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Irish Independent Dublin, Sunday 26 June 2016
15 ways to manage back pain
Arlene Harris - Irish Independent
After suffering from back pain since childhood, Arlene Harris tried and tested fellow sufferer Steve Timm's self-styled methods. Now 'pain-free', she shares his, and other experts' tips on reducing those niggling aches.
Like most of the adult population, I suffer from a bad back - the result of a childhood injury. Having tried several forms of treatment over the years, I happened upon the Chilean-born, Australian-native, Steve Timm, a fellow sufferer, who devised a series of yogic exercises in a bid to cure his own back pain.
Not only did he succeed but he also developed a short programme of daily exercises which he eventually chronicled in a book entitled Mind Your Own Back (MYOBack)."
"My back began to fall apart in 1974 when an accident at work, while carrying a heavy piece of equipment, left me frozen with pain and flat on my back in bed, unable to move for a whole month," says the 76-year-old.
After numerous treatments by osteopaths, chiropractors and physical therapists, I was told nothing more could be done. I would have to live in pain for the rest of my life."
But Timm decided to work on a cure himself and combining his skills as an engineer and a new-found knowledge of yoga, he devised the simple plan which, in recent years, has brought relief to countless sufferers. Since meeting with Timm in 2010, I am now pain-free. With a new edition of his book available this summer, Timm, along with other experts, offers numerous ways to minimise back pain and deal with symptoms when they arise
1 EDUCATE YOURSELF
Timm, often dubbed 'Miracle Man', says the most important step to managing back pain is to learn how it works. "Education is crucial and ignorance is dangerous," he says. "Everyone should understand the human spine and its needs. Learn how to move and use your spine and body safely - this is more important than learning to drive. People also need to learn how to lift heavy weights safely and know the limitations of how much weight they can safely lift."
2 KEEP MOVING
The retired IBM engineer says it's equally important to move as much as possible as this will benefit your spine and ultimately, your back. "Avoid long hours sitting crunched down in front of a computer," he says. "Also avoid long hours in a sinking position on a sofa watching TV. And do your best to not spend too much time in enclosed rooms devoid of fresh air.
3 STRETCH YOURSELF
"After nine months in a foetal position, we are born and the spine opens up and stretches out like a flower in spring," says Timm. "The proper opening and balance of the base of the spine is fundamental to the whole structure. So it's important to create balance which, when properly set, makes many stretches and exercises really beneficial. Due to stress or psychological problems, some people go back to partial foetal position, as if looking for emotional refuge, and back problems may occur, so it is important to stretch it out and also do some gentle aerobics and muscle building exercises."
4 BOTTOM TO HEEL STRETCH
Joey Boland, clinic director at Sports Physio Ireland, agrees and says stretching from bottom to heels will help strengthen your back and upper legs muscles. "The bottom to heels stretch should be a part of your warm-up and morning routine," he advises. "Get on the floor on your hands and knees, making sure that your hands are a little behind your shoulders and the knees behind your hips. Slowly fold down your lower body, until your buttocks touch your heels. Do not take your hands off the floor, but extend them as your body moves towards the back. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds and repeat eight to 10 times. Make sure to use a sports mat with a smooth surface to avoid bruising your knees."
5 GO BACKWARDS
Dr Anne Reicherter, professor of Physical Therapy at the University of Maryland, says walking about is also essential to prevent back pain. "Don't sit slumped in your desk chair all day," she advises. "Get up every 20 minutes or so and stretch the other way. Because most of us spend a lot of time bending forward in our jobs, it's important to stand up and stretch backward throughout the day."
6 DITCH THE HEELS
Compulsory wearing of high heels has been a contentious issue of late, but back guru Timm says we should exchange our four-inch pumps for flats or low heels (less than one inch) because high heels "may create a more unstable posture" and increase pressure on your lower spine. "Unnatural shoes like high heels are not good and can be very damaging," he says.
7 DON'T FORCE POSTURE
Timm says his technique is designed to create balance and a healthy spine from the bottom up. "It begins by resetting the angle and position of the pelvis in the most effective way," he explains. "By restoring balance at the very foundation of the spine, it naturally corrects the distortions and deviations that ageing, muscle weakness and other causes, (high shoes) have created throughout the vertebral column. Gentle exercise is good, provided that there is no imbalance at the base of the spine but I am against forcing a 'good posture' as it should come naturally when you do your MYOBack routine as you can't help but stand tall and proud."
