I am in my early forties and have been living with chronic lower back pain for almost fifteen years. The level of pain has increased slowly every year, however during the last few years it’s gotten bad enough where I realized I had to do something about it. I can’t even begin to recount all the things I’ve tried… Doctor’s visits, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, aerobic and core strengthening exercises, Pilates, even a holistic healer, deep tissue massages, electric impulse therapy, iced and hot back braces, a kneeling chair and sit/stand desk for work, etc. I also tried a couple of different prescription medicines, even though I’ve never been in favor of painkillers. I couldn’t understand why nothing worked! I am a very conscientious “pupil”, so whenever I’d be prescribed a new routine or exercise regimen, I’d make sure to follow it to a tee. Little did I know that the vast majority of these things actually hurt my back instead of healing it.
Early in 2018, I heard of The Back Mechanic by Dr. Stuart McGill and promptly purchased the book. By that time, I was very skeptical of everything and anything, yet desperate enough to keep trying new things. I remember reading the introduction and bursting into tears. I could immediately tell this was not just another “fix your back in ten steps” kind of book, fast to grab your attention, but incapable to deliver up to its promises. For the first time in a very long time, I had found renewed hope. I could relate to so many of the patient experiences described in the book, and realized I had for a long time believed in so many myths about the back pain that I was now discovering were not true… I read the book four times, performed the self-prognosis, and started doing the Big 3 exercises twice a day, every day during the work week, with breaks on the weekends. Yet, for some reason, I was still in pain. I couldn’t understand why, yet I was nowhere near ready to discard this book as yet another source of false hope. The scientific findings and methods described here are the results of over three decades of work Dr. McGill had dedicated to the issue of back pain, and I totally trusted this amazing research and expertise. I had to conclude I was missing something. That is when I started looking for a certified clinician, only to discover there are only four in the United States! To my surprise, one of them, Dr. Kai Tiltmann, was only three hours away from where I lived! Honestly, I would have flown or driven anywhere to meet him, that’s how desperate I was. By this time, my pain would keep me awake at night, so I was very close to feeling hopeless and had started battling depression… So I made the call. A call that has completely changed my life.
I left a message asking for an appointment, and got a prompt call from the office manager, asking if I had half an hour available to chat with Dr. Tiltmann himself. I was already blown away. Instead of simply scheduling the appointment, they wanted to make sure I was a good candidate for the McGill Method, and Dr. Tiltmann made time in his busy schedule to talk to me! I mean, I can’t even see my primary care physician for more than ten minutes, and now I was going to get a free thirty minute pre-consultation?!
I teared up for a couple of seconds, talking with Dr. Tiltmann that day. That’s because I could tell he knew what I was talking about and actually understood me! My own doctor, whom I love and respect very much, having been in his care for over 12 years, had exhausted all the avenues with me, and honestly, I had started suspecting that he thought this pain was all in my head! And now, I was talking with someone who not only knew what I had been going through, but told me he could definitely help! The three weeks waiting for my appointment felt like a kid feverishly waiting for Christmas. The time went by painstakingly slow… But the appointment day finally came, and my husband and I drove to a San Francisco for my three-hour appointment.
I can’t even begin to describe how life changing these three hours were for my life! Dr. Tiltmann had done a lot of preparation work for our appointment, having analyzed my MRIs, X-ray, intake forms, and even a video my husband took of me performing the daily farm chores (which we knew could have been taxing to my back, if not done with proper form). At the office, we went over all these things, as well as my medical history, after which Dr. Tiltmann performed a series of thorough physical tests. Some of these were the ones I had tried by myself, only now I was realizing I had performed most of them incorrectly. Obviously that’s why I had not been able to identify my own triggers before! With Dr. Tiltmann’s help, I now have a very clear understanding of what triggers the flare-ups, what relieves and what aggravates my pain. This entire part of the evaluation was such a great eye opener for me and my husband!
Next, I demonstrated for Dr. Tiltmann how I used to perform my exercises, and surprise-surprise, I had been doing most of the motions all wrong! No wonder I was not getting better! Having read The Back Mechanic again, after my appointment, I realized the instructions were all there, clear and written for the layperson, yet for some reason I had not properly translated them into my personal exercise routine! Not to mention, I had been trying to do too much too soon, due to my “conscious” nature, something Dr. McGill does warn his readers about. With Dr. Tiltmann’s guidance, we found the right balance for me, and I learned the proper way of performing these exercises. He was kind enough to let my husband film each routine, so I could have this resource available if ever in need for a refresher course. Aside from the main exercises, I learned how to properly sit, stand, lie down, and get up, as even in these areas my posture was seriously flawed, despite my thinking that I was always keeping a straight back in these activities.
We finished the session with Dr. Tiltmann answering my various questions about the spine, it’s anatomy, some of the myths most of us grew up believing, that are in fact detrimental to our understanding of the back and the associated chronic pain. Both my husband and I left the office extremely hopeful, re-energized, knowing I did not need surgery, and that I will indeed get better. Of course, this depends on my commitment to it, but as I have already told you I am the type that goes above and beyond when putting my mind to something, especially since this is for my husband’s and my own well-being and, ultimately, happiness. I keep mentioning my sweet husband because the truth is, my chronic back pain has been impacting him almost as much as it has me. He has been so supportive and loving all these years, that my getting healthy will equally affect him, and our marriage. He deserves this as much as I do!
A few days after the appointment, Dr. Tiltmann sent me a comprehensive report with everything we discussed during our session, impeccably organized in main sections, including the exercise routines prescribed in detail, with recommendations of when and how I could progress to the next level of endurance training. He has also indicated he’d check up on me and my progress six months after our appointment.
All these things demonstrate the highest level of professionalism, knowledge and expertise on the subject of chronic back pain, as well as compassion and understanding that I have ever encountered in my long quest for finding answers in order to get better. The fact that Dr. Tiltmann is also a very personable, fun, and easy to talk to professional is just a bonus. He possesses this great ability of explaining complicated medical jargon in laymen terms, while making his patients comfortable asking questions some might be afraid to ask on the account that they could be “stupid” or “silly” questions.
I have not stopped talking about this amazing experience to anyone who’s willing to listen to me, and would highly recommend Dr. Tiltmann and the McGill Method to any chronic back pain sufferers like myself. I have already started my journey towards a pain free life, and am already seeing results. I am once again hopeful and I feel empowered. I have no doubt that in one or two years I will be one of the “successful stories” in Dr. Tiltmann’s portfolio. I wish there would be more of him all throughout the country, as I know there are a lot of back pain sufferers out there, tired of having tried everything but this method, and feeling hopeless and helpless. Dr. Tiltmann, I will forever be grateful to you, as well as to The Back Mechanic and Dr. Stuart McGill!
Amalia of California 44-year-old female with a 15-year history of chronic, non-traumatic low back pain.