- 5 Natural Ways To Beat Back Pain
- 5 Ways to Naturally Treat Your Pain
- Home Remedies: Treatments and therapies for back pain
- Alternative Treatments for Back Pain
- Holistic Relief for Joint, Neck & Back Pain
- Natural Remedies for Joint Pain
- 10 alternative back pain treatments to try before choosing surgery
- Herbal Remedies for Natural Pain Relief
- Natural Pain Relief: Popular Herbal Options
- Natural Pain Relief: Proceed With Caution
5 Natural Ways To Beat Back Pain
You probably don’t know it, but you and Paula Abdul have more in common than you think! You are both part of the 65 million Americans affected by back pain. The good news is 95 percent of cases involving back pain do not require surgical treatment. As we age, lower back pain becomes increasingly more and more common. Not to mention, muscle elasticity and bone strength decrease over time, leaving your back vulnerable to strain and injury.
5 Ways to Naturally Treat Your Pain
Practice yoga. Holding downward dog for five to ten seconds can help stretch your back muscles. This motion reduces pressure that can build up in the lower spine and cause pain. Remember to also tilt the pelvis under to avoid any further lower back strain. Pigeon pose is another great posture for backaches. Hip muscles can quickly become tight and shift strain to the back. Stretching out hip flexors and extensors can alleviate back pressure and pain.
Use capsaicin cream. Capsaicin is a substance found in chili peppers. When used medicinally it helps reduces the amount of substance P, a neurotransmitter that leads to pain impulses in the brain. One study showed that after 3 weeks of capsaicin use, patients had a significant reduction in pain. To use: apply topically, at least twice per day, for maximum relief. The warm sensation also allows you to stretch and move without pain.
Get some exercise. You may be tempted to stay in bed when your back acts up, but exercise and activity can actually help you heal faster and reduce pain. A study of 240 men and women found that regular exercise reduced pain by 28 percent and disability by 36 percent. Low impact, moderate intensity exercise is the safest option. Avoid movements that trigger pain or require excessive jumping or squatting, which can exacerbate injuries. Take two to three minutes at the end of your workout to stretch your back thoroughly. Lie flat on your back and hug your knees to release any tension that developed during your workout.
Try acupuncture. Research suggests that acupuncture can help reduce chronic low back pain. One recent review showed that actual acupuncture was more effective than simulated acupuncture or no treatment in reducing pain. It’s not entirely known how acupuncture regulates pain; however, one theory suggests acupuncture helps trigger the release of pain reducing chemicals in the body (like endorphins and natural opioids). Back pain is one of the most common reasons patients first try acupuncture and many find sustained relief.
Lose excess weight. As we gain weight, stress and pressure on the lower spine and back muscles increases. The heavy weight at the front of the body can cause an increased arch in the spine and may lead to injury and compression of the discs and nerves. Losing weight reduces the tendency to arch the back and relieves pressure on the lower spine and nerves.
If your back pain is persistent or excruciating, you should see your personal physician urgently.
Suffering from back pain? What helps you? Tweet me @ShilpiMD, or chat directly with me.
Home Remedies: Treatments and therapies for back pain
Most acute back pain gets better with a few weeks of home treatment. However, everyone is different, and back pain is a complex condition. For many, the pain doesn’t go away for a long period, but only a few have persistent, severe pain.
For acute back pain, over-the-counter pain relievers and the periodic use of heat might be all you need. But bed rest is not recommended. Keep moving. Continue your activities as much as you can tolerate. Certainly stop activity that increases pain, but don’t avoid activity out of fear of pain. If home treatments aren’t working after several weeks, your health care provider might suggest stronger medications or other treatments and therapies.
Depending on the type of back pain you have, your health care provider might recommend the following:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve), might relieve acute back pain. Take these medications only as directed by your health care provider. Overuse can cause serious side effects. If OTC pain relievers don’t relieve your pain, your health care provider might suggest prescription NSAIDs.
- Muscle relaxants.
If mild to moderate back pain doesn’t improve with OTC pain relievers, your health care provider might also prescribe a muscle relaxant. Muscle relaxants can make you dizzy and sleepy.
- Topical pain relievers.
These are creams, salves or ointments you rub into your skin at the site of your pain.
Drugs containing opioids, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, may be used for a short time with close supervision by your health care provider. Opioids don’t work well for chronic pain, so your prescription will usually provide less than a week’s worth of pills.
Low doses of certain types of antidepressants — particularly tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline — have been shown to relieve some types of chronic back pain independent of their effect on depression.
