Anyone who has suffered from low-back pain, and many of us have, knows how vulnerable a painful back can make us feel. Even getting in or out of bed can be a painful, delicate process, and a ready reminder that treating your back with TLC is a high priority that sticks with you for a lifetime. Yes, school-aged kids suffer from back problems, too – this cautionary tale isn’t just for over exuberant Dad or Aunt Millie.
Some of what you ask of your lower back involves tasks too ambitious, such as lifting heavy objects off the floor, or standing for long periods of time; think school teachers, traffic cops, and dentists, for examples. Back pain is one of the most oft-cited reason people go to the doctor or missed work, and, per mayoclinic.org, it’s a leading cause of disability.
If your low-back pain is accompanied by any of the following circumstances, it’s time to see your doctor: if the pain is intense and doesn’t improve with rest; if the pain extends down one or both legs; if it’s accompanied by weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both legs; or you experience inexplicable loss of weight. Consider it urgent if other symptoms include fever; newfound bowel or bladder issues; or if it comes after a fall or other injury involving your back.
Factors Linked to Low-Back Pain
There are two main kinds of pain: acute and chronic. The former is severe back pain that suddenly arises because of a physical mishap, such as heavy lifting or a fall. That will usually fade within six weeks. Chronic pain, while not as severe as acute pain, persists for three months or more. It’s a nagging, relentless pain that can lead to opioid abuse or addiction if not properly managed or prescribed by a healthcare professional.
There are tests and procedures (i.e. X-rays or MRI scans) that a physician can perform to detect the root cause of your back problems. Such sources can include bulging or ruptured disks, muscle or ligament strains, arthritis, skeletal irregularities, or osteoporosis. Risk factors can include age, lack of exercise, being overweight, or mental conditions such as depression or anxiety, per mayoclinic.org.
9 Natural Remedies to Prevent or Treat Back Pain
Detecting back pain seems simple enough, but back pain is a complex issue. Finding and following the right treatment is no simple task, and often will involve trial and error. Following are some natural remedies to follow; they will be most effective when coordinated with and supervised by a healthcare professional:
- Pain relievers. These can include over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, or topical pain relievers such as salves or ointments. By reducing inflammation in the area you can find relief and reduce back pain. Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that can be applied directly to the skin.
- Check your shoes. Do they fit right and offer sufficient support?
- Low-impact exercises. Yoga and exercises in a pool can help. Also, focus your physical activities on your core – the muscles in your abs and back. A physical trainer can help you design an appropriate workout regimen.
- Heat and Ice. Alternate hot packs and cold packs in 20 minute intervals. Heat therapy stimulates blood flow and inhibits pain messages transmitted to the brain, per spine-health.com. Cold therapy acts as a local anesthetic and reduces inflammation.
- Work-station changes. Use ergonomics to modify your work station to improve your posture, reduce muscle tension, and therefore reduce pain, per Elevate Physical Therapy.
- Better sleep. Sleep can be difficult with back pain, but sleeping on your side with a pillow held between your knees can help. If you sleep on your back, a pillow beneath your knees should help you catch up on your zzz’s.
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist can offer guidance on how to sit, stand, and move in a manner that utilizes proper alignment and alleviates back strain and potentially relieve back pain, per webmd.com.
- Biofeedback. This means using a special device that helps you train your brain to control your brain that involves moderating your breathing, per webmd.com.
- Stretch hamstrings. Hamstrings (in the back of your legs, behind your thighs) that are too tight can put stress on your low back. Hamstring stretching should be done at least twice a day, per spine-health.com.