8 LEARN TO RELAX
Richard Brennan of the Alexander Technique Centre in Galway says the key to minimising the chance of getting back pain is to learn how to relax properly. "The Alexander Technique is a method of personal education which involves self-awareness and releasing muscular tension," he says. "This excessive tension slowly accumulates over many years of stressful living and often starts in childhood. And if left unchecked, can give rise later in life to common ailments such as back pain. "Through the Alexander Technique you will discover ways of sitting, standing and walking which will put less strain on the bones, joints and muscles, making your body work more efficiently."
Steve Timm agrees: "Learn to manage stress and emotional tension as this will help you to feel better," he says. "I have also found it beneficial to learn how to promote structured inner silence every day. Also try to learn and practice a scientifically proven good meditation, as it will be like having a shower on the inside every day."
10 BE POSITIVE
Negativity can have a profound effect on how we feel physically and Timm says it's important to develop a positive frame of mind and try to ensure you feel emotionally strong and secure. He says while this isn't always easy to achieve, there are a few steps you can take towards positivity.
"Try to have clear good purpose in your life," he advises. "And do something to help your fellow beings. Also make sure to eat healthy fresh food, avoid overeating and drink plenty of water."
11 CREATE A PERSONALISED ROUTINE
"MYOBack is completely natural and is also a form of therapy so is not suitable to be passed on in a class or group situation," says Timm. "Every session needs to be adjusted to the individual needs of each person so for this reason giving everyone a fixed version of MYOBack could be damaging. So I would advise people to check out my website and book for more information. Also I will be in Dublin on August 6 and may be able to see a few people personally."
12 ROLL YOUR KNEES
For those who won't get to see Steve Timm on his Irish visit, Sports Physio Ireland director Joey Boland, says a knee roll is a very simple exercise that aims to improve the strength and mobility of your spine. "Place a mat on the floor and lie down on your back," he advises. "Lift up your knees, until both your feet sit firmly on the floor. Without moving your upper body, roll both your knees to the right until your right knee touches the floor. Hold the position for four to five seconds, and repeat in the opposite direction. It is recommended to do eight to 10 knee rolls for each side, but do not attempt to stretch your back muscles further beyond comfort."
13 KEEP IT CHILLED
Despite all our best efforts at trying to prevent back pain, sometimes injury gets the better of us. Dr Anne Reicherter of the University of Maryland says the first port of call for pain relief should be ice. "Ice is best in the first 24 to 48 hours after injury because it reduces inflammation," she says. "Even though something warm feels good because it helps cover up the pain and relax the muscles, the heat actually inflames the inflammatory processes. But after 48 hours, you can switch from ice to heat if you prefer. However, whether you use heat or ice, remove after about 20 minutes to give your skin a rest and if pain persists, talk to a doctor."
14 GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP
Sleep disturbances are common among back pain sufferers, but rest helps repair strained muscles and soothe inflamed joints, according to the HSE. "Start with a good bed and experiment with different sleeping positions - try sleeping on your side and on a firm surface," advises a spokesperson. This helps to prevent any curvature of the spine which could lead to or worsen back pain."
15 GENTLE EXERCISE
It's not always the best idea to simply rest and wait for back pain to subside as resting can cause certain types of pain to worsen and decrease muscle strength, according to the HSE. "Instead of lying down, start with gentle stretches and try experimenting to see what ways you can move without pain," says a spokesperson. She also advises going for a slow, easy walk, and picking up the pace if it feels good. "Regular gentle exercise is also a good idea as strengthening and stretching muscles can reduce many types of back pain," she adds. "However, it's best to discuss your current routine and any changes with your doctor."
Irish Independent Dublin, April 2010
Bliss is losing that pain in the back
Writes renowned Irish journalist Carol Hunt on learning to Mind Her Own Back
Sunday Apr 25 2010
Listening to other people describe the origins of their back pain is usually beyond tedious -- or so I'm regularly informed when I start reciting mine. Steve Timm's story, however, is different. Not just because (unlike me) he tells the tale of his injury without a trace of self-pity, but also because he is one of those rare individuals who not only took complete responsibility for his affliction but, most importantly, arrived at a more than satisfactory solution.
