I'm 28 year old male and have had chronic back pain for 6+ years. In 2007 I had an MRI that showed a spondololysis on L5 with disc bulging. The symptoms up until that point were variable, starting with general muscle pain(2001-2004) due to over use and bad posture, changing to persistent sciatic pain.
Until the MRI 2007 I went through the standard medical care where my reflexes where checked and eventually had an x-ray. These all turn out to be normal. Standard physical therapy was prescribed to strengthen the core.
This didn't help. I stopped running, started road biking regularly and did yoga every day. The yoga typically ended with 10-20 minute deep breathing and relaxation.
After 2 years of biking, the sciatic pain came on and got worse. The low back muscle pain was mostly gone because I learned better posture ( a little Alexander technique)and limited the activities that strained the muscles (dishes, cleaning, working over a table in a laboratory setting).
The sciatic pain became ingrained in my nervous system. Stress could bring it on and deeply effected my mood and personal relationships. I could not sleep well and often had to sleep on the floor with my legs raised. The biking stopped, along with any strenuous physical activity. Walking was the only exercise that seemed manageable.
In 2008 I entered an intensive back rehab center. A program had been developed with specialized equipment to strengthen core muscles. After 10 weeks (2 times a week with daily home exercise) the pain became the worst its even been. I quit the program and was on my own.
I did learn a couple valuable things out of the experience.
-my pain was brought on by compression on one side of my body. Certain positions could relive the pain by creating space.
-pain could be strongly effected by state of mind
-every type of pain is different and needs a customized solution.
From this point on, everything got better quickly.
I went to an osteopath on recommendation from a friend. This osteopath took an approach that focused on the positive things rather than the negative. I saw him every week for 6 weeks. The physical manipulation involved loosening the lower spine that had been effectively frozen due to the pain and over work from the physical therapy. Followed by massage at the low back area and above and below. The daily exercises recommendation was to keep loosening the spine by twisting and forward and backward stretching. This was combined with yoga and 10-20 minutes relaxation every day. I also walk twice a day for 30-45 minutes.
After about 4-6 months of this, the pain had reduced significantly. I focused on periods of good and not on the bad. The pain often came in waves lasting for 1-3 weeks, followed by 1-3 weeks of little pain. I began to learn what caused the pain and avoided it.
The osteopath encouraged me to increase activity. Running and biking were out. Standard fitness equipment such as stair climbers, elliptical machines, treadmills didn't work. I already walked twice a day. so I tried roller blading. This actually worked really well! I had found something I could do to work my muscles and get my heart rate up. This continued to improve things.
Now I feel that while I'm not cured 100% I have made a huge improvement and can only see things getting better the more I increase my activity.