My problems with my back didn’t start at a specific time, but my best estimate is around age 16. Part of it has to be the way I fall off a horse. I, to protect my limbs, tuck my arms and legs but end up bracing into the fall with my mid-to-low back. I know another component must be the back-brain connection. My intense back pain does appear crop up during particularly stressful times. During my senior year in high school I attended yoga classes daily and the regular practice did improve the pain and discomfort. Yoga also had the added benefits of flexibility, mental focus, and core strength – but that’s another story.
When I was 18, I fell particularly hard on cross-country which resulted in a fractured sacrum and some nerve damage that caused intermittent numbness. As far as back injuries go this is not all that severe. But, for an 18 year old, I started to realize I may need to better take care of myself as I age and continue to fall from horses. The prognosis was to go two times a week to physical therapy, give up yoga entirely, and not ride for a month. Typically I wouldn’t have followed these orders (sorry, Doctor), but the timing was such that I was just about to start college. So, I was going to be taking a forced break from riding anyhow.
After I was back to normal, and I started riding again, I had unfortunately almost permanently had given up my yoga habit. I was stressed out by college coursework, transferring universities, working over 20 hours a week part-time, and still trying to ride competitively. That lifestyle kicked into overdrive for the next two years, including a summer long working student position in Pennsylvania and studying abroad in Australia.
When I turned 21, I got a respectable office internship as a Research Analyst. This meant commuting 45 minutes (each way) to Boston on the train. It also meant spending most of my 9-5 day at a cubicle in front of two monitors. While this is the norm for so many, I had never sat still so much in my life. Then I’d come home, ride my two horses, and do it all again the next day.
About six weeks into my new job I felt new twinge in my spine while shopping. After driving home, I was completely immobilized. This was an entirely new kind of back “pain”. We’re lucky to have a distinguished Physiatrist at our farm. That evening the doctor examined my spine, prescribed some steroids, and sent me for an MRI. It turns out I had two slipped discs (L4 and L5) with one nearly herniated.
I started physical therapy again at this time. My PT was serious athlete herself, and knew that my priority was to get back to competition as soon as possible. I kept riding, because when I was in the saddle it was one of the only times I didn’t feel pain. The combination of exercises, stretching, physical therapy, and acupuncture patched me together again and I had a successful fall competition season.
The doctors and I determined that the “lifestyle” of sitting behind a desk for significant periods of time was likely the cause of the disc problems. Now I’ve learned to be particularly careful with how I sit, when I sit, and other ways to manage mobility and stress. So, when I do fall from a horse, my first thought is always: “not my back again!” As far as other alternative therapies, I had long used supplementation, but hadn’t found wearables that had the science to back them up.
In April I fell again (In March and May too, but who’s counting?) and knocked my back again out of alignment. Just at the beginning of that month, I had contacted Becky Shipps at Draper Therapies. I was compelled by their commitment to science and technology, and sought to learn more about their alternative healing products. I was particularly interested in their equine line (for obvious reasons), but when I mentioned my struggles with my back Becky encouraged me to try the Draper Back Support.
I had used “braces” in the past, but most of the time they were clunky and constricting. I’d tolerate them for short periods of time, and then give up. Someone had recommended to me a brand that used ceramic fibers, but ceramic fibers increase blood flow through long wave heat radiation. The last thing I want on my back in the middle of the summer is a hot, black corset! Draper products don’t use ceramic fibers.
With some trepidation, I took Becky’s suggestion. After I fell in April, the first thing I did was put on the back brace. Then, I didn’t take it off for two weeks! I liked the support the brace offered me without feeling bound. Plus, not wanting to be in public in a brace, it could be easily concealed under a loose-fitting tunic or sweater.
I went back to physical therapy, and the PT helped manipulate and heal the deep bruise from the inside out. Remarkably, it only took four visits with Debra over eight days before I was almost entirely back to normal again. Everyone was very impressed with the speed of recovery. I believe it is in part due to the Celliant®, the proprietary fabric woven into all Draper Therapies products.
My story dealing with my pesky back is long from over, I’ve only just turned 22. What I have been grateful for is what I have learned about myself and healing from my body. It’s been pivotal to have assembled a team of people so eager to get me back on the right track. If you manage any type of chronic pain, my best advice is to combine both western, eastern, and alternative therapy methods. The sweet spot lies somewhere in the synergy of all these perspectives.