Forgive me the paucity of blog posts lately, but between relentless sciatica pain that has been screaming for my undivided attention and trying to settle back into life in Costa Rica after six weeks in the States, my free moments have been sucked up as if into a time vacuum.
As with all things in my healing journey, however, I have learned a lot from this recent intrusion of pain into my life. So since I haven't had time to research anything else, and because sciatica and other back problems just happen to go hand-in-hand with Lyme, I'll share here what the past month or so of chiropractor-osteopath-Lyme board hopping has taught me.
First, folks with Lyme disease can experience back pain for any number of reasons. A lack of important minerals, such as magnesium, is one, since magnesium plays an important role in functions such as the generation of energy in the muscle and the conduction of nerve impulses. B-12 is a nutrient deficient in many Lyme sufferers, and it too plays an important role in the nervous system. I learned recently that supplementing the body with B-12 can help to stop nerve pain.
Another reason why people with Lyme suffer from back pain is due to hormone deficiencies. Those with adrenal insufficiency, for instance, often have weak ligaments, which help to hold the spine in place. This may be one reason why chiropractic adjustments often fail in those with Lyme disease.
Also, the bugs are fond of destroying cartilaginous tissue, which covers the bones and supports the spine and body in a number of ways. Taking a product with MSM and glucosamine (a non-shellfish source may be preferred, due to the potential for mercury toxicity found in fish)can help to rebuild cartilage.
That Lyme generates neurotoxins and causes inflammation may be another contributing factor to back pain. I am just starting to understand musculoskeletal problems in Lyme, so please consider what I offer here as a rudimentary introduction to this area of study.
During the first couple of years in which I had Lyme disease, I found that keeping inflammatory foods out of my diet, as well as taking an abundance of vitamins and minerals as I killed bugs, helped to keep my upper back and shoulder pain at bay. Practicing good biomechanics, by sitting and standing and lifting properly, also helped.
I got a little lazy when it came to my lower back, however, since I had never experienced pain there until last October. I spent most of last year working on my computer with my lower back slouched into the sofa. That probably wasn't a good idea. Sudden leg and lower back pain in October finally compelled me to get an MRI in December, which revealed two bulging disks.
I refused the cortisone injection offered by my Denver osteopath, but accepted a mild dose of oral steroids. You can now count me among those who believe that steroids don't help those with Lyme, and can, in fact, make a person worse.
As can chiropractic adjustments. The three that I received from my osteopath in Denver only served to transfer the bulk of my pain from my legs to my lower back and hips. Well, I guess you gotta choose where you want your pain, right? I think I had tolerated the leg pain better, to be honest.
In my quest for healing, I began incorporating Yamuna body rolling into my regimen. So far, the effects have been minimal, but I admit, rolling your back over a ball gives a nice massage to the body. I yet think that this therapy might be worth continuing, and while pain has put my impatience meter into the red, I am trying to stick with it, because, can you say it with me? Healing takes time!
I've also started taking a product by Solgar that includes vegetarian glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin sulfate, hydrolyzed collagen and hyaluronic acid. Lyme destroys cartilaginous tissue, and these ingredients support its production. Hello? McFly? (If you remember that line from the movie, Back To The Future). Why didn't I start taking this from the beginning of my healing journey? Ah well, live and learn. You can only stuff so many pills down your throat, can't you? And taking these vital nutrients may not have prevented my problem, anyway.
Some have recommended decompression-type techniques for disk problems. Decompression stretches out the spine, providing greater space between the disks, which then allows the disks to return to their normal position, thereby alleviating the pain caused by disk pressure on the sciatica nerve. And while proponents claim an 86% success rate, it is a pricey therapy whose results may be uncertain for Lyme sufferers, again, due perhaps in part to ligament laxity.
Others have proposed performing a body cleanse with nutrients and abundant anti-oxidants, as doing so can relieve inflammation. This may be a good option for some Lyme sufferers. Ozone injections into the spine can do the same, and may also be a decent option, especially for those with herniated disks.
Currently, and in addition to my little rubber ball rolls, I have begun treatment with an osteopath who is somewhat famous in the middle part of Latin America. This guy, who is originally from Germany, has formulated a technique for restoring the spine to its original position. It has nothing to do with chiropractic crunching and everything to do with tissue manipulation and proper biomechanics.
When I walked into his office, he took one look at me and said, "I know why your back hurts."
Okay, doc, I thought. Convince me because I'm skeptical that there's much that anyone can do to help a Lymie with pain that keeps her vertical all day! .
He then pointed out that my right leg was about four centimeters shorter than my left one, that my right shoulder was drooping, that my upper back was bound by minor scoliosis, and my cervical spine was like twisted like a country road. In other words, my skeleton was a mess.
I think I'll thank borrelia for this one, too. For weakening my ligaments and destroying the tissue that helps to hold me in place.
"I can fix you in three or four treatments." The doc said.
Like permanently? Yes. Permanently.
"This is a cure, not a Band-Aid." He said.
Had my massage therapist not given me his name along with raving reviews from her massage patients, I might have said, "Yeah, right."
So I allowed a flicker of hope to dance in my spirit, albeit briefly, because it's hard to stop that tape in my brain that sings, "You have Lyme, remember? It ain't going to be easy for you, because nothing in this stupid game is!"
So as the hope danced, I remembered my god, and my belief that all things in life are under His sovereign control. Yes, god often uses the simplest of things to heal, and here was a guy with a simple, and painless technique. Who knows if He would use it, a $300 protocol, over decompression, which costs $3,000 and involves twenty or more visits to the chiropractor? Agh. (oh, and by the way, that's half the price of decompression in the States).
I marveled as the osteopath, aided by a physiatrist, pushed on my leg as he moved it about this way and that, and then did the same for my neck and lower back.
He then noticed that my ligaments were, "Older than your thirty-four years."
But that I shouldn't despair, because the therapy would still work. It just might take a session or two longer. (So that quote of three sessions was given before he had a chance to feel my flimsy ligaments).
So here I sit today on my rubber ball. I've been here for three hours today, and the pain is tolerable. My right leg is now only two centimeters longer than the left, instead of four, and next week, I hope to get them even. Along with the rest of me.
As I sat in the doctor's office, I realized another truth. Getting the spine in order is important, not only to fix searing pain in the hips, leg and back. The activity of the nervous system is affected by skeletal problems, which can lead to exacerbation of other symptoms and perhaps a delay in healing from Lyme disease.
Yes, treating back pain and spinal issues in Lyme is a daunting task. But I'm determined to find a solution, beyond having to take medication for nerve and muscle pain. There just has to be a better way. Maybe I've stumbled upon one of those ways.