If other measures don’t relieve your pain, and if your pain radiates down your leg, your health care provider may inject cortisone — an anti-inflammatory medication — or numbing medication into the space around your spinal cord (epidural space). A cortisone injection helps decrease inflammation around the nerve roots, but the pain relief usually lasts less than a few months.
Physical therapy and exercise
A physical therapist can apply a variety of treatments, such as heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and muscle-release techniques, to your back muscles and soft tissues to reduce pain.
As pain improves, the therapist can teach you exercises to increase your flexibility, strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, and improve your posture. Regular use of these techniques can help keep pain from returning.
A number of alternative treatments might ease symptoms of back pain. Always discuss the benefits and risks with your health care provider before starting a new alternative therapy.
- Chiropractic care.
A chiropractor hand-manipulates your spine to ease your pain.
A practitioner of acupuncture inserts sterilized stainless steel needles into the skin at specific points on the body. Some people with low back pain report that acupuncture helps relieve their symptoms.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
A battery-powered device placed on the skin delivers electrical impulses to the painful area. Studies have shown mixed results as to TENS’ effectiveness.
If your back pain is caused by tense or overworked muscles, massage might help.
- Yoga. There are several types of yoga, a broad discipline that involves practicing specific postures or poses, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques. Yoga can stretch and strengthen muscles and improve posture, although you might need to modify some poses if they aggravate your symptoms.
This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.
Natural home remedies for back pain
Back pain often strikes when something’s amiss with the delicate column of bones, muscles, ligaments and joints that holds you up. But many other conditions, like strains, arthritis, hairline spine fractures and even kidney infections, can cause your back to throb.
What you can do – natural home remedies for back pain
Ice first, heat later.
As a pain reliever, ice works great. It temporarily blocks pain signals and helps reduce swelling. Several times a day, lay an ice pack wrapped in a towel on the painful area for up to 20 minutes.
Alternatively, you can use a bag of frozen peas or corn. During the first few days of home treatment, apply the ice pack as frequently as necessary.
Later you may still want to use ice after exercise or physical activities. After about 48 hours, switch to moist heat to stimulate blood flow and reduce painful spasms.
Dip a towel in very warm water, wring it out, then flatten and fold it. Lie on your stomach with pillows under your hips and ankles. Place the towel across the painful area, cover the towel with plastic wrap, then put a heating pad-set on medium-atop the plastic.
Leave it on for up to 20 minutes. You can repeat this three or four times a day for several days.
Perfect your posture.
Look for the posture that places the least stress on your back.
To do it, stand straight with your weight evenly balanced on both feet. Tilt your pelvis forward, then back, exaggerating the movement. Then settle into the position that feels most comfortable.
Now “work your way up” your back, focusing on one area at a time. First concentrate on the area near your waist, then your chest area, and finally your neck and shoulders. Try to feel which position is least stressful and most comfortable. This is the position to maintain when you’re standing, walking, and beginning or ending any exercise.
Rise and shine.
Each morning before you get out of bed, lie on your back and slowly stretch your arms overhead. Gently pull your knees to your chest, one at a time.
To rise, roll to the edge of your bed, turn on your side, put your knees over the edge, and use one arm to push yourself up as you let your feet swing to the floor.
Once you’re on your feet, put your hands on your buttocks and lean back very slowly to stretch out your spine.
Rub in some relief. Ask a partner to massage the aching area.
If you want to use a “back rub” cream or ointment, go ahead, but use caution, as most topical creams produce skin irritation after a few applications.
For a simple back-massage aid, stuff several tennis balls into a long sock, tie the end of the sock, and have your partner roll it over your back.
A natural boost
Pick a pepper product.
Your drugstore carries liniments that contain capsaicin, the heat-producing substance in hot peppers.
Applied to your skin, capsaicin depletes nerve endings of a neurochemical called substance P. Researchers have found that substance P is essential for transmitting pain sensations to the brain, so when there’s less substance P in circulation, the pain meter is turned down a bit.
Look for a cream or ointment containing 0.075 per cent or 0.025 per cent capsaicin. And be patient: You may have to use it for several weeks to feel the full effect. Stop using it if you begin to feel any skin irritation.
Other natural home remedies for back pain options
Three or four times a day, take 500 milligrams of bromelain.
Derived from pineapples, this enzyme promotes circulation, reduces swelling, and helps your body reabsorb the by-products of inflammation. Look for a strength between 1,200 and 2,400 MCU (milk-clotting units) or 720 and 1,440 GDU (gelatin-dissolving units).
Wait for at least an hour after each meal before taking the bromelain, or it will work mainly in your gut instead of your muscles.
