Causes and natural solutions
Margot Mostyn, RMT
We have all experienced back pain at some point. It can start as a mild nuisance or a nagging, dull ache which develops into a sharp debilitating pain that wont go away.
We have all experienced back pain at some point. It can start as a mild nuisance or a nagging, dull ache which develops into a sharp debilitating pain that won’t go away.
Although there are several causes of back pain, the good news is, there are natural solutions that can offer incredible relief.
Why is my back hurting?
Here is a list of some of the most common causes of back pain.
Muscle strains and sprains
The most common reason for back pain is a muscle strain or sprain. A strain is an overstretched or torn muscle, whereas a sprain is an injury to the ligaments. Both injuries often lead to muscle spasms and sometimes even radiating pain into the buttocks.
Excessive exercise and heavy lifting can both lead to muscle strains, commonly experienced by physical labourers and athletes. Poor posture can lead to various muscle imbalances, which ultimately may cause muscles to tighten up and strain.
Herniated discs and other disc conditions
Another common condition leading to back pain involves disc herniations. In a nutshell, your spine is made up of vertebrae, and between each vertebra is a disc. The disc is a soft cushiony substance that allows for shock absorption of the spine.
A herniated or ruptured disc happens when the harder outer wall of the disc cracks and the inside seeps out. A herniated disc can compress a nerve in the spine; this condition is commonly known as a pinched nerve.
Degenerative disc disease, another disc condition, involves a decrease in liquid content of the disc, causing the disc to decrease in size and become harder. Disc pain is most commonly felt in the lower back and can also be experienced in the leg due to nerve pain.
A woman’s body goes through many postural and weight changes during pregnancy. The extra weight in the stomach region can cause extra stress to a woman’s back. This can lead to muscle strains and injuries to the vertebral discs.
A common condition also experienced during pregnancy is sciatica—inflammation and pressure on the sciatic nerve—which can lead to mild or extreme low back pain as well as pain and numbness into the buttocks and down the leg. Thankfully, most symptoms of sciatica disappear after childbirth.
Osteoporosis, otherwise known as thinning of the bones due to calcium loss, can cause back pain and in extreme cases may lead to fractures throughout the body. Post-menopausal women have the highest incidence due to the decrease in their oestrogen levels, a hormone important for maintaining bone strength.
Back pain, be gone!
Once you’ve solved the mystery of your back pain, you can determine how to treat it in a natural and non-invasive way in order to ease your discomfort. For starters, ice and rest are very helpful for mild muscular strains due to their ability to reduce inflammation. Here are some other helpful approaches.
Strengthening the involved muscles can also help to support the weakened area and prevent further injury. Expansive exercises such as yoga or gentle static stretches will also help loosen the tight muscular region and reduce pain.
By simply correcting your posture, you can take enormous pressure off your spine and joints. Put a dot on your hand and, whenever you look at the dot, remember to take a breath, roll your shoulders back and put your chin up. After repetitively correcting your posture, it will soon become second nature.
Most injuries to the back involve muscle tightness, muscle spasms and pain. Massage therapy treats the soft tissue of the body, helping to lengthen the muscles by decreasing their tone, thus eliminating muscle spasms and pain.
Massage therapists also treat trigger points, specific points in your muscles that refer pain elsewhere. This type of pain is often felt as a deep or dull ache; by applying pressure to the trigger point, the pain can often be eliminated.
Chiropractic is another means of dealing with back pain. Chiropractors use a wide range of techniques but are most commonly known for manually adjusting the small intervertebral joints of the spine. They often treat disc conditions, pregnancy-related pain and pain caused by misalignment in the spine.
In addition to the above approaches, there are some new helpful technologies available.
A non-surgical and non-invasive treatment for back pain, spinal decompression involves machines that are designed to slowly and intermittently stretch out the spine, with the aim of alleviating pressure on the discs and vertebrae. Spinal decompression is most commonly used in treating herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, sciatica and low back pain.
Cold laser therapy
The body is able to absorb low level laser therapy in the form of photons (light energy) and transform this energy into a more useful form known as biochemical energy. The latter form of energy is said to fuel the healing processes in damaged body tissue.
This translates into tissue regeneration and the reduction of inflammation and/or pain. Cold laser therapy (also known as low level laser therapy) is often used in the treatment of arthritis and various sports injuries, including stress fractures and back injuries.
No matter what the cause of your pain, there may well be a viable treatment out there. Look to natural solutions to get your back … back in shape.
Acupuncture for back pain
Many studies over the years have studied the effectiveness of acupuncture at relieving chronic pain. Recently, researchers have been able to show a positive outcome for patients with chronic low back pain using acupuncture.
The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (May, 2009), randomised 638 participants, each with low back pain, into four different groups. The first three groups received some form of acupuncture, while the fourth received “usual” care.
After one year, participants in the acupuncture treatment groups were more likely than those receiving “usual” care to have meaningful improvements, allowing them to perform more everyday activities.