As a blogger, I write a lot. As a blogger, I read a lot. I enjoy reading other blogs, and I tend to read a lot of webpages about travel and about health and fitness.
Having read a great deal about health and fitness, I have concluded that there are two potent remedies for almost all ailments: good diet and exercise. I must emphasize that some of the points I have laid out could be somewhat intense and may not be appropriate for everyone at all times. If you are 80 years old, obese, and bedridden with back pain then perhaps only a few of these may be helpful to you. If you are 20 years old, otherwise fit with only moderate back pain then your options are greater. In all cases, you ought to consult with your physical therapist and/or doctor before trying any of these suggestions.
Acupuncture Acupuncture is the primary (not alternative) form of treatment in China and other countries. Thus, it is used to treat virtually anything and everything. In the United States, more than 20 million people have gone to an acupuncturist at some time in their lives. For many if not most, an acupuncturist is the first person a patient sees to treat pain, chronic pain and especially back pain.
Acupuncture is not for everyone. If you are pregnant, have a current drug or alcohol intoxication, a seizure or bleeding disorder, an infectious skin disorder, or have a pacemaker then acupuncture can be risky for you. For others with back pain, an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that acupuncture is a recommended treatment.
Alpha lipoic acid Also known as ALA, and which is an antioxidant and available as an over-the-counter nutritional supplement. A study was done in which 98 adult patients with chronic lower back pain were given 600 mg of ALA for 60 days. After 40 days, most showed marked improvement with only 4 patients having to stop because of continued pain.
Aromatherapy Of course, you put this not in your body but on your body. The television personality, Dr. Oz, provides a link from his website that states that wintergreen oil has long been used for easing aches and pains of the lower back. It is explained that it contains methyl salicylate which is an ingredient similar to what makes aspirin efficacious.
Other oils such as chamomile, lavender, clary sage (but do not use if you are pregnant), yarrow, rosemary, ginger, peppermint and frankincense all have anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and/or tension-relieving properties for muscles.
Chiropractor Like acupuncturists, chiropractors are often the first person people turn to when they have a back pain. Chiropractors, however, often get a bad rap in the United States. This may be because people go to them for a variety of reasons, such as for nausea, fatigue, autism, ADHD and even a claim that chiropractic therapy helps repair a person’s DNA!
Regardless, chiropractors are trained in spinal manipulation of which many studies have shown is as effective as medication in reducing low-back pain. Moreover, chiropractic therapies are very similar to massage therapy, osteopathy, physical therapy and sports medicine all of which have very similar beneficial results in treating back pain.
Comfrey Root (as an ointment) A study published in 2010 praises comfrey root in reducing acute back pain. A small number (4 people out of 120 in the study) reported the side effects of nausea, cold, eczema and runny nose. It is available through Amazon.com (and perhaps other websites) but a source says that comfrey root products have been banned in several countries, and is available in the United States only as an ointment or cream.
The plant contains toxic chemicals and the ointment must not be taken for more than 10 days at a time and no more than a total of 4-6 weeks out of the year. It must never be taken orally, nor applied to broken skin, nor given to children in any form.
Vitamin D There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom, that very low levels of Vitamin D in the body contributes to a variety of symptoms and ailments, including chronic pain. Once these levels have been increased, then the pain and other symptoms disappear.
Alexander Technique The Alexander is difficult to describe succinctly and to classify. It is usually thought of as being a form of physical therapy (along with pilates and tai chi) but it is also something that somebody does for you (as with chiropractic). It seems to be not only physical but also mental. It is a way of not only doing but also learning.
It is usually accomplished by having a trained instructor observe you in 10-40 private lessons lasting from 30-60 minutes each (although a study found that students who took 6 lessons obtained virtually the same benefits as those who took 24 lessons, in terms of reducing back pain).
It seems to allow the instructor to observe what you are doing (whether it is breathing, moving, standing, sitting, etc) and then to tell you a better way of doing that. It seems to be a way of removing bad habits in movement and replacing them with new and good habits through conscious control. Regardless, the study did conclude that people who are taught through the Alexander Technique do show long term benefits from the lowering of back pain.
Aquatic therapy This certainly helped Wilford Brimley, Don Ameche and Hume Cronyn in Cocoon. Now, all you have to do is to also find a swimming pool that is an outpost of aliens (ha ha).
All kidding aside, aquatic therapy is a form of movement (as is pilates and tai chi) with the added feature of the natural resistance of the water helping to strengthen your muscles. Yet, because of the feeling of weightlessness, back pain is not exacerbated.
A study was done in which patients followed various exercises: 1) strengthening exercises for the stomach, leg and gluteal muscles; 2) stretching of back, calf, hamstrings and hip muscles; 3) walking in water; and 4) swimming. More than 90% of them related that they had great improvement after participating for six months. Specific other exercises and instructions can be found here.
Combat Conditioning (and other forms of strength training) When I was a young child, I was flexible and was able to do a few yoga postures (as my mother had done at that time) without even thinking. As I grew older, I enjoyed running. Although I was never very fast, I was faster than average and I had a good amount of endurance. A few years ago, I wanted to become strong and to do it without weights and other accouterments.
I found Matt Furey’s Combat Conditioning DVD and book. This is indeed an extremely intense regimen. Even if you do not have back pain, I would recommend that you follow this program with baby steps, slowly and little-by-little, until it feels more comfortable to you. If you do have any type of back pain then you must consult with your physical therapist and/or doctor to find out if and how much of this you should try.
Pilates Pilates is a physical fitness regimen that focuses on increasing flexibility, strength and endurance in the back and other areas through spinal and pelvic alignment. It may seem counter-intuitive to strengthen something that is weak and painful. However, there is a lot to be said about counterintuitivity. If I am suffering from a cold in December or January then I often go out in the cold weather. I take no other treatments and yet I often find that my cold goes away soon thereafter.
Moreover, doing the pilates exercises is truly better than doing nothing. A recent study has shown that people who followed these exercises had a marked improvement in pain levels both for the short and long-term, while those who were inactive continued to worsen.
As with yoga, you just need to leave home. There are 14,000 instructors of pilates in the United States, making it more popular than Starbucks outlets.
Stress reduction This is something that you do not put in your body but take out from your mind. Mental stress can have adverse physical effects, including chronic pain. To counter-attack this cause of pain, you can engage in a variety of methods that have been described individually elsewhere: deep breathing, guided imagery, self-talk, hypnosis and mindfulness meditation (notice your breathing and disregard other thoughts, for about 20 minutes). Perhaps more easily and naturally, you can listen to enjoyable music, do gardening, go for a walk, chat with a friend over the phone, engage in prayer, or anything else that you find relaxing.
Once your stress is gone, your pain may go away as well. Even if your pain remains then, at least, your pain is gone. Even if your pain remains then you can try some of the other methods described in this article.
Tai chi In San Francisco, you do not have to leave your home, you just need to look out of the window to see people doing tai chi exercises. As with pilates, the Alexander Technique and others it seems that movement helps you move; movement helps you move by the amelioration of pain; the amelioration of pain helps you in movement. It is a self-fulfilling treatment.
These 8 tai chi exercises are geared toward reducing lower back pain.
Yoga There is yoga and then there is yoga. Yoga is simply a generic term uniting many different types of yoga: Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga, Raja yoga, Tantric yoga, Kundalini yoga, Bikram yoga, Ananda yoga and many others. The one that most Americans are familiar with is Hatha Yoga.
There are very many classes. All you need to do is to walk out of your front door and you may see one. You can also try following this video for lower back pain