By Laura Sobel

I had wholly-debilitating symptoms of sciatica due to minor stenosis (@neural foramina) at L5/S1 that were so painful, I was prevented from pursuing employment as a massage therapist, let alone tolerate a car trip across town.

I was diagnosed with “degenerative disc disease,” but thankfully I met a surgical team who did not wish to cut on me to make me feel better for my particular pathology.

I originally purchased your chair [EcoBackrest™] with the intention of using it to help me recover from back surgery, as well as provide me a way to work on my computer in the only position that was comfortable at the time—laying prone and up on my elbows—but with the aid of my treatment team and my education. I chose the way of lifestyle changes and manual therapy.

I also implemented several changes suggested by the articles on your website: What’s Wrong with the Chair, Laptop Ergonomics, and The Chair-Free Lifestyle.

The EcoBackrest™ became an excellent tool to help educate my body on what exactly were beneficial positions of ease while relaxing, as well when it was time to get up and move again. It is also holding up well to much use. Since June, I’ve thrown out my sofa, sitting desk (replaced with standing desk,) & soft mattress, & soft pillows (replaced w/CM buckwheat pillows.) My only source of “lounging” seating in my home is the EcoBackrest™ chair. The rest are rolling stools and two hard, folding chairs which promote active sitting.

About Sleeping, after reading your article Sleep Ergonomics, Sweet Dreams on a Hard Surface

It took me about 6 weeks to transition from a thick, memory foam mattress to a 3″ pad on wooden slats. I had two beds going in my bedroom. I’d start the night on the pad on the floor and sleep until it was too painful to sleep, then finished the night on the old soft mattress. It took some time, but the structures in my spine eventually lengthened where necessary until I could go the whole night on the floor with the pad. This has corrected about 85-90% of the hyper-kyphosis I had going on in my thoracic spine. If I do too much heavy lifting in a day and my back is aching, I sleep on my back on the floor on a thinner pad to “fix” it by the next morning.

I also started walking 3mi, 3-6x week which helped my back pain tremendously.

There were unforeseen benefits to sitting on the floor too. It snuck in some strength training with getting up and down.

So last June I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stand or sit for more than 10 minutes before I had to lay down, ice myself & take drugs, and had no hope of pursuing my new massage career after graduating w/a 4.0. After all these body mechanics habits & lifestyle changes, ditching all prescription pain meds, plus using your chair, I’m able to massage again, am applying for work, and can go days without even thinking I need a tylenol for my back or foot pain. I still have positions that bring on the pain.

Losing lordosis in my lumbar spine will eventually bring it on… so no more poor body mechanics for me!

Now to share some information…

My Orthopedic Spine Surgeon, Dr. David Hanscom, is involved in a project of defining new non-surgical care protocols for the treatment of spinal injuries and back pain. It includes a program for people to participate in to eliminate their chronic pain called “Back in Control.” He has published this information “open source” so others may use it. I have been telling him about all my lifestyle changes I have made in addition to his treatment that have helped my pain just basically, evaporate. Dr. Hanscom has been quite surprised with my progress. I’ve responded quicker than most of his patients. I credit this greatly to the changes I made described above. Here is a link to a video where he speaks about how the term “degenerative disc disease” just needs to disappear. It is part of an interview with him on the myths surrounding spinal fusion surgery and the horrible statistics for prognosis afterwards, chronic back pain, and the role of the mind in the pain equation.

The whole talk is 19 short videos. Slightly disorganized in the upload/playback, but who says neurosurgeons must know how to use youtube perfectly?

Here is a link to his “Back in Control” program. People do this on their own, at home. Those who actually perform the writing portion achieve the most success.

Lara Sobel

Kirkland, WA