The back story of pain

Updated: Feb 25, 2020, 17:58 IST | Ela Das | Mumbai

Through his memoir, Carlo Pizzati takes us on a journey across the globe to find the root cause of a everyday problem

Carlo Pizzati (Picture Courtesy/ Mia Murgese Mastroianni)
Carlo Pizzati (Picture Courtesy/ Mia Murgese Mastroianni)

"I was going through a professional, personal and existential middle-age crisis," laments Italian author Carlo Pizzati, who recently penned his sort-of autobiography on living with chronic back pain—a condition many of us suffer from but have reconciled living with. "But, I soon realised," he says, "The most urgent matter at hand was the need to solve my backache problems. Traditional medicine was not giving me the desired results, so I gave alternative cures a try while trying to stay as rational as possible."

His symptoms included a sharp pain in his upper and lower back caused by a combination of scoliosis, lordosis, and spondylosis. Over time, a habitual bad posture worsened, leading to pinched nerves and sciatica. "While working through a complex and painful separation from the mother of my child, I was also spending most of my time writing a screenplay and a novel, which exacerbated the pain [as he was seated for long hours]."

Soon, in 2007, he decided to embark upon a journey of self-discovery to transform his life, and, maybe even cure his ailments, which he started to document in his newly released novel Bending Over Backwards. "While this book is a journey to the end of the world to cure a chronic backache, it is also about discovering something essential and spiritual, while looking for the solution to something very physical. It is, ultimately, about being able to give up everything you hold dear or certain in life in order to bring about a necessary change. It is the story of travel which brings about a certain degree of transformation."

Through his travels, Pizzati visited several continents, befriending healers, doctors, and spiritual guides along the way. He also came across several medical and spiritual texts, along with philosophical scripts and travel journals, such as History of Mental Symptoms, Travel Diary of a Philosopher, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Vasishta.

"The entire point of the book is to accompany the reader through the experience of the search, and how solutions are often very personal. One of the things this book tries to say is that everything takes time; and it takes finding time, in order to discover solutions," he advises.

Now, his house on a beach near a fishermen village in Tamil Nadu is what he calls home. "My new lifestyle comprises long walks, and sometimes runs, early morning and before sunset to live a healthier, pain-free life. Like everyone else, the rest of the time I'm working - which involves a lot of writing - reading, cooking, watching movies and contemplating nature. I still travel a lot, and airplanes, cars, and buses do not help with the pain," he sighs, adding "Anyone who spends a lot of time typing in front of a screen, too, is easily vulnerable to these types of issues. So, that's most of us in modern society!"

While he still works around living a pain-free life, he adopts a more realistic philosophy these days. "At a certain age, it is more honest to talk about pain management than being truly free of all pain. I learned a very good meditation technique and also practice Ashtanga Yoga, which I learned from Sri Patthabi Jois in Mysore. Regular exercise and stretching is a must. I also try to be careful about what I put in my stomach, but I have a hard time resisting chocolate."

Five ways to avoid back problems

  • There are no shortcuts. A healthy, active life is a must.
  • Examine your life and root out your bad habits.
  • Find a fitness coach or teacher who you know is trusted by people you trust.
  • Rediscover the importance of self-discipline to enforce new and healthier habits.
  • Remember to always breathe and be calm. And pull up your collar bone below your throat—it’ll straighten your spine.

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