Help with Low Back Pain Diagnosis

I started running a few months ago with the goal of participating in a couple races in Canada in the summer, and the long term goal of a half-marathon in the fall, and full-marathon in the winter. My motivation was the wet weather we had here at the time and I couldn’t afford to get my bike fixed. The training went well with some infrequent discomfort in my knees, feet, and general soreness in my back. My wife, a runner, advised me to take it slower, but I felt good so I kept up my aggressive schedule. My races in Canada both went well.

While in Canada I had this nagging pain in my lower left back. Nothing severe enough to interfere with daily activities with the kids, but over time I found I needed more downtime to rest. I blamed a different bed.

On the day before I was to return to Taiwan my wife an I went for a quick 8k run through the countryside and when I got back to our house I found my discomfort level had increased considerably. The only relief I could find was laying on the wooden floor. Terrible pain in my lower back. The next day I suffered through the worst route possible back to Taiwan with the help of copious amounts of painkillers.

I’ve been back in Taiwan for a couple weeks and generally have been resting, and doing extensive stretching when I wake up in the morning and before I go to bed. The pain is largely dissipated but I still can’t run without pain. Without regular exercise I find life here more difficult.

Yesterday I went to see a local chiropractor primarily in the hope that I could speed up my recovery and/or find if I had any problems I might not have realised. This is where my questions arise. The chiropractor stated that my spine in my lower back region was both twisted and ‘not straight’, my neck was somewhat the same. If left untreated he was convinced that surgery may be required in the future. I asked him if the condition of my back isn’t just a consequence of being 47 and he replied that it’s well beyond the normal effects of aging. I countered that perhaps a week core and overly tight hamstrings might be the problem, and he stated the problem is ‘structural’.

He suggested an immediate stop to all activity for 3 months (no running, biking, hiking, yoga, strength training, etc.) and 3 weekly visits to his office. The first treatment I had consisted of some of the most painful deep tissue massage I have ever experienced and his attempts at trying to ‘crack’ my neck. I thought I had a high tolerance for pain until I met him.

Is this a normal experience with chiropractic care? Though I don’t want yet more x-rays I’m going to see a medical doctor for a second opinion. Is 3 months a reasonable amount of downtime when I’m not experiencing the kind of pain that interferes with my daily activities?

I wouldn’t place much trust in what a chiropractor tells you. It’s pretty much quack medicine anyway.

My guess is your back pain comes from poor running form - bad posture or heel-striking (or a combination of both).

Are you taking at least 1 rest day between runs?

Maybe you can run on a treadmill to stay in form till your back pain goes away. A pro (gym) treadmill has a shock-absorbing deck that takes some of the impact stress off your bones and joints.

To find out if you’ve got bad form, get out on a running track and run a few kms barefoot.

You’ll quickly learn how to land on the forefoot and let your calf muscle take the landing shock instead of your heels/leg bones/spine.

Your back will thank you for it!

Why the hell you didn’t go straight to an orthopaedic doctor I have no idea. Chiropractors can help treat spinal disc issues but should not be relied upon for diagnosis. If the problem is “structural” then deep tissue massage and neck jerks are a waste of time anyway. The most famous chiropractor in these pages is well-known for trying to lock patients into long-term 3 times a week treatment plans. Its a sure sign of a quack. As is any use of x-rays to scare patients into treatment plans. I have a herniated L5 disc which has fused into the L4. On an x-ray it looks scary…truth is its not even an issue so long as I ride my bike regularly.

Chiropractors don’t have medical degrees, which in itself is the biggest red flag. I think you should see a real doctor first.

Talking about real doctors, can anyone recommend one in Taipei for back pain problems? Mine have escalated severely after taking the 12 hour flight to Taipei.

[quote=“mushypea”]Chiropractors don’t have medical degrees, which in itself is the biggest red flag. I think you should see a real doctor first.

