Carl is a 56-year old account manager for a large software company who
spends most of his work day at a desk. He lives in New Jersey.
When did you first start having
I first experienced the pain 6 years ago when I suffered a fall at home. I
have had many subsequent flare-ups. My pain also involves my left hip, leg,
Do you know the cause of your back
I have had several disk problems in my neck and lower back. As it turns out,
I also have spinal stenosis. The worst part is that my ability both to walk
and to lift are impaired. I am very weak in my left leg and even my balance
has been affected.
What treatments have you used?
In the beginning, I needed prescription medications for pain and inflammation.
Ice helps me a lot whenever I have flare-ups. Exercises I learned from my physical
therapist prevent pain and help my mobility. I've tried spinal manipulation
by a chiropractor, but it hasn't done much for my pain.
What treatments have been effective?
Working with a physical therapist in the pool has been particularly helpful
for relieving my pain and even improving my strength. Medications definitely
help when I need them.
What has not been effective?
Surgery, which I have undergone two times, has never been helpful. It seems
that after each operation, I felt better for a short period of time. But, both
times my pain came back within a few months.
What makes your back pain worse?
If I sit for extended periods of time without getting up to stretch, I am
quite stiff and my back hurts a lot. Basically, I can't lift any heavy objects
or climb stairs without pain. Also, if I lose my balance and fall, the pain
always comes back. I have to be very careful not to fall.
What makes your back pain better?
Exercising in the water helps. Ice and medications help when I first have
Have you had to take time off work?
With my initial episode of pain, I actually had to take 4 months off from
work. Two other times, I had to take 3 weeks off each time. Mostly, I just
need a day off for back pain several times per year.
How much work have you missed altogether?
In 6 years, I have had to take a total of 9 months off.
What do you do at work to make
I don't do any heavy lifting. I also don't climb stairs. I try to avoid any
sudden movements and I get up from my desk at least every hour to stretch.
Have your employers been accommodating
if your pain affects work and work affects your pain?
I use sick and vacation time whenever I have back pain.
Do you exercise? How often?
Yes. I do 3 good sessions per week and it makes a big difference in preventing
What types of exercises do you
Walking makes my pain worse. So, I ride a stationary bicycle, do certain stretches
for my back, neck and legs, and I use a nautilus machine to lift light weights.
The physical therapist taught me the proper stretches and strength training.
Does exercise help?
Without regular exercise, I'm afraid that I would get back pain much more
often than I do.
What happens with your back if
you don't exercise?
When I don't exercise, I feel very down and I have little energy or enthusiasm
for much. I'm also less productive and have more back pain as well as problems
Do you have any advice for other
people with back pain?
Chronic back pain is very taxing. You need to address both the physical and
the psychological limitations. Also, learning to better tolerate your pain
is helpful, as long as you are not trying to deny that you are having pain.
Try to listen to and respect your body.
Review Date: 4/6/2007
Reviewed By: Benjamin D. Roye, M.D., M.P.H., Orthopaedic Surgery, The Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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