Back pain is a problem that plagues modern-day society. 31 million Americans suffer from low-back pain at any given time. A UK study in 2010 found that back pain was the cause of more disability than any other condition.
Clearly, back pain is a major issue that can have detrimental effects on your quality of life.
Your back is involved in almost every movement you make and there are very few physical activities that are comfortable if you suffer from back pain.
The impact it has on life is so great, surgery is often turned to get rid of it. The problem is that surgery doesn’t always work, can be extremely painful and risky when your back is involved.
Luckily, there are other methods available to test, before turning to surgery, and this article has the best of them. So, if you want to find some relief from back pain and get your life back, here is our list of 10 back pain remedies for you to try.
1. Keep active
Resting after a back injury is often recommended and it seems to make sense if you want to let your body recover without causing any further injury.
However, It has been shown that complete rest for back pain is not the most effective method .
The research seems to suggest that returning to the normal movement as soon as possible leads to faster pain relief. There is also evidence to show that keeping more active with a back injury reduces the risk of it becoming a chronic problem .
Moving an injured muscle increases the blood flow to the area, which can help the healing process. Recovery is boosted by supplying oxygen and nutrient rich blood as well as helping to flush toxins away from the area.
Muscles and joints that aren’t moved tend to become stiff and weak, which could lead to further problems.
As well as stiff and weak muscles, the discs in between the vertebrae in your spine need to be moved to stay healthy and hydrated so they can protect your spine. Lack of intervertebral disc movement could cause them to lose nutrients and “dry out”.
2. Strengthen the surrounding muscles
Many times, the cause of a back injury can be connected to a weakness in the muscles that are supposed to support the back.
One way to help treat back pain and reduce the likelihood of a recurrence in the future is to strengthen those supportive muscles.
A strength routine should be performed regularly and consistently if you want to see the benefits.
The muscles to put most of your focus into are your core muscles.
Many people think that the core is just represented by the abdominal muscles. This isn’t the case. The core is also made up of the muscles of your lower back, hips, and glutes.
All of which should be strengthened in an effort to keep your back safe from harm.
Strength program recommendations should be made on an individual basis, depending on your specific injury and pain level. We can only give a guideline on the exercises that may be useful to strengthen the important areas.
Examples of some good exercises to perform include planks, side planks, Pallof presses, glute bridges, back extensions, and dead bugs.
If you are in severe pain, you may have to rest until such strengthening exercises become bearable. From there, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity as your back heals.
There is likely to be some discomfort but the pain should never be sharp, stabbing or made to feel worse by the exercises.
Always be sure to talk to a registered medical professional before embarking on any type of exercise regimen.
Along with weak muscles, tight muscles are another common cause of back pain. In fact, there is normally a combination of both tight and weak muscles present.
The majority of people will see benefit from stretching the muscles of their spine. This becomes even more true in the case of back pain sufferers.
The ligaments, muscles, and tendons in your body are designed to allow a certain range of motion. If the range of motion is restricted at any joint, problems can arise in that joint and other joints nearby.
Everything in your body is connected and has a knock-on effect. Restriction in one area causes more restriction in another area.
Therefore, it is important to maintain good range of motion around all of your joints. For back pain, the tissue surrounding the spine should be stretched regularly.
Some of the main muscles to stretch include your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, hip flexors, adductors, abductors, abdominal muscles, psoas, glutes, erector spinae and your piriformis.
Here are some key points to remember for stretching:
Take the stretches to the point of mild discomfort, stretching should not be physically painful.
Avoid bouncing, ease into the stretch and hold the final position.
Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds to ensure enough time has passed for the muscle to relax.
Stretch frequently and be patient, results take some time to come.
4. Ice and Heat Therapy
Hot and cold treatments can be used to alleviate back pain as soon as it sets in. These therapies work by helping to reduce inflammation of the tissues in your back.
There is a bit of debate between whether heat or cold treatment is best. Some people find more pain relief with one over the other.
They can actually be used in combination by alternating between them.
Heat therapy is usually used in the form of heat pads, gels or even baths. It is a very inexpensive remedy for back pain, which makes it a popular choice.
Heat therapy works by dilating the blood vessels in the area where the heat is applied. Dilating the vessels means more blood can reach the area. The extra oxygen and nutrients from the increased blood flow can help with the healing process.
Heat can also help to relax the soft tissue. In turn, this increases flexibility in those tissues.
Cold therapy is usually supplied via ice packs that are placed directly on an injured muscle. You should only apply an ice pack for a maximum of twenty minutes at a time. They can, however, be applied multiple times per day.
Cold therapy helps to reduce inflammation. It is suggested that cold therapy provides the most benefits in the first 48 hours of an injury.
After 48 hours, heat therapy will probably be the better option.
Some individuals, however, find that alternating between hot and cold treatments provides the most pain relief.
5. Manual therapy
Manual therapy refers to the muscles and joints of your back being moved by using force. Usually, this kind of therapy will be administered by a chiropractor, osteopath, physiotherapist or masseuse.
There are different types of manual therapy that will be performed by each of the specialists listed above.
A chiropractor is specifically focused on the spine and the structures that surround it. They will often use adjustment and manipulation of the spinal joints in an effort to promote proper alignment and nerve pathways.
An osteopath, on the other hand, focuses on the spine as well as other areas of your body that could be affecting your back. They will use a variety of different techniques to help boost the healing process of your back injury.
Some techniques that an osteopath might use are manipulation of the joints and tissues, massage and joint articulation. These methods are all used in an effort to promote the natural healing capabilities of your body.
Physiotherapists commonly provide exercise and stretching routines aimed at improving problem areas. They will run a series of range of motion tests in order to figure out which tissues are causing back pain.
