irritates it is working while bent over with arms extended. That covers most things that I do in the engine room and lazarette so I do some of the exercises when these activities are needed.

Don't give up boating, you will learn to manage it as I have done. Good luck.
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Old 17-01-2012, 19:59   #36
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

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Originally Posted by capngeo View Post
If it is truly a spasm, and not a disc/nerve/stenosis issue, heat will abate the symptoms.. they may return when cool. So if you get no relief from heat, go see a cutter
+1 here, if I use ice, the spasms get worse. I can only use heat. Fyi, they have a pill for that.
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Old 17-01-2012, 20:01   #37
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

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+1 here, if I use ice, the spasms get worse. I can only use heat. Fyi, they have a pill for that.
Then it's muscle strain, and not spinal.
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Old 17-01-2012, 20:37   #38
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

I've had back problems since I was a teenager, and there have been some episodes of intense pain, lasting a week, where the best I could do was to crawl to the bathroom. Pills, and exercise help. There is definitely some disc damage and spine degeneration.

But, let me give you some encouragement: I've learned how to avoid triggering the major spasms, and learned to pay attention to the early warning signs. I still lead a reasonably active life, and still do the occasional heavy lifting (bales of hay, etc). By recognizing the early warnings I can take proper measures (lying down, stretching, anti-inflammatories), and have not had a major episode in over twenty years.

I do have my "off" days, but it's been quite manageable. I am still actively sailing.
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Old 17-01-2012, 20:41   #39
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

I've been suffering back spasms since I was 17 yrs old. I'm almost 60 now. Until I learned to recognize the early warning signs, I would continue whatever activity was leading to the spasm until I was knocked to the floor with pain. One time, in my 40's, I spent 4 days lying on the floor with no one else in the house to help me.

I've tried muscle relaxers, chiropractors, exercise regimes, stretching, and large doses of alcohol. Nothing worked; and if I went to bed, it just got worse.

These days, I immediatly strap on one of those back braces at the first hint of pain. Then I make sure that I go for some casual walks (sometimes having to use a golf club as a cane). Take aspirin to reduce inflamation, linger long in a hot shower, and make sure that I don't sit in an office chair or stand in one spot (I do a lot of cashiering in my position) too long. In other words, I mix it up; standing, sitting, walking, bending down, twisting - for me activity is the key to maintaining a loose back. I just got back from a 1 week vacation where all I did was sit around watching TV. On the last day, I bent down to get something out of the fridge, and pop! All the next day sitting on airplanes didn't help. That was this past Friday, and now my back is fine. As soon as the spasm relaxes, the pain goes away.

Now, if my back doesn't feel tight, and the pain is more of a dull burning, then I know it's the disks. In that case, I immediately put a ice pack under the back brace, and find a sitting position that takes the pressure off the disk. For me that's a lounge chair with the footrest about halfway up. Walking only makes it worse in the case of disk pain, so I try to stay off my feet as much as possible.

The main key is getting to know your body, and its warning signs so that you can take action early, before it gets incapacitating.

Hang in there. It doesn't necessarily have to get worse once you've had your first back episode.
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Old 18-01-2012, 12:52   #40
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

Thanks for all your words of encouragement and the many suggestions. I'll let you know what the doctor says after he looks at the x-rays.
Since I'm double the age of some of the contributors here I'll say that I must be lucky that this is my first really scarey back spasm injury episode and mentally I guess I should try not to be such a wuss. Thankfully I've been retired for a long while and didn't need to get back to work.
I know that weightlifting is not in my future because that is something that I did up until I was mid 40s and at times probably contributed to the problems I have now. Each lift I did probably helped crush the areas in between the vertabrae. Just as extreme running probably helped destroy the fluid in the knee joints a little more. Once I know what is wrong I'll continue to find which exercises can help and luckily my wife is really into yoga and there is a tai chi instructor down the road.
For now I feel a little stronger every day but am cautious to not overdo it. It's been a week and a half since the first spasm. I am fearful of those spasms because the pain to me is unbearable. I would think it could be a good form of torture.
My good forum friend and shipmate Martin says that being on the boat even at anchor helps his back because of all the movement and constant balance adjustment that you do without thinking. That is encouraging.
Thanks again to all.
kind regards,
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Old 18-01-2012, 13:07   #41
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

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Originally Posted by SkiprJohn View Post
Thanks for all your words of encouragement and the many suggestions. I'll let you know what the doctor says after he looks at the x-rays.
Since I'm double the age of some of the contributors here I'll say that I must be lucky that this is my first really scarey back spasm injury episode and mentally I guess I should try not to be such a wuss. Thankfully I've been retired for a long while and didn't need to get back to work.
I know that weightlifting is not in my future because that is something that I did up until I was mid 40s and at times probably contributed to the problems I have now. Each lift I did probably helped crush the areas in between the vertabrae. Just as extreme running probably helped destroy the fluid in the knee joints a little more. Once I know what is wrong I'll continue to find which exercises can help and luckily my wife is really into yoga and there is a tai chi instructor down the road.
For now I feel a little stronger every day but am cautious to not overdo it. It's been a week and a half since the first spasm. I am fearful of those spasms because the pain to me is unbearable. I would think it could be a good form of torture.
My good forum friend and shipmate Martin says that being on the boat even at anchor helps his back because of all the movement and constant balance adjustment that you do without thinking. That is encouraging.
Thanks again to all.
kind regards,
I was 57 (5 years ago) when my back was finished. But sailing is one of the best therapies I know. The constant movement actually reduces weight and strengthens the muscles w/o even trying. Snorkling is the next best.
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Old 18-01-2012, 14:24   #42
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

