At the age of 12, Darlene Sayers of Warren was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She was also born with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. Later, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. As a result, Sayers has spent a lifetime trying to find solutions for her pain.
"For a long time, with everything I go to do, my back pain had to be considered," Sayers said. "From all the driving back and forth to doctors, I was in so much pain from sitting in the car. With back pain, you have to stand up to elevate your back or lie down. If you stand up too long, it will hurt as well. I was in pain all the time."
"During the last 10 years, we went to doctors and surgeons and checked everywhere," said Gary Sayers, Darlene's husband. "Darlene was never handicapped - she was always able to do things - but because of her back problems, she was unable to do things the way she wanted to do them."
Sayers finally found relief through Warren chiropractor Dr. John Mistretta.
"Darlene had problems for years, and they got worse," Mistretta said. "We did an evaluation on Darlene, and we found problems that we can fix. Yoga and exercise works, but if you have a structural problem that is within your body, it's important to get it treated. Structural problems can cause physiological problems, and once we were able to correct the structural problem that allows for proper functions that allow the body to heal themselves, we removed the obstruction of healing."
Sayers said she currently does activities she never thought she would accomplish before and spends time with her grandchildren.
"Dr. Mistretta even gave me exercises to do at home to move around to improve my back condition," she said. "He said to keep doing yoga, which I do at home."
According to registered yoga instructor Maureen Lauer-Gatta, yoga can benefit a back that is either tight and needs stretched or is weak and needs strengthened.
''A lot of students have come to classes because their doctor recommended yoga,'' Lauer-Gatta said. ''The first thing we ask is, what did your doctor recommend?''
Lauer-Gatta said yoga positions can meet patients where they need it because classes are individualized, enabling students to work on specific areas and at their own level. During the yoga therapy for back pain, instructors will ask students which poses help alleviate the pain.
Yoga is about balance, Lauer-Gatta said. Acute back pain can be caused by many things including whether a person sits in a slouched forward position much of the time or if they stand incorrectly, with their feet turned outward instead of straight. Any type of unnatural rotation on the spine can cause pain, she said. Using yoga to strengthen those muscles that help with support can also help with the pain, she said.
Massage therapist Mark Waldorf agrees that balance is the key.
''Ninety percent of our clients complain of either neck, shoulder or back pain,'' Waldorf said.
While massage therapy can help with soft tissue strain or sprain, it is not a cure if the cause is structural, he said. But according to Waldorf, if the cause of the pain is due to soft tissue injury, however, massage therapy can give almost instant relief.
''By loosening the muscle around the vertebrae, we can increase oxygen flow to those areas," he said.
Just as Lauer-Gatta recommended to her yoga students, all massage therapy clients are advised to see their doctor first to determine the cause of the pain, Waldorf said.
''I don't look at back pain as an age problem,'' Waldorf said. ''From the time we are born, things happen. You hurt yourself, your body heals itself, but you don't always come all the way back.''
According to Waldorf, the benefits of massage to back pain sufferers include an increased blood flow that brings needed nutrition to the injured area. This process contributes to a faster recovery time, Waldorf said. It also decreased tension in the muscles, improves flexibility and reduces tight muscle pain.
Getting relief from pain has given Darlene Sayers a new life.
"Her attitude and personality has changed since Dr. Mistretta has helped her. It's all good news now, and she is healthy and there is no pain," Gary Sayers said.
"Right now, I have no pain, especially when my grandchildren came," Darlene Sayers said. "Now, I pick them up and forget about the pain. Instead, it's all about joy."