What is Back Pain?
The topic seems fairly self-explanatory but back pain can be caused by many different things. It can be caused by tight muscles, food intolerances, stress, disc herniation, pregnancy or even injury. Whatever the reason, natural treatment relieves pain at the source without drugs or side effects.
What are the signs and symptoms associated with back pain?
- pain (obviously)
- tingling in your back or legs
- numbness in your back or legs
- cramping in your back or legs
- tightness in your back
- muscle spasms
What Causes Back Pain?
Here are some common causes of back pain:
- Systemic inflammation
- Muscle tension
- Bulging discs
- Degenerative discs
- Weak abdominal muscles
- Being overweight or obese
During pregnancy, your ligaments relax to allow your pelvis to expand at delivery. With the added weight of a baby and relaxed ligaments, there is a greater incidence of back and joint problems. Chiropractic care and acupuncture are safe and effective ways to relieve pregnancy-related pain.
Pain can be caused by inflammation that originates from your muscles or nerves if they aren’t functioning normally, but also from inflammation in your gut.
Tense muscles prevent normal freedom of movement of your back and spine and increase the risk of disc herniation. Relieving muscle tension with massage therapy, chiropractic care and counselling for stress relief can help relax those tight muscles.
Disc herniation or bulging discs
The bones of the spine (vertebrae) are cushioned by a spongy disc. Excessive pressure on the disc can cause it to bulge or herniate. This then presses on nerves, causing pain. Correcting alignment with a chiropractor and/or osteopath can help take pressure off the disc.
With age, the spongy discs between the bones of your spine get worn down. This wear and tear decreases the space for your nerves to pass through. Because of this lack of space, nerves get pinched and bone rubs against bone. This leads to pain in your back. Discs are strengthened and restored through proper nutrition, hydration and proper alignment of your spine.
Weak abdominal muscles and being overweight/obesity
Your core muscles stabilize your spine. Weak core muscles and increased abdominal weight add to back strain. Use of core strength exercises like yoga and pilates or specifically recommended exercises from our chiropractor or massage therapist can help.
What is the best natural treatment for back pain?
- Herbal medicine
- Vitamins, minerals, supplements
- Exercise, stretching
- Massage therapy
- Chiropractic treatment
The cause of your discomfort may be food allergies/intolerances! Did you know that your brain doesn’t interpret “pain” from your organs? This means that irritation and inflammation in your intestines (organs) can actually be interpreted as pain in your back. This is because the same nerves that go to your intestines go to some of your back muscles. The brain thinks the “pain” is more likely coming from your back. Our naturopathic doctors can help you identify and treat gut problems and food sensitivities.
Avoid pro-inflammatory foods
Red meat, trans fats, and food allergies promote inflammation in your body generally. Anti-inflammatory foods like fish and fish oil can help to reduce inflammation and pain. Again, food sensitivities add to inflammation in your body and should be removed.
Herbs relieve pain and reduce inflammation. There are many effective herbal anti-inflammatories, that don’t have unwanted side effects like NSAIDs do. One study found that Capsicum frutescens (cayenne), Harpagophytum procumbens (devil’s claw), Salix alba (white willow bark), Symphytum officinale (comfrey), Solidago chilensis (Brazilian arnica), and lavender essential oil all reduced pain more than placebo.
In a 2009 study, women who had ear acupuncture at three points were more likely to experience significant reductions in low back and pelvic pain than the control group. A 30 percent or greater reduction in pain was reported by 81 percent of women in the acupuncture group. Thirty-seven percent of women in the acupuncture group were pain-free after a week of acupuncture.
SOURCE: American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, September 2009.
Vitamins, minerals and amino acids
These vital nutrients can help you build a healthy spine, strengthen your discs, relax your tense muscles and help your brain to produce natural pain relievers. These include serotonin, GABA, nitric oxide, serine, and acetylcholine.
Exercise helps to strengthen your abs and your core, balance muscles and help you lose weight if necessary. Our musculoskeletal experts (massage therapist, chiropractor, osteopath) can help prescribe appropriate exercises to help relieve pain.
Let’s face it, who doesn’t want an excuse to get a massage? Registered Massage Therapists (RMT) offer pain relief by improving circulation to your back and relaxing back muscles. Prenatal massage therapy is particularly beneficial for pain in pregnancy.
Everyone knows to see a chiropractor when their back hurts. Regular maintenance treatment when you don’t have a problem can help prevent back issues. When was the last time you had an adjustment? It may be that the cause of your pain is one or more of your vertebrae being out of alignment, pinching nerves & triggering your pain. Hand in hand, chiropractic and massage therapy make an excellent combination for long-term relief.