I met Steve last Friday morning at Noel O'Neill's new Ayurveda Centre on Dublin's Lower Stephen Street. Tall, lithe, and good-looking, it's difficult to believe that this charming Chilean man is 70 years old. He's here in Dublin for the next month and will be working at the Ayurveda Centre, teaching all of us who are martyrs to our backs what we can do simply and effectively to make things better.
Of course, this sounds too good to be true to me. Ten years ago I went through the gamut of therapies -- physio, osteopathy, drugs, traction, heat therapy, more drugs -- in an attempt to heal a badly damaged back.
Believe me, I can out-martyr Elizabeth Taylor where back pain is concerned.
Eventually I succumbed to surgery, with a warning from the surgeon that, in time, the old problems would resurface. So a few times a year I find myself crippled, unable to move from the bed to the bathroom without the aid of copious amounts of painkillers.
Steve had a similar experience: as a young man he thought he was invincible, that nothing could ever harm him, and he pushed his body to the limits without regard for its safety. But while working as an engineer at IBM, an accident left him frozen with pain and unable to do anything but sacrifice himself to the best efforts of medical practitioners. Eventually, after trying all of the accepted therapies, they told him to "get a new body".
Steve was on his own.
But, amazingly, after a long period spent practicing intuitive techniques, based on coordinating the mind, body and prana (breathing), he managed to discover a process that healed him completely.
"It wasn't until after all the healing had taken place that I retraced my steps of recovery and began to understand intellectually the mechanics of the process that healed me," he says.
He tells me that would have been the end of it, until his friend was involved in a car crash and went through months of agonizing back-pain, which the medical profession was unable to cure.
Eventually she agreed to try his techniques and, voila, within a year she was once again able to lead a full and healthy life.
Anne's journey gave Steve the impetus he needed to develop his cure for others to use safely and effectively.
Which brings us to where we are today. Steve tells me he now travels the world constantly teaching people his simple method of eliminating back pain -- his Mind Your Own Back technique.
"Where do you live?" I ask. "Everywhere." He spreads his hands expansively and smiles. "I am a citizen of the world."
Once we get through all the science bit, it's time to try out the exercises. I am feeling a bit anxious now, as, in all truth, I'm the type of person whose idea of a good warm-up is to sit on a radiator with a cup of tea in my hand.
But after five minutes I realize I can actually do this.
And after 10 minutes I can achieve simple positions I've only ever seen done in yoga DVDs (that I've watched while sitting on my couch).
"Do you feel blissful?" asks Steve. "That can often happen when your body is happy."
Fifteen minutes later, and we're done, and I get up to have a walk around. Unbelievably, I feel taller, lighter: as if my bones are all in their right place and humming along happily.
"Now you know how to mind your own back," he says.
And, amazingly, that's it. No need for more teaching or training. I now know the simple exercises and can easily do them in 10 minutes at home. There is a book and DVD I can use to remind me, but, essentially, that's it.
Bliss? I walk out feeling ecstatic -- and I kiss Steve twice before I leave.
Steve Timm will give a public lecture at 7.30pm on Tuesday in the Oakland Suite, Mount Herbert Hotel, Dublin. After his month at the Ayurvedic Centre, he will leave specially trained experts to continue the work there on his behalf.
Sunday Independent Sunday 25 May 2010
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Over a hundred Irish men and women with extremely hopeless cases of acute and chronic back pain participated in a research study by learning the simple steps of the Steve Timm Mind Your Own Back Program and produced incredibly high success rates. See Research.
Killarney, July 2010
Stretching back to life. Arlene Harris - IrishExaminer.
A CAR drove over my foot when I was 10 years old. It was a pretty painful experience, but back then if a limb didn’t appear to be too damaged, you were pronounced fit and well enough to avoid further investigation and carry on with your life. Unfortunately for me, although I appeared to have escaped major injury, the internal damage to my foot caused me to spend the following 20 years leaning to one side to take the weight off my damaged bones. This Leaning Tower of Pisa effect has culminated in me having a back problem for most of my adult life and being a regular visitor to my local chiropractor.