Try taking one 250-milligram capsule of valerian four times a day. Some scientists claim that this herb’s active ingredient interacts with receptors in the brain to cause a sedating effect. Although sedatives are not generally recommended, valerian is much milder than any pharmaceutical product. (Valerian can also be made into a tea, but the smell is so strong-resembling overused gym socks-that capsules are vastly preferable.)
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Alternative Treatments for Back Pain
If you have back pain, you have many treatment options to choose from, including alternative therapies like acupuncture, herbs, or massage. These options are called “alternative” because they’re an alternative to “traditional” or mainstream medicine, which generally means medications, injections, and surgery.
Acupuncture uses very fine needles, and practitioners insert them into precise points in your body’s meridians—exactly where is determined by your symptoms.Many patients have reported that alternative treatments have helped relieve their back pain. You may want to try:
Acupuncture or Acupressure
These alternative treatments were developed in China. Practitioners believe that you have an energy force called Chi (it can also be spelled Qi, but both forms are pronounced “chee”). When this force is blocked, you can develop physical illness, such as back pain. Therefore, you need to free up your body’s Chi channels, which practitioners call your meridians. Acupuncture and acupressure work to restore a healthy, energetic flow of Chi.
Acupuncture uses very fine needles, and practitioners insert them into precise points in your body’s meridians—exactly where is determined by your symptoms. The needles, which contain no medication, are left in for 20 to 40 minutes. Research has shown that the presence of the needles causes your body to release certain neurochemicals, such as endorphins, that may help in the healing process.
Acupressure works along the same principles as acupuncture, except practitioners use their thumbs, fingers, and elbows to target the specific Chi points.
Before trying any herbal remedies, do your research and talk to your doctor. There may be side effects that you’re unaware of—an herbal remedy could interfere with a prescribed medicine, for example.
Some herbal remedies you may want to consider for back pain are:
- Capsaicin cream: Capsaicin is what makes chili peppers hot, and it may also help relieve your pain. It only temporarily reduces your pain, though, so you’ll need to keep re-applying this topical cream, possibly as often as 4 to 5 times a day. It may take several weeks for you to feel significant pain relief from capsaicin cream, so don’t give up if it doesn’t work right away.
- Devil’s claw: Devil’s claw comes from southern Africa, where it has been used for centuries to treat fever, arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems. It works as an anti-inflammatory. Today, it’s used for conditions that cause inflammation and pain, like spinal osteoarthritis (spondylosis). You can take it in a capsule.
- White willow bark: The white willow led to the development of aspirin in Europe. If you don’t want to take the synthetic version (aspirin can irritate the stomach), use white willow bark. Like devil’s claw, it’s for conditions that cause pain or inflammation. It also may help relieve acute back pain.
A 2017 study showed that massage therapy may be an effective non-surgical option for low back pain. (You can read more in Massage a Real Deal Option for Chronic Low Back Pain.) Considering that many cases of back pain are caused by muscle strain and overuse, it’s wonderful news that massage is a worthwhile treatment option. A massage can help release muscle tension and relieve muscle inflammation and pain.
Holistic Relief for Joint, Neck & Back Pain
The back, neck, and other joints are common sites for both acute and chronic pain.
Arthritis, mechanical problems, injury, osteoporosis, and repetitive stress can cause chronic pain in these areas.
Osteoarthritis usually hurts more in the morning when weight-bearing joints are stiff from not being used.
Osteoporosis, most frequently found in postmenopausal women, is thinning or weakening of bone. It’s caused by deficiency or poor absorption of bone-building nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D.
Natural Remedies for Joint Pain
“There are many beneficial treatments for chronic back, neck, and joint pain,” says Anne Meyer, MD, who specializes in rehabilitation medicine in West Los Angeles. “First and foremost is obtaining the correct diagnosis.”
While most people with back and neck pain tend to turn to chiropractors, other integrative physicians (including naturopaths and osteopaths) can also be useful in determining the cause and treating it holistically.
Back pain is often linked to inadequate hydration, so drink plenty of water. Avoid sugary, refined foods and be sure to consume anti-inflammatory omega-3-rich fats.
Supplements play an important role too.
Nutritionist Gary Null, PhD, recommends magnesium salts for lower back and joint aches, as well as amino acids. DL-phenylalanine, for example, helps reduce chronic pain and may allow the sufferer to give up analgesic drugs.
Glucosamine sulfate supports joint health, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) fights inflammation.
S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) reduces joint pain and inflammation, while superoxide dismutase (SOD) fights damage from free radicals.
The cetylated fatty acid Celadrin relieves pain and improves joint performance, according to research at the University of Connecticut.
And a multimineral formula from seaweed (Aquamin) appears to significantly reduce pain and stiffness, while allowing study volunteers to walk faster and longer.
