Living with pain (part 1 of 3)

According to the British Pain Society, pain is an every-day part of life for about 10 million people in this country. For me, it was a shock in 1993 when my doctor told me to prepare for life in a wheelchair when he could do no more for my chronic back pain. Rugby and golf, which were my passion, were to be no more as was my ability to paint and decorate and plumb and plaster as I had done to three of the houses that were built by me from scratch more or less with my own hands, and in which my family had happily resided.

At the time, I worked as a quantity surveyor in construction. I knew nothing about medicine or health-care. Back pain – particularly low back pain (or lumbago as it used to be known – or sciatica, which is the favoured word these days) is very common, can start quickly and unlike a broken bone, the source of the pain isn’t always obvious. And so, it can at times, even for a well-educated doctor, be difficult to determine the cause. It can be slow to get better and can last weeks or months or even years. It’s a major cost to the NHS every year and yet with a little bit of imagination, it could be so different and far more cost-effective for them.

Severiano Ballesteros, perhaps the greatest golfer of all time, who virtually single-handedly made the modern game what it is today, suffered terribly with the problems that I had. Competing in the British Open Championship at Troon in Ayrshire in 1989 (won by the US golfer Mark Calcavecchia) he was clutching at straws for the panacea that would offer him some relief, when he agreed between rounds at Troon to visit someone with few if any qualifications. 

I rubbed shoulders with Seve as he waited on the 17th tee at Troon that year. I was in such awe of the man and far too much a gentleman to disturb his concentration and ask for a selfie (as some spectators do these days) or even ask for an autograph. I was though very aware of his back-pain problems and saddened by the fact that it had badly affected his score-card that day.

As a result, some weeks later, perhaps more in hope than reality, I attended the very same therapist that Seve had visited, only to find to my disappointment that it was all smoke and mirrors. I should at this point say that back-pain effects women just as much as it does men. We all suffer from the same problems, albeit that the affliction may have come from a different source, but pain is the same for all of us, no matter age or gender.

And then I got lucky

Some years later and after many excruciating back-pain episodes, I struck it lucky and won the back-pain lottery. At that time, the BBC had a broadcaster known as Derek Jamieson. He had a late-night show on radio 2 and one evening as I lay on the floor wondering how I was going to get up and get to bed, and more importantly get to work the next day, I listened as Jamieson interview a fellow from Australia, Oswald Rentsch who told of a therapy developed by the late Tom Bowen in Australia. The tale of what happened from then, how I went to off to Australia to learn the therapy, return to college in Scotland to study anatomy & physiology and eventually, once qualified, to open my own clinic in Glasgow is a story for another day. But suffice to say, my back-pain was much to my relief exceedingly better and has remained so despite my degenerative spine. I was so delighted to have found Bowen that I wrote a book in 2006 all about my struggles and what saved the day for me. Entitled Getting Your Own Back it sold every copy that was printed and it told my tale to then. But as I write this newsletter today, it does strike me that perhaps a newer and more updated version that encompass all that I have learned about back pain since 2006, is perhaps overdue.

Bowen therapy, despite my plea to the Scottish and UK governments never made it into the NHS where the disbursement of painkillers and somewhat outdated physiotherapy is the accepted treatment policy for a slipped disc (it doesn’t actually slip), sciatica, ankylosing spondylitis (inflammation in the joints) or even simple overwork or over use of the back muscles and the spine. However, as I have proved, there are alternatives. Bowen is still practised in scattered locations in the UK, and I am lucky to have near to me a fellow that I trust and that I trained with all those years ago, who I attend once or twice a year for a 5000-mile service for not just my spine, but my while body.

Painkillers only mask the pain and do nothing to address the problem. They do though from what I read, sometimes cause problems with stomach bleeds, mental health and other health issues that are together the reason why the UK government are currently considering banning their use. (See front page of The Times Tuesday 4th August 2020, where Martin Underwood, professor in primary care at Warwick University said the guidance set a “clear statement against the use of nearly all drug treatments”.

So, what is the alternative?

The alternative to taking painkillers for back pain can be helped by carefully exercising the muscles that control the back – a technique that we are happy to teach to anyone who asks. It is also helpful, we find, to combine this with an application of Back Pain Knowledge ( a non-greasy, clean organic lotion that quickly absorbed by the skin will get straight the area of concern – the underlying muscles. The exercises that we teach are a result of all that we learned in working for most of 20-years at our clinic in Glasgow. The essential oils that are the active ingredients in our lotion are the result of a lifetime of learning about, working with and understanding how essential oils work. They are God’s gift to us. They aren’t manufactured in a factory, but grow in plants. They are harvested and then steam distilled to provide the vapours that we use, by trusted artisan producers that we have known for many years.

So, for now if you have a back-pain problem that you would like to discuss, then please get in touch and we will be happy to share our knowledge with you: or you can call the office on 0800 023 6252.

Best wishes for now from Jim and Sheila and the team at SkinLikes.