Thursday, December 21, 2017

Back Episodes and the Curve in Me

Friends and colleagues in my office would probably have noticed that I took more leaves in the past few months, much due to my back problem. I was experiencing more frequent back problems in the period. In a way, some of them coincide with episodes of depression. My guess is some of these are correlated. Not being able to do much may lead to depression. My bad back is not a new problem. I knew that I had hem even before I joined INSPEM.

With me complaining frequently about my back to my other half, we decided to do another check with the back specialist, both at Columbia Hospital and KPJ Hospital, end of September. The specialist at KPJ told me that there is no need for back surgery as the MRI pics do not show severity. However, I can opt for an RF injection but it will cost more than RM10,000 and the pain may recur after several months. We decided that it is not worth it. About four years ago, I have gone to a chiropractor in Sri Hartamas and there were improvements. Knowing that there is a new chiropractor right in Seremban, we decided to try this. We also thought that we should bring our two children who have flat feet. So we did.

The chiropractor's clinic Chiro Practice is situated at Seremban Gateway shopping place and the doctor there is Dr. Torben Boennelykke. Our first meet is merely to get him to check externally our physique and for him to give recommendations. He told us that what we have is essentially genetic, runs from my family line. I knew this to be true since I remember my own grandmother having back deformity. What surprised me then, he told me something other doctor had not said before. I had shown him my old x-ray and mri slides and he could spot irregularity in my lumbar discs indicative of Scheurmann's disease. This was the first time I have heard of this and no other doctor has told me this. In fact, I had toask Dr. Boennelykke again to ask for the spelling of Scheurmann to properly 'google' it up. The disease is simply a genetic disorder that makes the spine bones to grow into the space of the lumbar discs that further helps the spine to curve. In a way this helps convince me that I am in the good hands of a knowledgeable doctor instead of the usual chiropractors (sometimes with a twist of mysticism or even mumbo-jumbo) that may ask one to have complete faith in them without questions. Dr. Boennelykke also told us that back in his home country, Denmark and some other European countries and the US, chiropractic has been accepted within normal medicine practice especially for back pain treatment. I googled up again and look for medical degrees involving chiropractic practices. Found one under the name of clinical biomechanics. He told us again in Malaysia, chiropractic is still considered as an alternative medicine and the treatments will not be covered by insurance (and possibly tax relief).

His clinic treatments are quite costly and they come in packages suited to the protocols that the doctor suggests on initial check-up. There was initially some uncertainty whether to take this up but I decided to have faith in the knowledge that he has. Another factor that convinced us to take up the treatment is that his clinic has sophisticated equipments like the Huber Lab machines (see the pic of my youngest son on it below, taken sneakily).


Now, my treatment has three parts: decompression, rehabilitation, realignment. I'll explain later what all these are but the last one is the usual practice that involves bone crackling. In other places that I've been to, it simply involves manual manipulation of the spine without any aid of machines. In the clinic of Dr. Boennelykke, he has beds with collapsible parts to do this. Thus when applying short impulses to the body, the bed still supports one's body, lessening risks of mishaps. He also informs us that his treatment is one that involves proper spine alignment and it will take time, unlike often-made claims of (almost) instant relief. I was given the minimum of 18 sessions for which the earlier parts should be done in close intervals (twice weekly). This is to ensure whatever treatments given will not regress by one's own bad practices. Once there is steady improvement, the frequency can be reduced to once a week. Now the decompression part is essentially spinal traction for which they have a few machines for this. The traction is usually gradual and there is a panic call button if it ever gets painful. At times, I do feel a bit tense down my back but rarely painful. For the rehabilitation, it is merely physical exercises to help build physical strength to help the back.

Currently, there is an overall improvement of my back problem. I am able to sit for longer hours than usual without much problem and lesser numbness in my right leg. In the past, I had to lie down every once in a while to ease the pain and discomfort. To a certain extent, it had me under some form of depression before for not being able to do work. The doctor told me that I can't do much with the damaged nerves and whatever curvature of the spine that developed all these years but I can lessen their deterioration.  Now, I'm more concerned about my arthritis than my back. My right foot swell when I go for long hour standing and when I had to walk quite a lot. It can be severe till I can't really properly walk. This usually happens on Wednesdays when I had to lecture for around three hours. To help me with this problem, I took glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. I do hope with all these treatments and medications, I will recover my working-self if not fully, then at least partially.




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