How Changing My Food Fixed My Back Pain

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When I am in social settings and people learn that I am a Physical Therapist, it’s pretty standard  for people to tell me about their health that includes some kind of musculoskeletal complaint or surgery even though they have never had an accident, injury or any event that would account for their muscle, joint or spinal pain.

They talk about living on anti-inflammatories or needing an ample budget that allows them to attend to all of the complementary care and bodywork sessions for pain control which only gives them temporary relief.

What prompted me to finally write about my personal story is the last conversation I had with Jill,  a 49 year old Mom of 2 who has already had a total hip replacement, has lived most of her life on Advil due to back pain and is now finally complaining of horrible digestive problems that really drain her energy, lower her mood and interrupt her sleep.  With just a few specific questions it was clear to me that Jill’s history of back pain and even her total hip replacement have been the result of a digestive problem that went  unnoticed.

I know I’m making a bold statement, that Jill’s pain and hip problem could actually have been caused from an unseen digestive issue!  Yes, that’s right and here is why I know that can be true and is actually more common than not as that is what shows up in my practice every month!

Here’s My Story

I was a good athlete from a very young age and was involved in competitive diving for several years which was ultimately replaced by gymnastics.  I was quite serious as a gymnast training long hours in the gym and even longer at 2 and 3 week summer gymnastics camps.  It only made sense later on in my 20’s and 30’s that my lower back pain was due to the high demand of flexibility and pounding that my back had experienced for so many years when I was younger.

I remember needing to sit in a special hard chair while in Physical Therapy school (I hated having to be different) and that I already started getting treatment for my back while attending Northwestern.  So not only was I an athlete but I was also a physical therapy intern and I knew how to stretch, keep my core strong and use proper body mechanics while lifting and pushing.

As time went by, I continued to get treatments from expert osteopaths around the country whose classes I was attending.  At one point, all of my right shoes had a 1/4 inch heel lift on them and after a year or so it was clear that that was wrong and so all the heel lifts were taken off!  My chronic back pain finally caved in in 1988 when I experienced a huge backward rotation on one side of my sacrum which left me in severe back spasms on the floor for about a day and a half.  It was a slow process getting back on my feet and rehabbing my back and pelvis which to this day do not tolerate running.  My back continued to go out in varying degrees of severity after that day.  Sometimes I would come to work bent over at 45 degrees and I would do my best to hide the fact that my back was in such distress!  There were those excruciating days when I knew my back was actually worse than the one I was treating!  I was ashamed and embarrassed and I hid that too!

I was constantly trying to understand what had happened to me and how did my life go from being a high level competitive athlete to needing specific back strengthening regimens which were not even keeping me from having acute episodes of back pain and constant tension!?  My own professional skills and knowledge were not solving my problem!

Finally, The Solution!

The solution to my back problem began when I started learning about the organ systems of the body, specifically the digestive tract.  I learned about the tension patterns of the digestive organs and how they pulled on their musculoskeletal neighbors creating abnormal patterns of force, that in turn, created more patterns of tension even further from the original organ in question.  Even with this understanding of the visceral organs and their tension patterns, there was still another bridge to cross to reach the aha! — that food was at the core of these digestive strain patterns!

Now it became a learning path to understand which foods were creating my digestive tension which I never realized I had!!  This process of discovering which foods were not compatible for me and how they contributed to my back problem,  was not an overnight process, it had twists and turns, back tracking, starting over, lots of note taking and many grey zones of confusion until I finally figured out the specific foods that were at the core of my spinal issues. All of this lead me to becoming a Certified Nutritionist who has a fine tuned radar for those people that have food and digestive problems central to their unresolved health issues!

It has been this personal process that has allowed me to be able to develop and take my patients through a customized Food Compatibility Program™ with clarity, step-wise progress and proper instructions about what to monitor, how to course correct and arrive at an empowered and successful outcome.  It’s not that every unresolved pain or health issue comes from a food or digestive problem, of course not, but the important point is to realize that unexplained, recurrent pain problems need to include the assessment for food intolerances and digestive issues as part of the differential diagnosis.  If you relate at all to my story, you’ve been to doctors and still are without answers, you need to get yourself to a professional who is an expert with food compatibility.  And very likely, that will be outside of your doctor’s office!

About Sheila Wagner PT, CN, BCHN

Sheila’s cutting edge ability to uncover hidden source(s) of health issues when no one else has is the first piece to her step wise approach in solving your persistent health complaints.

+Sheila Wagner is the ultimate expert assisting people nationwide to finally fix their health through 1:1 consults, group programs, lectures and classes.

Opinions & Feedback:

  1. Wow – this makes so much sense! I suffer from back pain and wonder if this could be beneficial – how would one start to figure it out?

  2. I woke up with terrible lower (right side) back pain the day before I was to play a 2 1/2 hour gig on the accordion. Frantic, I went to a massage therapist to help me. Relieved the pain some but, or course, came back after the gig. Subsiquently, went to both a general medical doctor and a chiropractor for evaluation. An x-ray showed curvature of the spine. Did exercises for a month and had some adjustments and the pain finally subsided. Back aches come and go and I am afraid I may have to give up playing for my polka dances. My accordion weighes 29 lbs. I sit when I play now but have had over 30 years of playing which I have attributed to the spine problem. But…maybe the food has something to do with it.
    After attending your lecture last summer at Finnfest San Diego, and a DNA test revealed I inherited two genes of gluten intolerance, I have been gluten-free. Now I am wondering if there is some other digestive problem that may contribute to the back pain. I have a lot of allergies, joint problems, and now some arthritis.

    • Sylvia, I remember you from the conference and I’m so glad you are now gluten free! There definitely CAN be other digestive issues going on.
      One of the common comments that people have when they seek my services is: “I AM gluten free but I STILL don’t feel well!” Being gluten intolerant.
      and especially when you haven’t realized that until mid-life or so, can really set you for other digestive issues that now need attending to and healing!

  3. So true Sylvia!

  4. Now that we watch what we eat more and carefully select where we shop and what we purchase –
    it is so clear how this has improved how this impacts our body and mind.

  5. Sheila – This topic is fascinating. Until I met you and Trudy Scott, I would have never thought about the food I eat causing some of the irregular symptoms, feeling ill, or pain. Now I think about my food choices much more and it has really made a difference!

  6. Such a blessing!! I’ve worked with PTs before who were simply not able to help me get the results we were looking for… I wonder if they’s also had your depth of expertise with food reactions if they’d have been able to help me. Luckily, all that’s a distant memory, but how lucky your patients are!! XOXO, Katherine.

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