Obvious caveat: I am not a doctor. Talk to a doctor before doing anything with your body. This post is a description of how I help myself and is not meant to be medical advice.
In addition to the fall where I broke almost all of the bones in my back, I had another fall about a year prior to that where I dislocated my SI joint and tore a disc in between my L4 and L5. While the bones all healed up quickly and I really just needed to rebuild muscle from that fall, this other fall haunts me to this day.
I fell off an OTTB named Cinder, that I owned while on a trail ride. The fall wasn’t really all that dramatic, but I landed awkwardly. I managed to get myself on my feet and rode back to the barn. Cinder was really tall so I remember riding Shasta back because I could get on her from the ground and my my husband rode Cinder back. I was in a lot of pain, but I could walk and as usual, was disinterested in going to the doctors. The next day I was in even worse pain and finally dragged myself to my doctor who diagnosed me as having dislocated my SI joint. I didn’t want to get X-rays at that time so the torn disc wasn’t diagnosed until months later.
I did physical therapy and chiropractic after the injury but neither were terribly helpful. However, It’s been 4+ years since that injury and I have found some things that help.
I keep a heating pad on my couch and put it on my back whenever I am sitting there. Which is pretty frequently because I don’t have a desk so I keep my laptop at the couch. I use the heating pad even in the summer though I did have to stop when it was over 100 because our A/C doesn’t work and I was dripping sweat in my house even without a heating pad on. My little dog, Ceili, is completely obsessed with the heating pad and if I get up to go to the bathroom or go to the kitchen, she will immediately steal my seat. She does this even in the summer and if I don’t kick her off, she will bake herself on it.
Heat is so helpful for me that I bring Therma-Care back pain therapy wraps – which are like those instant hand-warmers, but for your back – with me when we go camping and go to shows.
You may know this better as Bengay, Biofreeze, or Icy-Hot, but I just buy the generic version. This stuff smells and makes a mess so I don’t normally bring it camping or to shows, but I will use it at home if my back is acting up. Because it’s smelly, I usually put some on before bed and then shower in the morning instead of using it during the day. I did recently discover IcyHot patches, which allow me to use Icy-Hot when camping or sleeping over at shows, but it still smells so I don’t wear them out and about.
I take a lot of baths. I pour in a ton of epsom salt and sometimes some bubble bath. Bath bombs are my favorite, but they’re so expensive and I have yet to master making them myself. The combination of heat and epsom salts really helps my back. Obviously I can’t take this camping with me, but I will go out and buy epsom salts while traveling if I have access to a bath at the hotel. I really love hot tubs and feel a lot better after being in one, but we can’t have one in our rental. A hot tub is pretty high up on my list of things to buy as soon as we get our own place. Right after pigs. My husband might dispute this order of acquisition.
A Good Chiropractor
The good part is key here. I tried a few different chiropractors after the injury under the advice of my doctor. One of the chiropractors was even a physical therapist. It really didn’t help at all and some of them made things worse. I was pretty convinced that chiropractors were bs. It was only seeing how well my horses responded to chiropractic work that convinced me to try it again. I finally found a good chiropractor who combines chiropractic work with massage and I have found it beneficial. Chiropractic work really helps me with the odd twinge or pull that I get when I fall off or sleep weird, but it’s not a huge help for my regular back pain.
Get a Better Mattress
It took a while for me to realize that my bed was causing a lot of my problems. Our mattress was pretty old and needed replacing, but I didn’t realize how much it was affecting my back until I went on a few vacations and realized my back was hurting less when I was sleeping on hotel mattresses and guest rooms. We bought a sleep number bed and I so highly recommend it. My husband has no back injuries and he loves it too so really I’d just recommend a Sleep Number all around. For camping, we have a real mattress with a 4″ memory foam topper in the back of our truck. It’s really much better for my back than trying to sleep on an air mattress. And it’s warmer too.
For me, standing is the worst thing I can do for my back. I’m better off sitting. This can sometimes be a bit awkward, but I’ve gotten better about just getting a chair and sitting down. I’ve gone so far as to bring a chair over and sit when doing things like holding horses for chiropractic work or saddle fittings. I’ll also sit whenever I can. At shows, at clinics, in lines. I get some weird looks sometimes, especially when there isn’t even a chair and I just plop down on the ground, but it’s worth it to keep my back from hurting.
These are some of the main things that help me.If anyone has anything they’ve used that they recommend, share in the comments. I’m open to trying new things.