lower back pain
My Xray taken January 5, 1994 during a muscle spasm
September 22, 2015
Relief at Last!
Hello, my name is Tom Langmacher. I’m a middle aged guy suffering from chronic back pain for more than half my life. I've led a normal, active life but with regular bouts of severe pain. Finally I found something that gave me relief in the form of a simple stretch. For the first time in decades my back pain is under control without prescription pain killers, and it's been 2 years this fall. My body still has pain in places, especially as I get older but my lower back and sciatica is not one of them. I’m 57 and once again I can spend a full day on the tractor or dig dirt or pour concrete without back pain. This is a miracle for me. When I was young and indestructible in my early 20’s, I foolishly lifted a small engine block out of my pickup truck and set it on the ground. It was a bending and twisting action while lifting something extremely heavy, the classic example of what not to do. That was the day that started 30 years of debilitating back pain and the last 10 years on prescription pain killers. Like a bad nightmare, 2 or 3 times a year I would experience a back spasm that sent me to the ground writhing in agony. Anything could set off my back. An airplane ride, a game of basketball or even a simple twist and bend movement. Nothing, and I mean nothing, brought me relief except for serious pain killers and bed rest. All that changed 2 years ago when out of desperation I began stretching on a belt-like device I made in my garage. After experimenting with countless variations of shapes, methods and materials I finally found what was for me the perfect combination of fit, support, comfort and curvature for a relaxing back stretch which my wife and I dubbed Stretchbelt. Since then, my regimen has been rather informal, whenever I feel my back begin to tighten, usually a muscle pull feeling that in the past would often result in a spasm, I just hang on this for about a minute. The muscle stretches, my spine is relieved and what used to involve days or weeks of pain as the spasm would contort my spine and nerves would pinch and sciatica would set in, is now immediately abated. I can usually go right back to work! These days I only stretch once or twice a week. When I first stretched on the belt I felt and heard my spine adjust. That happened 2 or 3 times for the first week. Now I rarely hear or feel any bone movement. It just feels good to stretch my back and improve my posture.
A long history of pain and searching for solutions.
For 30 years I’ve tried everything I could find to help my back pain. My doctor took X-rays and confirmed my abnormally contorted spine presumably from muscle spasm and a compressed disc. He sent me to Physical Therapy which included a raft of stretch routines and warned me there is no cure for a compressed disc. As my condition worsened he advised the only thing he could do after physical therapy is recommend surgically nipping away the disc where it touches the nerve or fusing the vertebra at the location of the disc compression. I resisted any operations and opted for physical therapy which just didn’t give me relief. I tried Compression belts, Pumping expansion belts, Inversion tables, Exercise balls, Massage chairs, Vibrators, Tens machines, Physical Therapist stretch routines, Chiropractic adjustments, Professional Massage, you name it. My results varied. A lot of these things made a difference. And I appreciated any relief from the pain I cold find. But I continued to have episodes of back spasm during the course of a year that would lay me flat. With compression and expansion type belts I could experience relief as the device holds my spine in traction in a straight and fixed position, but only while I was using the device. The instant I removed the apparatus more pain would return. For me these devices don’t address the natural curve of my spine or even the muscle itself. They help reduce the pain of a pinching nerve as long as I wear the belt but as a traction device they isolate and compress my torso for only a portion of the spine, holding it in place temporarily but they don’t do anything to fix my actual problem which is usually a pulled muscle which leads to spasm and then a contorted spine and extreme pain. If my spine is not in good alignment to begin with then a spasm results in dropping to the floor in relentless agony as I crawl for my bottle of vicodin.
Who knew it was this simple?
I’m a slow learner I admit. It took decades for me to realize the fix for my muscle spasm and spine alignment is not to compress, massage, or medicate. For me relief comes with a slow and controlled stretch. But not the kind of stretch I would get with an inversion table. With inversion my spine is pulled straight. I have a sense of relief in this position but when I get off the table my pain returns and usually it’s worse than when I started. My body feels like I was just interrogated on a medieval rack torture. Exercise balls helped but with limits. They are awkward to use and simply don't stretch my back enough to make a difference. Instead, I needed a design to promote the curve in my spine using my own body weight and gravity while easily stretching my back. Stretchbelt doesn’t try to grip me in a fixed position. This is not like a traction device because I can slide down the belt as I hang under my own control. This sliding action feels euphoric when only moments ago there was pain. I never feel restricted or uneasy because I choose the amount of stretch just by bending my knees. For me the real key to this stretch is the ability to relax my lower back and glute muscles. When I'm in pain it's not easy to let go of a muscle that's contracting involuntarily! With Stretchbelt, the fit is comfortable and just snug enough to give me the sense of confidence to really relax. The whole time I'm gripping the chin-up bar but my lower body can gradually let go. After about a minute I slowly stand up. The pain is gone and my pulled muscle is no longer contracting. Now I find myself standing straight, shoulders back with a good posture that feels natural and pain free. I truly believe that my posture now is contributing to a healthier spine and consequently a stronger, more energetic body.
Could this work for others?
I want to share my story with everyone who experiences lower back pain, but frankly, whether we sit at a desk, drive a truck, do heavy lifting or otherwise simply live our active lives we all have this in common, a constant pull of gravity and the consequence of walking on 2 legs. Your body is unique of course and you should check with your doctor before using this stretch. I just know my energy and ambition are back and life is a whole lot more fun!
If you're interested in trying Stretchbelt, go to the contact page and write me a note.