The US National Library of Medicine tells us that “back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives.” We all know that feeling: the ache, the knots, the kinks. Most of us have tried some natural remedies (massage, cold packs, exercise) and some not-so-natural ones (ibuprofen, steroid injections, even surgery).
There actually are some proven natural ways to reduce (and even eliminate) back pain.
1. Exercise more
The World Health Organization tells us that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death. As if that were not reason enough to exercise more, inactivity is conducive to giving us debilitating backaches!
Focusing our exercises on strengthening the core does wonders for back pain. Pilates, Foundation Training, and the Gokhale Method are all great exercises that help avoid and diminish back pain.
2. Sit less
We spend an awful lot of time sitting: we sit in the car, we sit down for meals, we sit to watch TV or talk with friends and family, and we sit most of the day at work. As it turns out, sitting is quite bad for our backs and our overall health. In fact, sitting for 8-12 hours a day can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes by 90%.
To reduce back pain, sit less. Because most of our sit time is spent at our desks, getting up often for stretches or short walks, using an ergonomic sit-stand desk, and encouraging coworkers to have standing meetings are healthy habits for your daily work routine. .
3. Sleep well
It is often hard to sleep well when suffering from back pain, but the restorative effects of sleep help heal aching backs. Do what you can to sleep well and ideally, longer hours:: relaxation, meditation techniques, and calming food and drinks, like chamomile tea, all aid in helping you to sleep better.
You can also consider sleeping positions. The best position to support a neutral spine is sleeping on your back with both arms by your side and a lower pillow to keep your head level. When sleeping on your side placing a pillow between your knees will keep your hips level and your back aligned. It is recommended that you avoid face down stomach sleeping..
Resting will have an important impact on inflammation and healing. It’s a sign to slow down, take some time to recline, move slower, restore and revitalize.
4. Use endorphins as pain relief
There are many ways to relieve pain, but none are as natural as the brain’s natural endorphin hormones, which can be just as effective as any prescription drug. Great ways to induce the body’s release of endorphins include aerobic exercise, deep breathing and meditation, eating dark chocolate, and doing things you enjoy including socializing with friends, laughing, and listening to good music.
5. Use hot or cold as pain relief
There are great benefits to applying cold or hot packs to back pain. Hot packs (or hot showers, baths, or a jacuzzi) stimulate blood flow, which brings healing nutrients to the aching back. They also inhibit the pain messages from being sent to the brain. Cold packs (or a shower- ending with a 30 seconds of cold water ) reduces inflammation in the back and slows down nerve impulses, which prevents nerve spasms and keeps them from causing pain.
You can also take fish oil. Taking 2,000-4,000 mg a day of fish oil (like cod liver oil) breaks down into prostaglandins, which reduces inflammation. An added benefit: it can reduce heart disease too!
6. Eat your way to less back pain
According to EverdayHealth, “A mostly plant-based diet that includes such things as flax and chia seeds is probably your best bet to avoid inflammation, especially when eaten in combination with omega 3-rich cold water fish.”
Add these to your diet: carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cherries, berries, grapes and red wine, pomegranate, and watermelon. Herbs and spices like basil, cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, garlic, curcumin, onions, oregano, and turmeric tend to be especially rich in anti-inflammatory agents, so season generously. Also, drink healthy herbal teas and true teas (green, oolong, and white).
Olive oil, green tea, and brightly colored fruits and vegetables have all been proven to reduce inflammation in cartilage in the spinal column, which helps to control back pain and stiffness. When eating vegetables, think “the greener the better”. Kale, spinach, and broccoli are all list-toppers for an anti-inflammatory diet with back-pain-fighting properties.
Natural ways to avoid drugs
When dealing with back pain, drugs can easily be avoided. Our bodies produce endorphins, which we can use to deal with pain. Plus, it is easy enough to apply a hot or cold pack to the affected area (or alternate between the two!) We can control environmental factors like how much we sit, how often we exercise, and how well we sleep. We also have Mother Nature on our side, as she has created some fabulously delicious foods and beverages to help us reduce inflammation naturally and healthily.
About Karen Burke
Karen is the founder and president of Kare Products, specializing in active ergonomic solutions. She has 30 years experience in ergonomic product design and consulting.