Back pain is a common problem that affects almost 10 percent of the world’s population at some point in their lives. Americans spend around $50 billion annually on treating back pain. Acute back pain gets resolved on its own with self-care. Chronic back pain, on the other hand, can be a real problem because it can last for more than 12 weeks.
Back pains are usually mechanical in nature and happen due to the daily wear and tear of the spine. The most common causes of back pain are age-related, accidents or heavy lifting. Acute pain is usually caused by sprains and strains. Ligaments and tendons get overstretched due to improper lifting. Intervertebral disintegration is another common cause, which occurs with age as the discs lose their integrity. Sometimes spinal column narrows down and puts pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves, causing extreme lower back pain.
These are some of the common causes. Multiple others may lead to back pain. If you are experiencing back pain, it is better to consult a doctor first in order to make sure that there isn’t any serious issue. A doctor will usually conduct an X-ray, ultrasound or bone scan to get to the root cause. Surgery is usually done in case of extreme damage, where there is evidence of nerve ruptures.
If you are suffering from acute pain, then you can adopt these natural measures to find relief from back pain:
1. Keep a tab on your weight
Although it has not been established yet with concrete evidence that extra weight is a cause of back problems, obesity does increase the chances of back pain. According to Dr Andre Panagos, physiatrist and director of Spine and Sports Medicine in New York, “Every single patient in my clinic who loses a significant amount of weight finds their pain to be vastly improved.”
The question is how much weight you need to lose in order to maintain a healthy back. Experts recommend 10 pounds of your ideal weight is needed to keep back pain-free.
However, losing weight with back pain can be a daunting task. Hence, your first line of action should be to control it through diet; try to eat as much healthy food as possible. Switch to smaller portions if you can not completely avoid your favorite foods.
As for the exercises, you need to be extremely careful so that you don’t worsen it. Avoid toe, touches leg lifts and sit-ups. Try to do partial crunches or wall sits. Hamstring stretches can be quite effective. They do not take much time or effort and can be easily done. Mild discomfort is normal, however, stop if the intensity increases
2. Ice Massage
Ice massage is perhaps the most underappreciated measure for back pain treatment. Especially in case of injuries, ice massage can provide instant relief. Ice immediately reduces inflammation, and most injuries are associated with swelling. Moreover, it reduces tissue damage and slows down the nerve impulses in surrounding areas, which reduces the pain.
Once the effect of ice therapy is over, our bodies overcompensate by dilating. The rushing blood brings nutrients, which helps in healing the tissues and muscles.
For effective results, avoid using ice directly on the bony areas of the spine. Also, limit the therapy to only five minutes. With ice massages, your objective is to numb the area without burning the skin. The numbness allows for minimal activity.
Medicines are ideal when you have extreme pain that cannot go away with natural remedies. You can take muscle relaxants. Muscle relaxants depress the central nervous system and relax the tense muscles. Narcotics medicines are another alternative. Narcotic medicines are basically pain killers that reduce the pain signals sent to the brain. However, they have a drawback because they have a lot of side effects, and they are usually addictive.
4. Physical therapy
Doctors often recommend physical therapy if the pain lasts between one and six weeks. Physical therapy has two forms: passive therapy to manage pain and active exercises. Passive therapies include manual therapy, electrical stimulation including the TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units, dry needling, cupping or ultrasound.
The thing with therapy is that it affects people differently; what might work for one person may not be effective for another. For example, TENS therapy is also not safe for everyone. Doctors usually don’t recommend it for people who have pacemakers or pregnant women.
For some patients, back braces can also help in reducing pain. Wearing back brace daily along with physical therapy can speed up the healing process.
5. Homeopathic treatment
The first instinct to treat any kind of pain is to opt for over-the-counter medicine. However, OTC medicines come with a lot of side effects and hence homeopathic treatment is effective. There are various homeopathic medicines available for back pain such as Arnica, Benzoicum and Rhus. Arnica is known for relieving joint and muscle soreness. There is little evidence to support that Arnica completely cures back pain. However, since it does not have a lot of side effects, it is safe to use.
6. Wear the right shoes
Shoes play an important role in back pain. When you wear shoes that are tight or do not offer the right support, it can contribute to back pain. High heels hurt body’s alignment. Wearing flat shoes can also be harmful to your back. Hence, wear the right shoes that fit is very important. There are products such as Defender Ops in the market that are specifically made for patients suffering from various ailments, including back pain. In the worst case scenario, you can shift to those.
Try to deal with back pain as soon as possible because ignoring it would only make matters worse. Sometimes we think it would go away with resting, but it is better if you check with your doctor for any unusual causes.
About Alycia Gordan
Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia