By Ustadh Fred Amir
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allāh, and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided. (Qur’an, 2:155-157)
This is the promise of Allah and Allah is always true to His promise.
My test began with a simple case of back pain. Over time I developed pain in my neck, knees, elbows, and one shoulder, as well as pain and numbness in my legs, arms, and hands, and suffered gastritis due to my use of prescription and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. I was constantly in pain and became severely disabled. At one point the pain was so severe that I was not able to stand or sit for more that fifteen minutes at a time, to climb three steps, to walk farther than one hundred yards, to carry more than four pounds, to lift a half-gallon milk container, or even to write two lines.
My life became limited in ways that I had never imagined. I was in so much pain and restricted in my movements that I had to pray sitting or lying down and was unable to attend Friday prayers for one year. I could not visit anyone and was reluctant to allow visitors. I had to stay away from work and was faced with serious questions about my career, my future, and my life, especially as a husband and father. All this and I was only thirty years old.
I was seen by general practitioners as well as back specialists and even a nationally known orthopedic surgeon. Each one had his own diagnosis. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the spine, degenerated discs, sprained back muscles, pinched nerve, herniated disc, leaky discs, and piriformis syndrome as possible causes for my back and leg pain. I was given a wide variety of different medications and treatments, some of which caused more pain and disability and made my condition worse. However, deep in my heart I trusted in Allah’s will and wisdom. I knew that if, despite my best efforts and prayers to get well, my condition kept getting worse, that was Allah’s plan and Allah is the best of planners. I knew that my cure could only come through Allah’s mercy.
Whatever Allāh grants to people of mercy—none can withhold it; and whatever He withholds—none can release it thereafter. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. (Qur’an, 35:2)
Early in this painful and often frustrating ordeal I discovered that the medical professionals themselves were baffled by back pain. Not only did they have difficulty making a proper diagnosis and prescribing effective treatment, but they were not even capable of providing satisfactory answers to my simplest questions about back pain:
- Why are the majority of people with back pain or chronic pain under fifty years old?
- Why, unlike a broken bone, does back pain not heal, instead often lasting for years?
- If weak muscles are the cause, how strong do back muscles have to be for one to recover? Do we all need to become bodybuilders to be free of pain?
- If improper sitting and bending can damage the back, why aren’t gymnasts and other athletes who put tremendous pressure on their spines all suffering from debilitating back pain?
To these and many other questions, which appeared simple enough for back specialists and experts to resolve, the responses were unconvincing answers, shrugged shoulders, or simply: “Well, that’s how back pain is!” Aaccording to one of the foremost authorities on the subject, Richard Deyo, M.D., “Up to 85% of back pain cannot be given a definitive diagnosis.” (Please visit www.rapidrecovery.net for references for this and other quotations that appear in this article.)
In the face of the medical community’s apparent ineptitude in treating back pain—and the fact that some of the treatments prescribed for me actually made my condition worse—I realized that I could no longer afford to be a passive patient. I began to take an active role in my diagnosis and treatment, and tried to become an informed consumer, searching the available literature for a cure to my disabling condition—a condition so prevalent that it has become a national health problem. Unfortunately the effectiveness of treatments for back, neck, and hand pain is quite disappointing.
· “Surgery has been found to be helpful in only 1 in 100 cases of patients with low back pain. In some people, surgery can even cause more problems.” So concluded the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after conducting a comprehensive study of more than 10,000 cases of back pain.
· “Injecting methylyprednisolone acetate [cortisone] into the facet joints is of little value in the treatment of patients with chronic low back pain.” This was the conclusion of a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
· “Treatments [for whiplash-associated disorders] evaluated in a rigorous manner show little or no evidence of efficacy.” This finding was the result of an exhaustive study conducted at McGill University. Researchers found treatments ranging from neck collar to traction to be of little or no value.
. “Correcting carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common operations performed today. The only problem is, it often doesn’t work,” concluded researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Even though these surprising facts have appeared in some of the most authoritative and prestigious medical journals, you will not learn this crucial information from most specialists, inside or outside the medical profession. Indeed, these treatments are used so widely that you may be shocked to learn that they don’t work in majority of cases!
