He exercised away his pain

Photo: ST

Retiree William Gan, 69, used to suffer from back pain as well as numbness and pain in the left leg.

These problems surfaced about 18 years ago and he bore with the pain.

However, it got worse with time.

The pain he suffered in his left leg at night would spread to the other leg and he sometimes could not sleep.

Once, it was so bad he had to ask a doctor to make a house call and give him an injection.

At one point, the numbness in his left leg would hit him so often that he would have to rest two or three times by the road while making the five-minute walk from his house to the bus stop.

His wife kept asking him to seek help for his degenerative disc disease, which results in back pain from natural wear and tear on the spinal column and spinal disc.

Three years later, he did. The orthopaedic surgeon he saw recommended surgery but warned that it could leave him wheelchair-bound.

"My daughter was just three then. I couldn't take the risk, so I said no," Mr Gan told Mind & Body.

"I asked to be referred to the pain clinic instead. The doctor gave me a muscle-relaxant jab. I thought I had found an angel but she wouldn't give me another one after the effect wore off."

He then saw a physiotherapist and did stretching exercises, which gave him temporary relief.

Things changed about 15 years ago when he sought help at Changi General Hospital.

Dr Ng Chung Sien, now the programme director of Exercise is Medicine Singapore, gave him an exercise prescription and sent him to the physiotherapist.

"Apart from stretching, I did core strengthening exercises and, within six months, I could feel the difference. I had less pain," said Mr Gan, who wore a back brace when he did the exercises.

"I was very interested and I went back to the doctor to ask a lot of questions. I continued with the exercises and was cured within two years."

The core strengthening exercises, such as planks, that Dr Ng prescribed helped Mr Gan build his core muscles to take the load off his injured lower back.

Today, he continues to do these exercises, as well as jog and brisk walk regularly.

This article was first published on July 7, 2015.
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