We hope you enjoy this post from guest blogger Kevin Burke, CEO of WholesomeOne.com.
I vividly remember being a 12-year-old boy and standing on the sidelines, watching my sister's soccer games. The memories are not vivid for the quality of play, competition or her skills, but about how standing there made me feel. Not an emotional feeling, but a physical one.
After a half-hour of standing, my lower back inevitably starts aching and becoming stiff. It is uncomfortable and confusing because I'm an athlete. I find the most joy when competing or practicing sport. During these times, my lower back is never an issue. Why does my back tighten when I’m just standing?
Doctors attribute the pain to growth spurts or they don't even have a guess. On a visit to a podiatrist, he says my legs are different lengths–aha! He gives me a shoe lift. I religiously transfer it from shoe to shoe according to what I am wearing at the time. I am hopeful, but it is short-lived. I realize that after weeks of using the lift, it's not helping at all. Standing still for periods of time still causes me much discomfort.
I eventually just learn to live with it and avoid standing still for long. Obviously, this isn’t normal for a healthy and active teenager, but I easily deal with it because I am young. Years go by, and I'm semi-regularly reminded of my lower back pain. I chalk it up to a family history of lower back pain. Not a big deal.
One day, out of nowhere, my right eye becomes mildly bloodshot. A few eye drops have no effect. Strange. The next morning I wake exceptionally early to an eye that is extremely bloodshot, grossly swollen and throbbing. Yuck! What is going on?
I immediately get myself to an ophthalmologist. With my head and eye throbbing, I sit for the examination. The first thing he asks is, “Do you have back pain?” and I nearly fall over. “Doc, let's focus buddy. My eye is killing me!” (But obviously, at the same time, I am intrigued by his question.)
He helps heal my eye over a period of weeks, thankfully with no permanent damage. I am grateful and enlightened by what he has told me about the eyes. He says that often the eyes act as signals of unaddressed health issues within the body – and many times it is a patient's back. Wow! This is a revelation to me, because at this point in my life, I'm only familiar with conventional Western medicine. “Eyes are the window to the soul” immediately takes on new significant meaning, and the idea of holistic health is seeded in my consciousness.
With my eye healed, it's time to figure out the long-standing lower back issue that I've been ignoring all these years. I end up at a rheumatologist who confidently diagnoses my condition as ankylosing spondylitis. I am excited about the knowledge, but not necessarily the diagnosis. It's a disease that is basically arthritis of the spine. My joints become swollen and inflamed. The cause is unknown, and there's no cure. Over time, the affected bones join together. If untreated, I become severely hunched over and eventually lose my capacity to breathe. I decide I won't let this happen to me.
I happily follow the rheumatologist's advice. She prescribes daily doses of pills and weekly needle injections of a popular pharmaceutical drug that has unknown long-term side effects. I don't care about side effects, because my back is going to get better! But like with the lift in my shoe, nothing feels better. My lower back remains the same, even worse at times.
Then, during an evening out with friends, a close friend says with concern, “You're too young to be taking all those drugs.” Bam! A light goes off in my head. He's right! This approach doesn't feel right, nor is it working. I think back to my “eye showing me I need to take action.” My body knows how to do this better than I do intellectually. I look for alternatives, and I find yoga.
Initially, I find it strange. It's doesn't feel like exercise, as I know it, where my muscles are burning or my heart is pounding. I also find it challenging, interesting, relaxing and therapeutic. It's the secret-sauce. It's the oil that lubricates the machine. It allows my hips to rotate, my back to arch, and my legs to swing. It's amazing! I’ve found what I needed.
Now, well into my forties, I've never felt better or had more flexibility. And those prescription drugs are no longer part of my life. I don't need them, and the rheumatologist, whom I still see, agrees that yoga has been more effective for me and safer than any pill.
I've since gone on to apply many other holistic approaches to health. I find them more beneficial and effective. I wish that I was aware of holistic options sooner and that it didn't take so much effort to find the therapy that worked for me. This is why I created WholesomeOne.com. I believe that there are millions of people, like me, who are searching for natural approaches that can help them heal and experience good health. WholesomeOne.com is a guide to holistic health.
This might seem strange, but having ankylosing spondylitis has been a gift. It's taught me how to care for my body and opened my eyes to holistic health. My experience has come full circle. When I stand on the sidelines now, at my son and daughter’s soccer games, I do so without pain, and I’m able to enjoy the quality of play, competition and skill.