John I have had lower back problems for over ten years now and we kept sailing for a long time. Find out the cause before you worry yourself to death. With my problem, the best advise I received was to strengthen the back muscles, SLOWLY, and take care on how you do things like lifting, raising sails, etc. There were times when I did something stupid and paid the price for months. We just slowed down and enjoyed the scenery until the back healed itself. If it is a disc, I resisted the opinions to have the operation to correct it and I am glad I did. Each of us have to make our own decisions. I carry a prescription anti-inflammatory on board and start taking it at the first sign. It doesn't prevent the pain but it slows it down and I recover quicker. I suspect the MRI will tell you what you need to do and they should have done that first rather than exrays but that's our medical profession. Good luck and I feel for you but I can say from my experience it was not the end of the world. We have switched to a trawler from sail and the back issue was ONE of the deciding factors but not the main one or the most important. Chuck
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Old 18-01-2012, 14:51   #43
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

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Originally Posted by delmarrey View Post
I was 57 (5 years ago) when my back was finished. But sailing is one of the best therapies I know. The constant movement actually reduces weight and strengthens the muscles w/o even trying. Snorkling is the next best.
Swimming with fins in pool or snorkling will strengthen by exercising all muscles along spine with minimal load.

best wishes.
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Old 18-01-2012, 16:01   #44
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Everybody is different, but here is my expereince.

Though I have no herniated disk or other serious issues, back spasms and pinched nerves do run in the family, and when they hit, they take you to the floor and you're out of service--even standing--for days to weeks. Many folks responded because this is not that rare and it really hurts. Those who have not been hit think it's just and ache. It's more. The first time I was hit I was in the john; I had to get my wife to help me, since I couldn't let go of the counter with either hand. Terrible.

Once I had one hit on a long coastal cruise:
Sail Delmarva: Trip Report - 2010 Delmarva Circumnavigation
I recovered during the cruise, with the help of a heating pad (thank goodness for a good house bank) and drugs, but I had help and took a large number of lay-days. Hey, it's vacation, why not.

I sail a lot, most weekends all year and some cruises. I'm convinced that the incidence of hurting my back is the same on the boat or at home; on the boat it's better, because I'm moving more, but worse because of the potential for awkward lifts. I single hand most of the time. I've never had a problem alone, and there is a subtle reason; when I have crew/family, I'm more inclined to just do stuff. When single-handing, everything is thought through and planned. Nothing is rushed. If I need purchase or leverage, I plan that. I carry less sail and I anchor carefully. Honestly, I'm a better saeman when I'm alone, because I do know how and that I need to be when alone. There are fewer distractions and you don't rely on luck or "crew" to bail you out of a poor plan.

I was planning to go further--Bermuda, the Bahamas--but I'm going to limit it to coastal hops. Yes, I know what it's like when the back siezes up and I just don't want to think about that offshore. Sure, the same thing can happen on the coast, but I'm far more likely to be able to simply hole-up in a harbor and wait; a week or two, if I need to.

Yup, I know I'm giving something up. In truth, I'd sort of come to this before my sailing back spasm:
Sail Delmarva: The Art of Climbing down Gracefully - The Long, Dedicated Declined to Dignified Decrepitude
The back spasm just made it clear.

Hey, today I feel good, strong as a moose. I exercise plenty, ride my bike, and can lift anything I need to. But I also respect that I've passed 50 and I know how much misery I would face on a passage, even with a short-handed crew.

And life is still good . Boat maintenance is not a problem; my blog makes that clear.

My cure? A chiropractor helped and long distance bike riding really helps. There is something about the steady side-to-side rocking of the hips that keeps things loose, for me. I also second the swimming suggestion; gentle twisting without impact or weight bearing.

Good luck and hang in these.
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Old 18-01-2012, 16:19   #45
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Re: Lower Back Muscle Spasms

Lots of good advice in this thread - some not so good. I've lived with back pain since my early teens, some 40+ years ago now. What works for me is - first flexibility exercises - hamstring stretches in particular and second core body exercise - your basic plain old sit-ups like you did in highschool gym class. I haven't had a paralyzing bout in many years now but if you do get caught in one I haven't found an alternative to a good jolt of muscle relaxants to get everything moving again. The last time I had a debilitating bout I was skiing, when I went to climb in the boat it was good my oldest son could lift me because I'd still be in the water otherwise. An overdose of drugs washed down with really good single malt and two good sleeps got me back on the water. I'm not saying that will work for everybody but I firmly believe a lot of back pain originates between your ears.
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