This article was originally published in Positive Health issue 46 – November 1999
We are spoilt for choice for back pain treatments. From the most conventional to the most exotic, via the positively weird, a formidable range of therapies exist that purport to cure our aching backs. Yet back pain will not retreat from the growing army of back therapists.
On the contrary, the number of sufferers has soared alarmingly in the last few years and is now reaching epidemic proportions.
Back pains are like colds. Both are common and both attract a myriad of cures. If you have a cold or a bad back you will get plenty of unsolicited advice from ex-sufferers who know what or who can cure it. Whatever the cure you choose you can be sure of some success. For stiff backs and stuffed noses magical remedies and miracle men abound.
Have you never wondered why diametrically opposite treatment methods seem to have equal success? If you pause to reflect about it you cannot help thinking it’s odd. Is there no law and order in the world of backs?
If bad backs get well when their “subluxations” are ‘adjusted’ and when they are ignored; if they get well on the traction table (the modern rack) and in bed; if they get well after they are forcibly cracked and when they are cranio-sacrally caressed; if they get well after a programme of flexions and a programme of so-called extensions; if they get well following the application of cold and following the application of heat; if they get well after vigorous exercise and after a period of rest; if they get well after any kind of treatment, from acupuncture to zone therapy, and after doing nothing at all, surely we must conclude, if we are rational beings, that recovery has nothing to do with whatever cure was adopted.
Most back problems, like all acute diseases, are self-limiting: in the right conditions they get better of their own accord after a certain lapse of time. The time it takes to recover generally coincides with the time spent with the chosen therapist.
It is why people swear by so many different remedies or have their pet ‘healer’.
Dr. Tilden, a medical doctor who abandoned medicine for Natural Hygiene, used to say: “All cures ride to glory on the backs of self-limiting and self-healing crises.”
This fact is known by a minority, but is usually undisclosed by cure-mongers as it would undermine their status and flatten their purses. Richard Ingrams, relating about his bad back experience in The Observer, 13 December ’98, proudly reveals the truth of the matter: “The reason”… “was explained by my own doctor, who told me that 90 per cent of back problems right themselves after about six weeks.
What happens to most people is that, having endured four or five weeks of pain, they resort to an expensive chiropractor or acupuncturist. Shortly afterwards they are right as rain… and the magical ‘little man’ gets the credit for an utterly spontaneous cure.”
Should I retire or find another job then? I don’t have to since I am not, was not and never will be in the curing business. Let it be known that I do not cure anything, not even backs, and I am not a healer since a healer cannot possibly exist. Healing is an internal biological process, it is not accomplished by something outside, and is never the result of treatment as it cannot be duplicated. All living organisms are self-preserving, self-repairing, self-maintaining, and self-healing. Diseases are the manifestation, the process of healing in action.
To attempt to “cure” a disease is to stop, or interfere with, the healing process.
Having said that and maybe risked the fate of being burned at the stake as a heretic, I would not like you to believe that if you suffer from back pain or any disease you have nothing to do, lest you will end up in a lot of trouble. The crisis has stopped, the body has done its best to fix the injured back but there is no genuine recovery as long as the cause has not been removed.
The pain had a cause – ignore this cause and the pain will come back sooner or later. Unless this cause is found and removed, crises will recur time after time, and the ‘curing’ will have to be done over and over again. The crisis may be finished, the warning silenced, but the patient is not well. As long as the cause is ignored the condition will worsen until irreparable and irreversible organic changes may take place.
The removal of the causes and the adoption of the natural factors of health are all you have to do to preserve a healthy back or restore a bad one. But you must focus your attention on the primary causes, not the secondary, tertiary or illusory causes. Now, is back pain caused by, say, a lack of needles being planted into your skin, or by a lack of ‘adjustments’? Are they natural factors of health?
The main, generic cause of back problems is misuse (in its broadest sense), including overuse and disuse. Misuse always leads to misshapen bodies that cannot function properly. Caring for back pain is first and foremost a teaching business since the first step is to re-learn how to use oneself correctly. Then, morphological normalisation (reshaping the body) will ensure an easy and painless use.
‘Cure’, from the Latin cura ‘care’, used to denote ‘looking after’ but has now lost its original meaning. I could not cure less for back sufferers but I could never care enough for them as removing the causes is not a sinecure but a difficult and tiring task where glamour, magic, miracles and quick fixes have no place.