My Life With My Back: a story of back pain recovery.
I suffered from chronic low back pain for over twenty years. At a young age I did one hundred full sit-ups (abdominal exercises) daily. Later I was to learn that this caused my psoas muscle to become tight and distorted - beginning the onset of pain in my low back region. I reported low back pain to physicians at the age of sixteen (they did nothing). By 2001, at the age of thirty-three, my low back pain would occur daily after four to five hours of normal activity. By late afternoon, I had to lie down for the rest of the day to ease the pain. My back pain was so severe that I considered becoming addicted to opiate painkillers like oxycontin. This is my story of my trials, frustrations, experiments, and succeses with chronic low back pain.
I went to over forty specialists looking for help. These practitioners included: Neurosurgeons, Internists, Orthopedic surgeons, Physical therapists, Psychologists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Rolfers, and Massage therapists.
The methods I tried included:
Yoga (five years of practice including Hatha, Iyengar, Kundalini, and Astanga);
Thai massage in Thailand.
Doctor prescribed medications;
Dr. John Sarno’s method;
Rolfing and Structural Integration;
Gary Glum’s Neuromuscular reeducation;
Thomas Griner’s cross fiber friction technique
Richard Rossiter’s method
John Barnes’ Myofascial Release
Pilates and Gyrotonic
DRX-9000 machine and Inversion (anti-gravity) machine
Michael Leahy’s Active Release Technique
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF stretching)
Raw food and vegetarian diets
Swimming and walking
My diagnosis was called different names by different specialists: degenerative disc, flat back syndrome, anteriorly tilted pelvis, sacro-iliac pain, and non-specific back pain (which means the doctor doesn’t know). Irregardless of the name being ascribed to the condition, none of these specialists could do anything about it. I was seeing one specialist after the other. I wasn’t getting any better and I was seeing a lot of overlap between different styles. In 2003, I enrolled in massage school and later attended instructor training courses in Pilates and Gyrotonic. I needed more information to better discern my path for recovery. I was extremely frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the numerous treatment programs I had tried. From these experiences, I decided not to become a practitioner of any method unless it significantly helped me to resolve my own pain.
In 2007, I attended a four-day workshop with Aaron Mattes and his method: Active Isolated Stretching and Strengthening. Feeling that the Mattes Method offered potential, I interned at Aaron Mattes’ clinic in Sarasota, Florida. After my first treatment session, something productive was finally happening.
I had been experimenting with different stretching systems for over ten years. Yoga, Thai massage, Russian massage, PNF stretching, Pilates, Gyrotonic, Active Release Technique, Alexander technique, Rossiter method, and Rolfing all used some stretching to facilitate recovery, but Aaron Mattes’ Active Isolated Stretching put a new approach on how to stretch. I received some benefit from the other methods, but the benefit was short lived - usually lasting a day or two. Aaron Mattes, trained as a kinesiologist, explained why the common methods of stretching were not optimal. He identified seven mistakes in common stretching and proposed a new route to cure musculoskeletal pain.
Before my first treatment in Active Isolated Stretching, two hours of standing was enough to trigger pain in my low back. After that first session, I was able to stand and move around for eights hours! I continued with more private sessions with Aaron Mattes and after the third session I was returning to a normal schedule of work and social activity. I no longer have to stop all activity at 5PM to lie down. And I attribute my recovery entirely to the Mattes Method. Since that first internship, I’ve compiled 1000 hours of direct study with Aaron Mattes. He refers to me as one of his top five practitioners in the world.
Active Isolated Stretching is good for everyone. Athletes will improve their performance, people with physical pain will resolve their ailments, elderly will improve the functioning of their bodies and minds, and those with neuromuscular disorders will greatly benefit, including complications from stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, spinal cord injuries, and scoliosis.