'I was on my hands and knees in spasm'
David Butler from Ballyadams House, Athy, Co Kildare, made the decision almost 10 years ago to leave suckler farming at the age of 55, having suffered with a bad back for several years.
He blames general wear and tear, as well as heavy lifting for his sciatica.
"Suckler farming was heavy going," he explains. "Dosing cattle, calving cows and castrating bullocks -- it all took its toll on my back."
Despite regular trips to the chiropractor and other physical therapists, David was spending several weeks of each year in pain.
"I would completely lock up with muscle spasms, even when I was doing something as simple as getting out of the tractor to open a gate," he explains. "I remember one time I ended up on my hands and knees on the ground, stuck there with my back in spasm.
"I eventually had to crawl back to the tractor and drive home," he recalls.
Bouts of severe sciatica could last weeks at a time, although David still considers himself lucky.
"I have what plenty of farmers would have, years ago, it used to be known as chronic lumbago," he says. "But thankfully I've never needed to have an operation."
David then decided to moved into forestry.
"It was a bit like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire," he laughs. "I helped contractors plant over 5,000 trees by hand."
Today, the farmer urges others suffering from back pain to see a professional.
"Go to a chiropractor, osteopath, physical therapist or a sports injury specialist, anyone who can help," he advises.
The Kildare man credits his current regime of long walks and hill walking with keeping his back pain at bay.
"I find hill-walking brilliant because it stretches all those muscles," he says. "When my back is bad, I could walk 10 miles to relieve it."
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