One Person’s Surprising Back Pain Treatment

When Sharon Taylor found herself couch ridden from back pain, she followed all the doctor’s orders. She tried rest, prescription medications, and even spinal injections. Still, she couldn’t shake the pins and needles going up her back.

“I called my doctor and said ‘look we’ve got to figure something else out, nothing is working for me.’”

Sharon eventually did find a way to relieve her back pain. But she accomplished this without prescriptions, surgeries or other procedures.

The “magic bullet” was much simpler than that.

Back Pain Usually Lessens Within Weeks

Most adults suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. But are they getting the right treatment?

More upstate New Yorkers with back pain are undergoing surgery and taking prescriptions, according to an Excellus BlueCross BlueShield study.

But those treatments don’t usually work. It’s often simpler treatments, such as exercises and over-the-counter drugs, that usually relieves the pain, said Dr. Brian Justice, a chiropractor and medical director at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

What about an MRI or another imaging test to see what’s wrong with you? In most cases, these tests don’t help and can lead to surgeries and other stuff that you don’t need, said Dr. Justice. Receiving the wrong care could make matters worse, he added.

“Back pain is not a disease in search of a cure,” said Dr. Justice. “It’s a part of life that needs to be managed.”

Back pain usually goes away in a few weeks by following simple steps, such as:

  • Limiting bed rest and staying active
  • Applying heat to manage the pain
  • Taking over-the-counter medication, as needed
  • Consulting your primary care doctor or physical therapist or chiropractor

Sharon’s Simple Solution To Back Pain

Having visited a chiropractor before for arthritis in her knees, Sharon went back. Her provider suggested she try riding a bike to soothe the pain.

Riding her bike was painful at first. Still, Sharon persisted. She started with 15 minutes each night, and pedaling around her garage. Now a pro, Sharon admits she struggled at first to sit on her bike.

“They say that once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget,” she added. “Well that is true but your body may not agree with that!”

Sharon Taylor

Eventually, she left the garage and made it to the streets. While finding some new friends along the way, a once daunting chore turned into a healthy activity.  She said, “in that time I met so many wonderful people, and I found all these clubs to ride with!”

The more Sharon rode, the easier it became. With time her back pain went away, and all of her aches in her joints were soothed as well.

Pedal Away The Pain

If you suffer from back pain, biking may (or may not) be for you. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options. But if you’re ready to pedal away the back pain, try these tips by Sharon:

1. Start with a partner 

Not only is it great to have someone to keep you company, but there’s also safety in numbers. If you do choose to ride alone, let someone know your whereabouts just in case!

2. Purchase supplies- but don’t go crazy!

To this day I can still picture my mom yelling at me to wear a helmet as I ran out the door. But there are many other safety measures to take while riding.

  • Wear a whistle. Whistle to alert cars or pedestrians that you’re there. The whistle could also save your life if you’re in danger, or injured.
  • Wear bright colored clothing and trick out your bike with blinking lights– especially at night! It’s shocking how many times I see people riding their bikes in all black clothing. Get some sneakers with bright laces, a helmet with a glow in the dark top- whatever it takes to make sure cars and pedestrians can see you.
  • Don’t invest in a pricey bike right away. It might be tempting to get the most glamorous bike in the store. Consider starting with a “Big Box Bike” at Wal-Mart or Target. Once you commit to riding, your next step might be a custom-made bike. Sharon’s bike is made to fit her body. It has custom-made handlebars, and a seat made for her body type.  The custom-made bike is more expensive. But Sharon said it’s  worth it. “I just see it as an investment! The ride is totally different. It’s like a Chevy Cruze compared to a Mercedes,” she said.

3. In Case Of A Biking Emergency

Tape your name, phone number, and your “in case of emergency contact” to the inside of your helmet or write it on your shoe. Your information needs to be easily accessible if you do get injured. My parents have each other listed in their phones as “ICE”, and I keep my emergency contacts listed inside my wallet, next to my driver’s license.

What about Winter?

If it’s snowy and icy, or if you’re not ready to start biking, there are other ways to relieve aches and pains. First, talk to your healthcare provider about a new exercise regime. Sharon recommends checking out an underwater cycling class such as AquaFit!  What about a cycling class, riding a stationary bike or trying yoga?  Walking is also one of the most popular ways to get exercise since it’s so easy to do!

So, if you’ve got a twinge in your back that you just can’t seem to get rid of, consult with a healthcare provider and try dusting off your old Cruiser and hit the trails!

Since writing this article, Sharon has undergone surgery and had to take a break from biking. But she’s happy to report that she’s slowly returning to the activity she loves.

National medical societies have banded together to educate the public about talking to your healthcare provider about often unnecessary services, such as certain back pain treatments. The campaign by the American Board of Internal medication is called “Choosing Wisely.” Click HERE for a full list of Choosing Wisely ailments and reasons why you should talk to your doctor about them.   


Abby Fridmann

Abby Fridmann

Corporate Communications Intern at Excellus BCBS
Although she lives in Rochester now, Abby was born and raised in Buffalo. When she’s not working at Excellus BCBS as a corporate communications intern, she enjoys listening to 80's music, drinking large quantities of coffee, and dreams of owning her own bakery. Abby is obsessed with her two dogs, Sarge and Jesse, and will be graduating from SUNY Brockport in the spring with a degree in journalism/broadcasting, a concentration in media production, and a minor in graphic design.
Abby Fridmann

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