Talking about real doctors, can anyone recommend one in Taipei for back pain problems? Mine have escalated severely after taking the 12 hour flight to Taipei.[/quote]

Real doctors in Taiwan have little idea how to treat pain and none about rehabilitation Their general advice is just accept you are getting old, have been injured, and stop everything. Physio is not much better with a few exceptions and usually consists of useless ultrasound and electrodes. You won’t scoff at chiros so much after you’ve been to enough “real” doctors.

In my experience the best physio clinic is at Ciji Hospital near Dapinglin. The doctors are just ok but the hands on physio staff are very good and have the freedom to spend as much time on you as they want.

Every runner I know has had multiple health issues caused by the sport. In my case, I had various knee problems, shin splints that went on and on at one point, and minor back issues. I finally had enough about four years ago and switched to swimming. I have since found out that I’m much, much better swimmer than a runner. My advice to you is to stop all activity for a while until you are pain free, and when you start with exercise again, do a mixture of sports. I would definitely do some weights as part of that mixture and also as a way to prevent future injury. I wouldn’t run more than one time a week. I hope you start feeling better soon.

Most hospitals here have physiotherapy units that can help lower back problems with treatments including traction, heat and electro. The best part about them is a session, after diagnosis and at the recommendation of a physician only cost $50nt per time. The usual course recommended is 2-3 times a week for 3 months, but I have found that when I have used it, my slippy disk and sciatica problems are pretty much back intact after a month. I use the services at WanFang Hospital. I play ice hockey twice a week and am 44 years old, but the last time my disk popped, I was playing soccer with a bunch of 12 year olds at work! The traction is bliss when that happens and do build up your core strength once you are ready to get back into training, as it is probably one of the best preventative measures if your situation is chronic.

I went to Wanfang physio for my foot once. The atmosphere was like Ellis Island, with the huddled poor masses jammed side by side. They wanted to stick me between two dying patients on beds and I told them to fuck off. So they then told me I could literally sit in the corner facing the wall. I walked out and never went back.

The OPs problem does sound a lot like a slipped disc. I would recommend an MRI just to find out. If it isn’t a disc problem then chiros and physios are fine. If it is, then you want to know how severe the problem is and whether or not you need surgery. If you do need surgery, all the traction and massage in the world isn’t going to help.
Agreed with Mucha Man’s description of WanFang. I would recommend Taiwan Adventist Hospital. That’s where i had my MRI done. And if you need a surgeon, I would recommend the Taipei Medical University Hospital. Both are clean, modern, and I received good service at both. I refuse to put up with the “Ellis Island” atmosphere Mucha Man described and it’s worth it to go to a better place. Good luck.

you need this: … 4#p1624384

slipped disc here :wink:

chiros don’t help, totally waste of time

Thanks for the comments. I plan on seeing a real doctor in the next few days here in Hsinchu. When I am free from pain I’ll schedule some time with a trainer on a track to help insure my form is correct.

what does riding the bike do? strengthen the surrounding muscles? asking cuz I seem to have similar issue. thanks

I was also thinking of seeing a doctor since my sciatica is not easing up. I’m working 2 minutes away from the NTU hostipal, so I’ll go to that one. Does anyone know how much it might cost to see a doctor? I have no travel insurance so it’ important to know how much to bring.
Also, do I need to go through a GP, or is it possible to see a specific doctor straightaway?

what does riding the bike do? strengthen the surrounding muscles? asking cuz I seem to have similar issue. thanks[/quote]

I don’t really know. Improves circulation? I just know that as long as I ride the sciatica stays away.

I finally found time to go in and see a orthopaedic doctor yesterday. I should have at the very beginning, (expensive) lesson learned. After a quick physical exam and an x-ray she diagnosed me as suffering from piriformis muscle pain (Piriformis syndrome). Looking at my xray she said other than some very very slight deterioration in one area there was absolutely nothing wrong with my vertebrae. She advised to cut back on the length and frequency of runs, but otherwise I was good to go.