Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: Honestly, I can't imagine a more blessed life. Everything I've ever dreamed of, I asked, and here it is. I know that pain of the soul can manifest through illness and injury. It's been a very long journey. Looking back, I can see why it all happened, when it happened and how it happened. It was all important to get me to where I am today.
With that in mind, I have a back injury. I've tried Reiki (why doesn't Reiki work as well on me as it does on someone else?), red light therapy, massage, traditional torture with epidural and radio frequency ablation. But still, there it is. I used to think maybe it was about the weight I carried, as a single mom trying to survive on next to nothing. It was challenging for a long time, but I have no regrets, I'm not angry, but thankful for it all. So why am I having such a tough time healing my back? I feel it down to my core. Is it possible to heal this? What am I missing? Thanks!
P.S.: Thanks for all your work. You seem to show up with just what I need, at exactly the right time. I am truly grateful!
— Deborah J., Westmoreland, Kansas
I sympathize with your frustration and applaud you for having used so much past trauma as part of your growth. The question of back pain plagues millions of people who resist the risks of conventional surgery and yet find no other outlet except perhaps for temporary relief. Right now, you are probably taking stabs in the dark, while what is needed is a steady, patient approach.
Before launching into any new treatment, make sure that you have thoroughly done the following:
Eliminate conditions that aggravate the pain. This includes lifting, heavy housework, bending—even carrying grocery bags. Pain tells us that some part of the body wants to be relieved of stress.
As you know, lower back pain has been associated in some circles with life stresses. If you know deep down that your job or family situation contains unnecessary stress, your body may be reacting to it. These stresses need to be remedied or removed.
A steady program of lower back exercises has been shown to be more effective than surgery in many cases. You need to find someone who can teach you the right exercises, including how often to do them and how gently to start. These muscle groups heal slowly and are generally weak due to our sedentary lifestyles. It takes patience to keep going, but strengthening the lower back can't be overlooked.
Adapt your house to your condition, which means finding the right chair and bed, at the very least. Depending on the severity of your condition, a new bed adapted to back pain may be needed. Short of that, don't sit in chairs or sleep in a bed that brings on added pain.
If your back spasms or the muscles tighten, you may need muscle relaxants. Muscles that have gotten into the habit of clenching and tightening prevent healing.
Meditation is helpful for mental relaxation and finding a place free from pain. A good deal of your condition may be due to anxiety and apprehension over your pain. We want to relieve these, even though in meditation you may or may not be addressing the physical pain directly.
Only when you are sure that you have attended to these steps should you move on to seek outside treatment. There are various energy workers, masseurs, physical therapists and body workers of all types who specialize in back pain, yet 75 percent of the time, lasting change comes about as self-change.