Taken between meals, the enzyme bromelain is also useful. “Enzyme therapy has been used to treat arthritis for many years,” explains Tom Bohager, author of Everything You Need to Know About Enzymes. These supplements may also “improve circulation, support tissue repair, and improve nutrient absorption.”
Don’t forget herbs.
Andrographis (A. paniculata) relieves pain and swelling with rheumatoid arthritis. Research also finds white willow (Salix alba) bark and cayenne (Capsicum frutescens) useful for low back pain.
Consider anti-inflammatory botanicals like boswellia, ginger, nettle, and turmeric as well.
Other Integrative Approaches
For acute pain resulting from trauma, Dr. Meyer recommends Arnica, which “is a wonderful homeopathic medication that treats swelling, bruising, and pain,” either taken under the tongue in pellets or applied topically.
Rhus toxicodendron is a helpful homeopathic remedy for joint pain that is improved by motion and worsened by rest and humidity, she adds. Other useful homeopathic remedies include Natrum sulph for injury or trauma to the area where the spine meets the lower part of the skull and Magnesia phos for back spasms after heavy lifting or straining the back.
Jack Stern, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon and expert on back pain, cites beneficial research results for acupuncture.
As reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, acupuncture is effective for low back pain after eight weeks of treatment. “Many of my patients benefit from yoga, Pilates, and the Feldenkrais method,” the latter of which aims to structurally alter the body through awareness of movement and functional integration techniques that lead to more fluid (and less painful) motion.
“There are many chronic back pain sufferers who do so because of poor body mechanics. I think of this as repetitive stress syndrome of the back,” he explains.
Dr. Stern also recommends the Alexander technique (using touch to relearn the correct relationship of head, neck, and back for improved balance, movement, and posture) as particularly useful.
“Chiropractic is effective in dealing with pain and as a preventive treatment because it relieves nerve pressure,” notes Dr. Null. “If one vertebra is out of relationship to the one next to it, a state of disrelationship is said to exist. This disrelationship throws off that vertebra’s environment,” the blood supply and detoxifying lymphatic drainage surrounding it, bringing the body out of balance.
“Magnets can help with shoulder pain, pain in the rotator cuff, and aches in the lumbar region of the back,” he adds.
Easy to use and widely available, magnets are currently being investigated in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial for rheumatoid arthritis.
Stress management is critical, both in preventing and relieving pain (especially when it’s chronic). Try deep breathing, meditation, relaxation, and visualization techniques. Not only can these therapies help relieve stress but they also encourage good sleep habits.
If pain interferes with sleep, Dr. Null recommends valerian, hops, skullcap, or passionflower, taken a half hour before bedtime.
Simple Lifestyle Changes
Regular exercise strengthens muscles that support bones and joints.
“The key elements in the rehabilitation of a patient with benign chronic back pain are weight loss and core strengthening,” says Dr. Stern.
In addition to regular stretches, try aerobic and strengthening workouts that enhance proper functioning of the neck, back, and joints. To prevent back pain, don’t sleep on your stomach and be sure your mattress is firm enough to support you.
To maintain a healthy weight, substitute antioxidant-rich and high-fiber foods for refined and sugary ones. Also consider green and white tea extracts as well as adaptogens like ginseng (Panax ginseng) for added support.
10 alternative back pain treatments to try before choosing surgery
4. Consider acupuncture
Acupuncture is a technique in which tiny needles are inserted into the body to stimulate specific points, or energy channels, and is thought by some patients and doctors to relieve back pain.
Although there isn’t enough information yet to recommend clinical practice guidelines, acupuncture is worth a try. Some studies, such as a 2013 meta-analysis in the journal Spine, suggest that acupuncture might be an effective therapy for certain types of back pain.
5. Ask your doctor about biofeedback
In recent years, biofeedback – a type of mind-body technique that uses electrical sensors to help you make subtle changes in your body – has grown in popularity as an effective way to manage back pain. A February 2017 meta-analysis suggested that biofeedback could reduce the intensity of back pain and muscle tension, both as a standalone treatment and when combined with other treatments.
6. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness and meditation are well-known therapies to relieve stress and anxiety. However, some research suggests mindfulness might reduce the intensity of low back pain and improve back function in the short term.
7. Skip the stilettos
High-heeled sandals, pumps, and stilettos might be fashionable but can push the lower back, spine, and hips out of alignment, which leads to muscle overuse and back pain. Even shoes with platform or block heels can be bad for your back over time.
If you’re not willing to part with your shoes, try to avoid wearing them for long periods of time. You could also choose lower heels, avoid pointy toed-shoes that squish the feet into an awkward position, and use gel or padded inserts to reduce the impact on your hips and spine.
