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Resolving To Relieve My Back Pain: What A Good Chiropractor & His Little Dog Taught Me

Dr. Ash. (Courtesy Photo)
Dr. Ash is known as “The Chiro Guy.”

Studies say 80 percent of us will suffer back pain in at some time in our lives. If you are in that unlucky majority like me, you have probably tried many ways to relieve it: physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, pills, and the last resort, surgery.

After living 20 years with chronic back pain, I learned there is no silver bullet to take it all away, but there are things that help alleviate it. The good and the bad news for us back pain sufferers is that we are the only ones with control over it. It is up to us to heal ourselves.

In my case, X-rays showed arthritis and mild scoliosis, and an MRI showed a herniated disk.

Perhaps the damage was from my years as a competitive gymnast and later an aerobics instructor, or the two car accidents, or the rib-breaking mountain biking crash, or maybe it was just genetics. The upshot is I live with daily back pain. After 15 minutes of standing, my lower back is in agony. If I sit down or lie down, by upper back goes into spasm. Sometimes my neck is so tight I can barely look over my shoulder.

After years of physical therapy that brought short-term, minimal relief; anti-inflammatories that had severe side effects — and those drugs being taken off the market; chiropractic that made me hurt worse; acupuncture that left me with infected sores on my neck; and a host of other failed treatments, I had nearly given up on resolving my back pain. In exasperation, I asked my doctor at Cedars Sinai Medical Group what else I could try.

She recommended giving chiropractic another shot.

I have a decent HMO, but none of the chiropractors my friends recommended were in the network. I searched online and found a practitioner near me in Miracle Mile, Dr. Ashkan Khodabakhsh, D.C., known to his patients as “Dr. Ash — The Chiro Guy.” The schmaltzy moniker gave me pause, but he accepted my insurance, and he had great Yelp reviews.

My first appointment on a Sunday morning I was greeted at the door by a small fluffy white dog, Munchkin, the office mascot. I met Dr. Ash and stretched out on the exam table where the dog jumped up and sat on my back. This was not part of the treatment, but it sure made me feel better.

After a 10-minute assessment, the doc advised that my posture — which I always thought was pretty good — was causing much of my pain. He led me through some exercises and stretches and told me to do them at home. He did a few gentle adjustments and applied electrical stem to my back and then ice, while Munchkin cuddled up next to me.

Then Dr. Ash told me not to come back for two or three weeks. This surprised me. Other chiropractors advised several visits per week, which I believed was more profitable for them than beneficial to patients. Dr. Ash was different. He told me flat out that chiropractic would not be a quick fix; but he said I would get significant relief over time if I did the exercises and stretches at home, supplemented by occasional office visits, and improved diet and general exercise.

He recommended some exercise tools I could use at home. He showed me how to stretch my neck and align and stretch my spine using a wooden pillow and lumbar stretcher. Once again, Dr. Ash did not try to upsell me. He offered that I could buy these products, or I could try to create makeshift versions at home.

Sae Arc. (Courtesy Photo)
SaeArc products are designed to help stretch the spine.

I ended up getting the SaeArc products ($120 for a combo pack with the Wooden Pillow and 2 in 1 Back & Lumbar Stretcher, and Back Flex Posture Device, available at SaeArc.com), along with an inflatable collar and ice ring for my neck.

After a few visits with Dr. Ash and a couple of months using the products at home, my back felt better. I was dedicated to my daily exercises and stretches, and the results were promising.

But then I got busy. I started a new job, and my home treatment regime went by the wayside. Talk about back-sliding. My progress slipped away, and soon my constant back pain returned.

I have good days and bad days with my back pain. The good news is I know I have the power to relieve my pain, when I make the time. More good news is that there are competent and caring practitioners, like Dr. Ash, and his little dog too, who really want to help people. The lesson learned from Dr. Ash about relieving my back pain is that it must be approached from all fronts. General fitness is a good start. Lifestyle changes that support a relaxed body and mind can only help. Lastly, consistency and diligence in a program will ensure best results. Just like in most endeavors in life, it works when you work it.

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