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Back pain: how a life-changing work injury led flight attendant to search for alternative relief – from EFT tapping and Pilates to yoga


She also battled suicidal thoughts. “The cocktail of medicine I was taking led to weight gain, depression and worries about whether I would ever get better.”

Sujal Mahbubani with her family. Photo: courtesy of Sujal Mahbubani

She was desperate to get back in the air but could only fulfil a ground job as part of her rehabilitation.

“Sitting on a bus to and from work, and going to physio, led to more pain,” she says. “My hips and pelvis wouldn’t stay in place and the slightest jerk, or sitting on hard surfaces, caused pain and misalignment.”

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Mahbubani took up Pilates to strengthen her core and keep the skeletal system in alignment. She also underwent trigger point surgery, in which steroids were pumped into her spine.

“I can’t remember how many I did,” she recalls. “I felt better for a short time but the pain always returned.”

She rejected hip surgery – “they wanted to put screws inside to stabilise me” – worried about the side effects and the impact of more painkillers.

Maintaining a sense of humour helped her through some of the tough times.

“There were days when I couldn’t lift myself up from the toilet seat … I mean, you just have to laugh.”

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But chronic pain is no laughing matter – and gauging it is difficult. You can rate it from one to 10, or point to a smiley or grimacing face, to show where you’re at on the pain scale.

To put Mahbubani’s pain level into perspective, when she was having Esha, her second child, born in 2002 against doctors’ advice, she spent a whole day in labour and didn’t even know it. She had a three-year old daughter, Riyah, at the time of the accident.

“I didn’t take painkillers during the pregnancy, and was bedridden for most of it, so when I went into labour it was just a bit more pain than what I was already experiencing at a base level. … the doctors were shocked that I was in labour for a day without realising it.”

Mahbubani’s relationship with painkillers – including a prescribed opioid – was her biggest concern: she was desperate to wean herself off them.

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She felt like she had no control over her life, something that was exacerbated in 2004 when she was let go from her job and had her retirement benefits taken away.

“There was no balance in my life,” she says. “I was not able to give time to my children, as I was constantly trying to get my life back.

“When I ask my grown-up children today about that time, they tell me that I just wasn’t there, that I wasn’t present.”

Her first big step to a more holistic approach to managing her pain came when a friend Preeti recommended emotional freedom technique (EFT) to help with withdrawal symptoms.
A therapeutic tool combining elements from ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology, EFT has been known to help relieve stress, diminish cravings – even relieve symptoms of PTSD.

I focused on energy healing techniques to help support my life – my new normal – and to help others who, like me, have so many issues

Sujal Mahbubani

“The basic technique requires you to focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything that’s bothering you,” she says.

“While maintaining your mental focus on this issue, use your fingertips to tap five to seven times each on nine of the body’s meridian points.

“I made slow progress and along the way, around 2007, became an EFT practitioner as I found some strength to slowly let go of all my medications without any withdrawal symptoms.”

She joined a yoga class and, after speaking with her instructor, signed up for a teachers course from 2005-2008.

“I was upfront in letting the teacher know all my issues.”

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She completed the course but it wasn’t easy. She recalls one training session when a hands-on movement assistance from an instructor resulted in a month’s bed rest.

But one thing gleaned from Mahbubani’s story is that she never gives up. “It took me two years to finish the one-year teaching course.”

It didn’t stop there. “My older child kept getting allergies, so I studied yoga for kids so I could help heal my child in a more holistic way instead of [using] drugs. That created havoc in my body.”
She took up pranayama (yogic breathing techniques) and kundalini yoga to build physical vitality and increase consciousness, and started teaching yoga to children in schools, as well as giving private yoga classes for adults and children with medical issues.
She also took a deep dive into other energy healing techniques such as the Yuen method – a principle applied to eliminate the root cause of imbalances in our energies – and havening, an alternative therapy that uses touch, eye movements, and distractions to mitigate feelings of stress, unease, and anxiety.

“I focused on energy healing techniques to help support my life – my new normal – and to help others who, like me, have so many issues.”

At the United Services Recreation Club in Jordan, Kowloon, where Mahbubani leads yoga sessions, she pulls out her phone and shows a photo taken a few weeks ago of a rare night out with girlfriends.

Skyscrapers sparkle in the background, but it is Mahbubani’s red heels that steal the show. More than a fashion accessory, they symbolise the huge steps she has made in her pain journey.

“I used to love wearing heels, but after the accident I thought there was no way I was going to be able to wear them again because of how much pain I was in … so yes, this photo says a lot.”
Sujal Mahbubani (far right) with friends in Hong Kong in 2023. Her red heels are much more than a fashion accessory: they symbolise just how far she has come in her pain journey. Photo courtesy of Sujal Mahbubani

Never give up is her inspiring message.

“Even though I struggle with a thyroid condition, inflammation in my back, and hip pain, as well as sleep issues, my message is [to] read this story and know that transformation is possible,” she says.

“Internal transformation is your choice and it requires commitment to your healing and discipline with your practice.

“Sometimes there is no balance if your journey is painful, but don’t give up on your own healing.”

And, she adds, don’t give anyone the power to dictate what you can or can’t do.

“Do what you can to feel better even if it’s just for a few hours,” she says.

“With consistent practice and discipline, your healing transformation is just a few steps away … there is hope.”

Article was originally published from here

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