How “Back-A-Line Bill” beat Back Pain

How “Back-A-Line Bill” beat Back Pain

Back in 1991, I was rear-ended; herniating one disk and rupturing another, L-3 – L-5. The pain didn’t set in for three days, but when it did, it was so agonizing I could barely do anything except moan and grunt. So I did what anyone else in their right mind would have done; I went to a doctor. I visited a chiropractor who gave me an "elastic girdle" back belt that did absolutely nothing to relieve my back pain. I even tried an Osteopath and Orthopod but to no avail.

Remembering the soothing effect my spine received as I pressed it against the wall, I had an idea. I cut some plywood to fit my lumbar spine and wrapped a belt tightly around my waist. As much as I had expected from this idea of mine, it didn’t help at all. But I did realize that when I pressed my back against a wall, I didn’t really care that I had to flatten my back to get full contact. But it did matter.

The "firm" part of my idea was still valid except for one missing ingredient – a big one! What I realized was that my back was curved, just like everyone else’s, but the wall was flat and I found it very awkward to walk around with my spine mis-aligned by being in constant contact with the board. Fortunately, there is abundant Styrofoam in the world. I took a big piece that came as part of electronic equipment packaging, and shaved it until it matched my spinal curve. I put it inside my pants, against my spine, tightened the pants belt, and was amazed at the difference it made. Yes, I was still in a little pain but it was now tolerable.

Obviously, my "research" suggested that I needed something that was "curved and firm" to replace the funky Styrofoam. I tried some compression-molded prototypes, but they didn’t have that pristine curve of the Styrofoam. I later found a manufacturer of injection-molded foam products and my solution was at hand. I used the Styrofoam prototype to draw the product I wanted, and the prototypes were much better.

I wore it for about 18 months until the insurance company wanted to close the file, not wanting a surprise claim down the road. However, by that time I was golfing, skiing, and doing other activities and that caused the surgeon to order an MRI on the morning of surgery.

While I was on the operating table, talking with the anesthesiologist holding the syringe, the surgeon walked in and said, "I’ve never seen this in all my years of medicine, but you’re going home!" In his opinion, I was not supposed to be walking, at least without pain, so my golfing and skiing suggested the final MRI. The normal alignment of my spine had become permanent.

I’m pleased and proud to say today that I am, at 73, completely asymptomatic, able to do anything I want without back pain. How would you like to say that?