Oh, my aching back!
If you have ever experienced back pain, you know that it can be sudden (acute) or it can be long-term (chronic). Either way, you also know how limiting it can be, and how significantly back pain can affect your life. You aren’t alone—about 80% of people experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Back pain affects both men and women, but takes more of a toll as we age. Many people are in search of pain relieving treatments that may help their symptoms without the need for harsh medication or negative side effects. Continue reading to learn more about what causes people to experience discomfort in their back, and the best natural remedies for back pain.
Back pain is one of the most common reasons people schedule doctor visits or stay home from work. It can be caused by two main problems—either muscle/ligament strain or some form of damage to the bones of the spinal column.
Lifting heavy objects with your back, or sometimes even bending over, can create unexpected muscle tension that leads to back pain. To avoid muscle strain, make sure you stretch out your back before exercising and avoid heavy lifting. Additionally, stress is often the root cause of back pain as it can cause muscle spasms. For this reason, it’s important to find time to relax and give your back a break.
This can include bulging or ruptured discs, which are found between the vertebrae on the spine and act as cushions between the bones. The material in the disc can bulge outward (herniation) and can rupture or tear. This can press on nerves and cause pain.
Back pain can also be caused by conditions like osteoarthritis or ankylosing spondylitis that affect the spinal column. Osteoporosis is a common culprit of chronic low back pain that causes the bones to become brittle and weak, and the spine can develop compression fractures.
Other conditions like scoliosis and sacroiliac joint dysfunction are also known to put pressure on the back, which can create painful side effects at times.
To facilitate effective pain management, here are a few relatively easy and safe treatments for back pain.
If you’ve succumbed to a back injury, most physical therapy specialists suggest that you apply an ice pack for at least 20 to 30 minutes as soon as possible. The cold temperature reduces swelling and inflammation for immediate relief. After the initial injury, it often depends on what feels best for you. You can keep applying a cold pack for 20 minutes at a time, while leaving about one hour in between each application. Since the cold ice decreases blood flow, you need to allow some time in between ice pack applications. If the cold therapy does not appear to help, switch to a a heating pad and leave on for the same time frame (20-30 minutes).
For some people, alternating a cold pack with a heating pad (contrast therapy) brings the greatest relief. Heat promotes muscle relaxation and can be very useful for relieving pain from muscle spasms. Start with the cold pack, let your back rest for 1 hour or so and then apply either a heat pack or a heating pad. Heat increases blood flow, which in turn increases nutrient flow. The increased blood flow and nutrients are needed for healing. It may also be useful to apply heat by taking a hot bath to find relief.
While it may be difficult to exercise when suffering with back pain, it can also be beneficial. Start small with a slow walk around the house or outdoors, and make certain not to overdo it. Even a brief walk can loosen tight joints and reduce the risk of your back becoming too stiff from minimal movement.
Easy-going and light stretching can also help relieve low back pain. These are primarily yoga poses which have been shown to relieve low back pain. Here are some stretches that can help treat back pain:
There are several different types of natural pain relief creams, gels, lotions, and patches available that may be helpful to relieve back pain, such as:
Chiropractic care can improve both pain and function in those with acute back pain. Chiropractic therapies are very popular, but have struggled to gain acceptance by mainstream medicine due to a lack of supporting evidence. This, however, is changing and is evident in the number of studies showing that spinal manipulation can help treat and prevent back pain.
Stress affects many of us more that we realize, and it can manifest its negative effects in many often-unsuspected ways—one of those ways includes back pain.
Back pain has many causes, but there are ways that you can help prevent it. These additional tips can help you avoid back strain and discomfort:
Whether you’re suffering with an acute injury or a chronic condition, these natural remedies for back pain are great alternative options to try. You can also talk to your doctor about these therapies and determine which home remedies may be the right choice for you.