The more I studied the medical journals and scientific literature, the more I came across such studies and the more I realized that what we really need is an accurate diagnosis. Lack of a correct diagnosis is the number-one reason why such pains have become a major health problem. As mentioned earlier, as many as 85 percent of patients with low back pain never receive a definitive diagnosis. Without a definitive diagnosis, a cure cannot be expected; however, once we have the correct diagnosis, the solution can be quite simple!
So what was it?
After months of searching and reading, Allah (swt) sent me the answer in the mail. That’s how I learned about the discovery at New York University, where John Sarno, M.D., a professor of rehabilitative medicine was also trying to determine the correct diagnosis. He too was disappointed with the failure of common treatments and realized the need for a new understanding.
As he looked deeper into the medical histories of his patients, Dr. Sarno discovered something that is often neglected by most medical professionals. He noticed that 88 percent of his patients had histories of disorders such as migraine headaches, colitis, stomach ulcers, hay fever, asthma, eczema, and high blood pressure. These disorders were strongly suspected of being caused by chronic repressed anger, anxiety, worries, frustrations, stress, and tension. Dr. Sarno wondered whether, in the same way that chronic anger, anxiety, worries, and frustrations can cause physiological changes leading to these physical symptoms, back pain could also be a physical manifestation of such negative emotions.
So he put this new diagnosis to work and began treating his patients accordingly. Of course, at first the majority of his patients felt there was not enough stress and tension in their lives to cause their pain. Many of them also felt they were handling their teenage children, problems at work, and marital problems effectively. However, these bothersome situations were creating great deal of anger and rage internally causing pain in various parts of their bodies.
Once Dr. Sarno treated back patients for this new diagnosis and not for some structural abnormality, his patients began to recover. In fact, 98 percent of his patients with confirmed cases of herniated discs recovered without surgery—certainly a much better result than the 1 percent success rate experienced with surgery.
I know what most of you are thinking: “Not me!” That was exactly my response to the notion that tension and stress were causing my pain. Being a calm, positive person who rarely gets angry or tense, I was quite skeptical about whether Dr. Sarno’s findings applied to me. It is well known that stress and tension can aggravate back pain and many other disorders. However, could repressed anger, anxiety, worries, and frustrations be the actual cause of so much pain and disability? I figured I had nothing to lose by keeping an open mind and learning more. At the very least maybe what I learned could help someone else.
As I learned more about Dr. Sarno’s explanation of the pattern of pain, how it becomes chronic, and my other concerns, I found convincing answers to all my questions and more. I was then able to enhance his treatment program by applying techniques used by Olympic athletes and high achievers, such as visualization and goal setting, and developing a nine-step recovery plan to rapidly recover from months of pain and disability.
My improvements could be seen daily and astonished those who knew how disabled I had been before. Within the first four days of my recovery I was able to stand, bend, sit, and sleep comfortably. I was also able to walk without a limp, climb stairs, wear a tie, exercise on a cross-country ski machine, and swim. The climax of my recovery was when, less than two weeks later, I was able to carry both my children, each weighing over forty pounds. This I had not been able to do for over two years due to pain in my back, legs, knees, and arms. It felt wonderful. And one month later I began taking karate lessons.
I was so excited about my new discovery that I began sharing it with everyone I knew and they began to get well. In order to reach more people I taught seminars and workshops, and explained it in detail in my book, Rapid Recovery from Back and Neck Pain: A Nine-Step Recovery Plan. By the grace of Allah (swt) just reading about it has helped many others get well. I have received emails from as far away as Australia and New Zealand from readers who have also recovered by reading my story and applying my rapid recovery plan. To read their stories please visit www.rapidrecovery.net.
Thus, indeed Allah (swt) tests us, but how we react to those, with faith, hope, struggle, and obedience, can determine what the outcome will be, by His grace. I am grateful to Him for granting me my health and humbled by the opportunity to help others live pain-free active lives. Please keep me and my family in your do’a.