8. Practice yoga
Regardless of the type and severity of your back pain, yoga can significantly reduce your symptoms. Some patients are able to avoid pain medication and surgery altogether. According to a July 2017 study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, patients with chronic back pain were less likely to take pain medication after participating in a 12-week yoga practice, which in this study was comparable to the results of patients who participated in physical therapy.
9. Move more
You might be tempted to take a break from all physical activity when your back hurts, but doing so actually can make the pain worse. For many patients, a personalized combination of strength training exercises focused on the core (the abdominal and back muscles), flexibility exercises, and aerobic activity can effectively prevent and control chronic back pain:
- Core strength exercises can provide additional support to the lower back, improving posture and reducing strain on the spine.
- Flexibility of the muscles and ligaments in the back increases your range of motion and improves back function.
- Aerobic exercise can increase blood flow and nutrients to the tissues in the back, speeding up healing and reducing stiffness that can lead to back pain.
10. Quit smoking
Surprised? Smoking inhibits blood flow and prevents tissue throughout the body from getting oxygen and nutrients, which can cause the spine and back muscles to weaken. The result: chronic back pain.
When you’re ready to quit smoking, talk to your doctor about tools to quit, such as prescription medications or nicotine gum or patches. Also, consider a nicotine cessation program, which, in combination with medication, has been shown to help patients quit tobacco for good.
When it comes to treating back pain, surgery should be reserved only for patients with severe conditions or when more natural treatments don’t work. For the majority of patients, lifestyle changes and alternative therapies can help keep back pain at bay over the long term.
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Herbal Remedies for Natural Pain Relief
Pharmaceutical drugs may not be your only path to pain relief. Natural pain treatments — like herbal medicine, in which parts of a plant are used medicinally to treat health problems — is an increasingly popular way to manage pain as well.
Though research on herbal remedies is still in its early phases, many herbs are thought to provide pain management and decrease inflammation. However, it’s important to exercise caution.
“Herbals or other nutraceuticals that may help in some way — as well as those which may not actually help — do almost universally have the potential to harm through unwanted side effects, allergic reactions, and undesirable interactions with other substances and medicines,” says Sam Moon, MD, MPH, associate director of education at Duke Integrative Medicine, a division of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. “Relative safety must be very carefully balanced against likely effectiveness.”
Natural Pain Relief: Popular Herbal Options
Here are some common herbal remedies used for natural pain relief:
- Capsaicin. Derived from hot chile peppers, topical capsaicin may be useful for some people in relieving pain. “Capsaicin works by depleting substance P, a compound that conveys the pain sensation from the peripheral to the central nervous system. It takes a couple of days for this to occur,” says David Kiefer, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
- Ginger. Though more studies are needed, says Dr. Kiefer, ginger extract may help with joint and muscle pain because it contains phytochemicals, which help stop inflammation. Few side effects have been linked to ginger when taken in small doses.
- Feverfew. Feverfew has been used for centuries to treat headaches, stomachaches, and toothaches. Nowadays it’s also used for migraines and rheumatoid arthritis. More studies are required to confirm whether feverfew is actually effective, but the herb may be worth trying since it hasn’t been associated with serious side effects. Mild side effects include canker sores and irritation of the tongue and lips. Pregnant women should avoid this remedy.
- Turmeric. This spice has been used to relieve arthritis pain and heartburn, and to reduce inflammation. It’s unclear how turmeric works against pain or inflammation, but its activity may be due to a chemical called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is usually safe to use, but high doses or long-term use may cause indigestion. Also, people with gallbladder disease should avoid using turmeric.
- Devil’s Claw. There is some scientific evidence that this South African herb may be effective in managing arthritis and lower back pain, but more research is needed. Side effects are very rare if taken at a therapeutic dose for the short term, but it’s not advised for pregnant women and those with gallstones or stomach or intestinal ulcers.
Natural Pain Relief: Proceed With Caution
There are many other herbal remedies for natural pain relief, such as boswellia and willow bark. The American Pain Foundation also lists these herbs for pain management:
- Ginseng for fibromyalgia
- Kava Kava for tension headaches and neuropathic pain
- St. John’s Wort for sciatica, arthritis, and neuropathic pain
- Valerian root for spasms and muscle cramps
Since herbal therapies for pain management have yet to be thoroughly studied, be careful when embarking on this treatment path. Regardless of the herb you try, remember that they’re not benign. Research into their safety and efficacy is still limited, and the government doesn’t regulate herbal products for quality. The best course is to talk to a health-care professional before testing out a herbal remedy.