Call it mid-life crisis, but as my fourth decade looms closer, I decided last autumn to take up running. This uncharacteristic foray into fitness further compounded my lopsided gait and after several weeks of training I managed to do some serious damage to my back. I know I have a herniated disc and for the past six months have experienced chronic pain in my lower back and all the way down my left leg.
Curing this current injury has been a long and painful process and I have been willing to try every remedy bar the surgeon knife. So when I heard that the ‘back pain guru’ Steve Timm was on a flying visit to Ireland, I decided to see for myself if he could teach me how to regain my pain free body.
Now 70 years old, the retired IBM engineer has traveled the world bringing relief to countless sufferers. Many of who have been in far worse condition than me and have discovered how to relieve the daily suffering that has eluded their practitioners. .
But what could this Australian born, Chilean man do for me? Effortlessly charming and likeable, Steve immediately put me at easy by comparing our spinal stories. An accident at work almost 40 years ago left him incapacitated with pain after seriously injuring his back. Following medication and various treatments, he managed to regain mobility. But this was short lived and 15 years later, his back began to protest and he once again found himself at the mercy of a whole range of conventional and alternative practitioners. .
This time however he was told that there was nothing that they could do – he was awarded a disable badge and told to make the most of his life. .
“While it was very nice to be allowed to get the best parking space at the supermarket, I could not accept that this was the way I would have to spend the rest of my life, “Steve recalls.”
“As an engineer I wanted to know exactly how the spine worked and discovering the mechanisms allowed me to develop a routine which would help put things back in balance,” he explains. He turned away from Western medicine and looked towards Indian and Chinese methods. And it was here he learnt the technique that would change his life and the life’s of many others to come. Steve told me how his daughter had been badly injured in a car crash and after many years of disability, finally turned to her dad for help. After just one session, she was able to walk unaided and stopped taking the morphine which had helped ease her pain.
This story sounded too good to be true, so I was anxious to get started and learn how to mind my own back.
After a lengthy session explaining how my spine worked and why my disc was causing me so much grief, Steve told me he was going to show me the stretches which could enable to cure myself. “I will be reading the map and you will be doping the driving,” he told me.
I wasn’t sure how effective my motoring skills would be in this situation but I got down to the yoga mat and began my session by listening to some chanting in the some what odd position of back on the floor and legs on a chair. Despite the strange angle, I immediately began to relax and before I knew it, was moving on to the first of my stretching exercises.
“Getting the mind to feel instead of think is what you need to achieve,” Steve said as he instructed me on the correct way to breathe yogic style. Putting me through my paces slowly, he made me go through the exercises a number of times to ensure I was doing them correctly on a daily basis
Throughout the session (which was held at Veronica Tangney’s Instill center in Killarney), I was aware of muscles being stretched and tightened, but my initial pessimism was still nagging at the back of my mind.
I couldn’t imagine how a few simple stretches would do anything for the pain which has dogged me for months.
After 20 minutes of stretching breathing and finally relaxing, Steve told me to stand up slowly and walk around the room.
Initially, I felt nothing, but suddenly I reallised that I was walking in a completely different way to when I arrived. Unconsciously, my back was straight, my shoulders were back and my chest was out – I felt like I was floating. I also felt a few inches taller.
Laughing at my incredulous look, Steve took great delight in seen another fellow sufferers find instant relief from a few minutes of his genius routine. “I feel I am on a mission to help other people in the same situation” he told me. When I cured my own back, I did nothing about it, but when my daughter was cured, she urged me to teach other people how to do the same thing. It brings me great happiness to see how it helps people.”
After one session I felt rejuvenated – but not completely cured. To improve I would need to find 10 minutes a day to fit this routine into my life. Four weeks later, I have managed to find a brief window of respite in my otherwise hectic daily routine to get on to my yoga mat and stretch.
Although I won’t be running the marathon any time soon, I do seem to be getting better slowly but surely. I can just about bend down to tie my laces – a simple task that has eluded me for months and on a recent visit to my chiropractor, I was pronounced well enough to visit on alternate weeks as my pelvis seemed to be very well aligned. I am beginning to hope that by taking just 10 minutes a day to practice the stretches I have just learned, I too can ensure that my back pain is nothing but a distant memory.
Steve Timm has trained Veronica Tangney in the Mind Your Own Back (MYOB) technique and starting this month, she will be running courses in Killarney. The 90 minutes session costs €120.