The physio will then prescribe a routine that is to be performed for a period of time to see if there is an improvement.
The type of manual therapy that is best for you will very much depend on your symptoms. More research and advice from your GP would be needed to make a decision on who to go and see.
Acupuncture is a Western medical practice that involves inserting fine needles into the muscles surrounding an injury.
The needles stimulate sensory nerves in the area. This results in natural substances being released in your body, such as pain-relieving endorphins .
Certain forms of acupuncture use the needles to stimulate nerve responses from a muscle. The muscle responds by contracting and then relaxing. The constant contract and relax cycle causes the muscles to relax for a longer period after the treatment is over.
There has been much debate over the effectiveness of acupuncture. There is quite a bit of research that would suggest it is not effective for treating back pain.
On the other hand, it has been around for hundreds of years and there is a huge number of people that swears by its pain relief capabilities.
7. Inversion Therapy
Inversion is the act of putting your body in a position where your head is below your feet. Essentially, you are upside down.
Inversion therapy uses these positions to counteract the negative effects that gravity has on your body over time.During the course of your lifetime, you are constantly under the pressure of gravity. It is always pulling you down towards the earth.
The constant pull of gravity compresses your joints and restricts blood flow.
The compression of the joints in your spine can lead to a lot of back pain. In some cases, can even cause nerve problems like sciatica.
What happens is that the gel-like discs between your vertebrae, the joints in your spine, become compressed and flattened. The discs are there to aid flexibility and to act as shock absorbers between your vertebrae.
When the discs become compressed, flexibility is lost and the risk of back injury increases.
The gel-like disc fluid can also be compressed so much that it expands beyond your spine and into the surrounding tissue. Sometimes, the compressed discs can hit the nerves and cause sciatica.
Inversion therapy helps to reverse this by using gravity to create space between your spine and decompress the discs.
Another benefit of inversion therapy is increased blood flow. Being upside down makes it easier for blood to flow throughout your body.
Increased blood flow means more oxygen-rich blood can be delivered to the muscles of your back, which will help speed up back injury recovery.
The easiest and most accessible way to perform inversion therapy is to use an inversion table. You can use one at home multiple times each day for best results. Check out our review of the top inversion tables on the market in this post.
8. Topical rubs, creams, and ointments
These are pain-killing substances that are applied directly to the skin on top of an injured muscle or joint.
They come in various different types and contain different ingredients. Each type has a different use.
Certain types of topical cream supply the same sensations and benefits of hot and cold therapy. These are called counterirritants.
Ingredients like menthol and camphor are common counterirritants. They create burning or cooling sensations that are meant to have the same healing benefits as hot and cold therapy.
However, the actual pain relief probably comes from the distraction of the burning or cooling feeling on your skin.
Some topical rubs contain anti-inflammatory or pain-killing medication. These creams are transdermal, which means the ingredients are absorbed through the skin and directly on the injured body part.
Topical anti-inflammatory creams could be a good idea for chronic pain. They contain less of the anti-inflammatory drug so they might be better for longer term use than the pills.
We wouldn’t recommend continued use of them, though. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
9. Painkillers and NSAIDS
This is a fairly obvious one and often the first route that people go down. The use of pain-killing medications should help to reduce the pain in the initial stages of an injury.
Once the pain has eased off, consumption of the medications should cease.
There is a range of different types of medication suitable for pain relief. Some of which could be prescribed by a doctor.
The easiest available are over the counter medications.
For back pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually recommended. These normally come in tablet form and help to reduce the inflammation around your injured back muscles.
Ibuprofen is probably the most widely used form of over the counter NSAID.
Some individuals may not be able to take NSAIDs and might find relief from using other painkillers like codeine. Codeine is a much stronger drug and can become addictive so should not be used for more than a few days.
For extra pain relief, paracetamol could be used alongside some these other painkillers like ibuprofen or codeine.
10. Fix your posture
Poor posture is becoming more and more common in our society.
We spend more time seated at desks in the office, on sofas at home and in the car while we drive. All of this sitting leads to muscle imbalances, which causes bad posture and ultimately back pain.
The first step to recovering from poor posture is to learn how to use the muscles that will bring your body into a better position.
Keeping a small amount of tension in your glutes and abs at all times is a must. You don’t need to be tensing them as hard as you can all day, just activating them a bit is enough to bring you pelvis and lower back into alignment.
Stretching your tight muscles is another key factor if you want to improve your posture. Generally, the muscles on the front of your body will be the ones that need stretching. The front of your shoulders, chest, biceps, abs and hip flexors are prime suspects for poor posture related tightness.
Tight hamstrings could also pull your lower back out of alignment so they need to be tested for tightness too.
Stretching the tight muscles must be done frequently. You also need to stretch each one for a long period of time to see long-term results. At a minimum, 30 seconds should be given for each stretch. 1-2 minutes would be preferable.
You should then perform these stretches multiple times each day.
The final stage on your way to improved posture and less back pain is to strengthen the weak muscles.
We already covered muscle strengthening earlier. However, these muscles may be different. These muscles will be the ones that are preventing you from holding a good posture.
More often than not, the areas that need to be strengthened are your upper back, core, and glutes. They are all muscles that help to pull your body into proper alignment and good positions.
Proper alignment and good positions mean that your back can be free of unnecessary tension.
Suffering from back pain has major impacts on your daily life. With surgery being painful and not guaranteed to work, trying the remedies listed here is well worth a shot.
This list of 10 should provide you with a solution or two that will improve your symptoms and get you on the way to recovery as soon as possible.
Just be consistent with whatever method you choose, remain patient and stay positive.
The road to full health can be a frustrating one. All you can do is stay on the right path, take small steps forward and trust that you will get there eventually.
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