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Last updated July 16, 2017, originally published October 15, 2015
By Joseph Strongoli, Featured Columnist
Back pain, the price we pay for having a body. It seems like we cannot
escape it. work all day doing manual labor, your back is sure to pay.
Sitting all day at your desk job? Your back won’t agree either. It seems
that no matter what, sitting or standing, active or sedentary, our back
bears the brunt of our corporal burden and perhaps fittingly, bears its
In fact, back pain is one of the most common aches we suffer, affecting
8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. That’s right, lower
back pain occurs in 85-90% of the adult population at least once
throughout an individual’s lifespan, according to a 2004 Boston
University study. The National Center for Complimentary and
Integrative Health estimates that we spend a total of $100 billion per
year in dealing with back pain, a figure that includes lost wages and
Symptoms can range from a dull throb to a stabbing or shooting
sensation which can radiate into the downward to the legs or upwards
into the shoulders and neck. The pain can be accompanied by a
stiffness and tension that may make it hard to move or stand up
straight. Causes can include trauma/injury such as from sports or
heavy lifting, poor posture, or overuse.
In rarer cases, back pain can mean that another part of your anatomy
is in trouble. Having back pain, for example, can be a sign of heart
The lower back is the area most often affected. For many, back pain
can go away after a few night’s good sleep. But for others, the pain is
chronic, and lasts for months or years on end. Back pain can be
debilitating, and could require multiple treatment methodologies in
order to be effective, including medication, physical therapy, and even
surgery. To avoid such costly pain and suffering, try out these 7
remedies for a bum back.
Natural Remedies for a Stuck Back
1. Touch Your Toes to Stretch your Hamstrings Twice Daily
This is perhaps the simplest and easiest routine you can adopt to
alleviate lower back pain and stiffness. Tight hamstrings can stress your
lower back, especially your sacroiliac joints, leading to more pain anf
Touch those toes twice a day to keep your back loose, limber, and pain-
free. If you find you can't touch your toes, simply sit down on the floor
with your feet straight in front of you and try to reach as far as you can
toward your toes. Go to the point where it's uncomfortable then stop.
Do not strain. Over time, your hamstrings will loosen up.
2. Yoga Can Help a Stuck Back
Building upon stretching is yoga. Yoga includes practicing specific
postures and poses, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques.
Yoga can stretch and strengthen muscles and improve posture. A 2012
study at the University of Central Florida found that yoga intervention
in patients with chronic lower back pain (cLBP) significantly improved
quality of life and reduced disability, stress, depression, and medication
usage associated with cLBP.
Even though it doesn’t sound like it – a practitioner punctures you with
sterilized stainless steel needles at specific points all around the body –
acupuncture is meant to relieve pain, not inflict it. Many have reported
on the beneficial effects of acupuncture, and there is some scientific
evidence to back it up. A 2014 study at the University of Otago in New
Zealand found that acupuncture provides short-term, clinically relevant
benefits for pain relief and functional improvement.
4. Massage to Unstick Your Back
Massages aren’t just for the indulgent or the vacationers on the beach.
A 2011 study at the University of Washington found that suffers of
chronic back pain who got weekly massages reported less pain after 10
weeks than those who did not receive massage. Deep tissue massages
can relax muscles, ease tension, and calm spasms.
5. Cold/Hot Therapy
Don’t underestimate the old trainer’s trick of cold and hot therapy in
reducing back pain and stimulating the healing process. Cold therapy
has two main benefits.
First, it reduces inflammation, which is one the main culprits behind
back pain. Secondly, the serves to numb the pain by slowing down
nerve impulses, which keeps the muscles from spasming.
Alternate this with heat therapy, which also serves a few purposes.
Heat stimulates blood flow, which brings oxygen and other nutrients to
the affected area of the back.
Heat also inhibits the pain impulses being sent to the brain. Heat also
loosens up tense muscles, relieving tension and stress. Apply an ice
pack, and alternate it with a heat wrap or a soak in the tub.
While it may look like a simple massage, chiropractic is a bit more
complicated. Chiropractic treatment involves manual therapy, (ok, yes,
like a massage), specifically manipulation of the spine and other joints
and soft tissues.
Chiropractic seeks to rectify misalignments of the spine and other joints
caused my muscle imbalances or injury. And it can be an effective
treatment for a bum back.
A 2008 study at Northwestern Health Sciences University found that
chiropractic in combination with back strengthening exercises was
more effective than prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
in treating back pain.
7. Talk Therapy for a Stuck Back -- Really?
Also known as cognitive behavior therapy, talk therapy is a kind of
psychotherapy done under the guidance of a licensed therapist,
wherein you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking, so you
can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a
more effective way.
Talk therapy can help you become more fully aware of your back issues
and can address the ways in which subconscious negative thought
processes are making your suffering worse. This type of therapy can
also make you more mindful in your back treatment.
A 2010 study published in the Lancet found that patients who
participated in group cognitive behavior therapy for three months had
twice the improvement in chronic low back pain as those who had not
received this therapy.
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