Mind Your Own Back – Antient Wisdom to Heal your back by Steve Timm is available for €20. For more information, visit www.mindyourownback.com
For more information about Instill visit www.instillireland.com
Dublin, July 2009
When discovered by the press were the amazing results from the S Timm MYOBack program.
'Miracle ' man is on a mission to share secrets of back-pain cure.
STEVE Timm used to think he was Superman, when he was a kid. He loved swimming and rowing and all kinds of other sports, and because he was tall and strong, he could not imagine being any other way.
He thought of his body as indestructible and he pushed it as far as it would go. If he felt pain, he ignored it. Until one day, it was too late. An injury that happened at work, when he lifted a heavy piece of equipment, left him flat on his neck and unable to move. He tried to ignore the pain, but the agony was so overwhelming that he couldn't, and he had to turn himself over to the care of a whole host of medical practitioners to try to get some relief.
Not all of us end up flat on our backs, riddled with back pain. But according to statistics, 80 per cent of Americans, and probably the same amount of Irish people, experience back pain at some time. And even if it is not excruciating, low-level back pain is responsible for constant misery for many people.
Most of us never give our backs a second thought until the pain forces us to. Luckily for Steve -- and possibly for the rest of us -- the pain can sometimes trigger a level of inquiry and awareness, a new degree of respect for the body that points us in the direction of a cure.
In Steve's case, having exhausted the knowledge and abilities of the chiropractors and osteopaths he was seeing, he was told that there was nothing more they could do for him, that he would just have to get a new body or else suffer. Not having the first option, and not being willing to accept the second, Steve set out on a mission to heal his own back.
And once he had found a cure, he set about sharing it with other people.
The first thing that strikes me about Steve, when I meet him in Dun Laoghaire, where he has stopped for a brief visit as part of his perpetual journey around the world (he tells me that he travels for 300 days a year), is how perfect his posture is. His back looks perfectly straight, and he moves with ease and grace, despite being almost 70 years of age.
"I was always interested in yoga," he tells me. "Even as a child."
"That is very unusual," I say, aware that he grew up in Chile.
"I was quite unusual!" he says with a laugh.
Another unusual thing about Steve is that although he is an engineer by trade, his approach to his own healing was not logical or scientific in the way that it came to him.
"I used my intuition to discover what worked," he says.
He explains that he used his interest in yoga and meditation and also in what psychologist Abraham Maslow called 'peak experience', which is accessing that level of consciousness which transcends the intellect and gives us access to genius-level knowledge. "Following that inner journey came the response I was looking for. The healing techniques that I am now offering to share came as whispers of intuition."
Having accessed the insights, he then tried them out on his own body, very carefully and slowly discovering the way to heal his own back. It worked.
"I knew I was on the right track when I began to experience some bliss and happiness emerging from the pain," he says.
Eventually all the pain was gone. "I would have left it at that," he says. "If not for something that happened to my friend Anne."
His daughter had a car accident in which she severely damaged her back, so much so that after five years of treatment from expensive specialists, she was still crippled and dependent on morphine.
"After everything else had failed, she agreed to try my technique," he says. "And almost immediately she got a signal that it was working, she felt her body being flooded with bliss. Within a year, Anne could swim and work out in the gym, she had given up the painkillers and was leading a normal life.
"My daughter's miraculous recovery convinced me God had given me a truly precious gift that needed to be shared with others," Steve says.
"So I formulated everything I had learned into a program designed to enable everyone to maintain a healthy back, called the Mind Your Own Back program."
After our conversation, Steve talks me through a simple sequence of exercises, which take about 20 minutes. I find them easy to do, and uncomplicated to remember. He rewards me by telling me that I am a very good yogi, and I am delighted. He also gives me a copy of his book in which all the exercises are explained and many more poses are included. I am extremely fortunate to have met him, especially seeing as I have been given a one-on-one lesson. Tomorrow he is off on his travels again, journeying round the world teaching what he knows.
"I am a bit silly," he says. "I am spending my retirement money doing this!" But he also tells me that he loves the work. Clearly, when you have a double miracle in your life, you really enjoy passing it on to other people.
The Mind Your Own Back program can be scientifically explained reproduced, and validated.
THE BOOK NEW REVISED EDITION 2010
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