In my late 20s my spine became increasingly stiff and painful. The cause of my declining health was a mystery. I thought physiotherapy or chiropractic treatment would mend my back. But therapists could not help. Neither could highly-trained specialists such as orthopaedic surgeons or rheumatologists.
Ten years later I was still in pain. But no one could explain why.
So I turned to the internet for answers. I thought it would only take a couple of hours to find the information I wanted.
Beginning my search
I began by visiting the local internet café as I didn't own a computer. I also lacked the skills to use one. Luckily Lewis the café owner took pity on me. He taught me how to search the internet and print documents. Lewis was very laid back and kept the café open till early in the morning. He fixed broken computers in his dressing gown while gamers played Call of Duty and I read medical articles.
I found there were many who claimed to have an answer for back pain. These were websites that sold nutritional supplements, magical bracelets and magnets to promote blood flow. On other sites gurus advocated healing through the power of the mind. There were exercise machines of all kinds to strengthen the spine. Scientific evidence to assess the merit of these therapies was lacking. But testimonials claimed miraculous cures. Out of desperation I tried some of them. But they were not the answer.
I became obsessed with finding out what was wrong with me. I read articles for hours every day. I even tried to learn mathematics and physics to better understand the science behind back pain. But my brain was not designed to come to terms with such complicated matters.
Large piles of documents on back pain covered my table. When my friend saw the papers he suggested I plaster the walls with them. They're easier to read that way he said. With a smile he added,
While you're at it you can look out the window for UFOs. We both laughed but I knew he was concerned about my state of mind.
Others searching for answers
I joined numerous online healthcare forums. There I met fellow sufferers who were also searching for answers. Many were confused and could not understand why they were in pain. There were lots of theories about the cause of back pain but not many facts. The best we could do was offer each other support and share advice on staying healthy.
Like me, others in the forum had been accused of imagining or exaggerating their pain. When a reason for pain can't be found some people are quick to judge. Sometimes even family or friends thought us weak because we could not ignore our pain.
Making a change
Seven years on and despite hundreds of hours searching, I still have no answers. But I have thrown out my papers on back pain and found better ways to occupy myself. Some people would say I was wasting my time. I am sure my doctor would have given me a disapproving look if he had known what I was doing.
However, because of my efforts I read about all sorts of fascinating subjects. The new ideas I encountered inspired within me a desire to learn. If nothing else my search for answers was great exercise for my brain.