Authored by Naturopath Dr. Pamela Frank
Natural Treatment Research:
Gagnier JJ, Oltean H, van Tulder MW, Berman BM, Bombardier C, Robbins CB. Herbal medicine for low back pain: a Cochrane review. Spine. 2016; 41(2): 116-33.
In 14 trials (2050 participants), assessing pain-relieving herbs, Cayenne reduced pain more than placebo with adequate evidence and Devil’s claw, White willow bark, Comfrey, Brazilian arnica, and lavender essential oil all reduced pain more than placebo with moderate quality evidence.
Acupuncture, Yoga, Tai Chi, Massage Therapy, and Relaxation Techniques:
Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. Evidence-based evaluation of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States. Mayo Clin Proceedings. 2016; 91(9): 1292-1306.
● This review found the following complementary approaches helped people with the following chronic painful conditions:
o Acupuncture and yoga for back pain
o Acupuncture and tai chi for osteoarthritis of the knee
o Massage therapy for neck pain
o Relaxation techniques for severe headaches and migraines
o Weaker evidence for relaxation and tai chi for fibromyalgia
Paige NM, Miake-Lye IM, Booth MS, Beroes JM, Mardian AS, Dougherty P, Branson R, Tang B, Morton SC, Shekelle PG. Association of spinal manipulative therapy with clinical benefit and harm for acute low back pain. Systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2017;
● Research suggests spinal manipulation therapy is associated with modest improvements in pain and function, comparable to benefit received from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Systematic review and MA of 26 RCTs (1711 patients) – moderate quality evidence supporting spinal manipulative therapies have a significant association with improvements in low back pain and function for up to 6 weeks.
Vitamin D supplementation may be useful for pain and low back function in patients with failed back surgery syndrome. Source: J Orthop Surg (Hong Kong), 2012 Apr; 20(1):18-22.
Motion style acupuncture therapy was found to have positive effects on immediate pain relief and functional recovery of acute low back pain and severe functional disability. Source: Pain, 2013 March 15.
Acupuncture might provide an immediate effect in reducing the pain of acute low back pain safely without adverse effects. Source: Liu YT, Chiu CW, Chang CF, Lee TC, Chen CY, Chang SC, Lee CY, Lo LC. Efficacy and Safety of Acupuncture for Acute Low Back Pain in Emergency Department: A Pilot Cohort Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:179731. doi: 10.1155/2015/179731.
…physiotherapy, osteopathic manipulation, multimodal intervention (exercise and education), exercises performed in a water environment, acupuncture, etc., have proven to be effective. Source: Gallo-Padilla D, Gallo-Padilla C, Gallo-Vallejo FJ, Gallo-Vallejo JL. Low back pain during pregnancy. Multidisciplinary approach. Semergen. 2015 Jul 31. pii: S1138-3593(15)00247-6. doi: 10.1016/j.semerg.2015.06.005.
Multi-nutrient supplementation reduced inflammatory markers and improved physical function in middle-aged men and women. Source: Nutr J. 2011 Sep 7; 10:90.
A drug-free approach of chiropractic care is one of the best solutions for disc and radiating pain. Source: Studin, M. (2010). Herniated discs, radiating pain and chiropractic. US Chiropractic Directory.
Sixty percent of patients with sciatica who had failed other medical management benefited from spinal manipulation to the same degree as if they underwent back surgery. Source: McMorland, G., Suter, E., Casha, S., du Plessis, S. J., & Hurlbert, R. J. (2010). Manipulation or microdiskectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 33(8), 576-584
Massage therapy was compared to relaxation for chronic low back pain. By the end of the study, the massage therapy group, as compared to the relaxation group, reported less pain, depression, and anxiety and improved sleep. And their serotonin and dopamine levels were higher. Source: Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Krasnegor, J., & Theakston, H. (2001). Lower back pain is reduced and range of motion increased after massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 106, 131-145.
Massage therapy versus relaxation therapy was evaluated for reducing pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances, for improving trunk range of motion (ROM) and for reducing job absenteeism and increasing job productivity. Thirty adults with low back pain with a duration of at least 6 months pain participated in the study. On the first and last day of the 5-week study participants completed questionnaires and were assessed for range of motion. By the end of the study, the massage therapy group reported less pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance. They also showed improved trunk and pain flexion performance. Source: Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., & Fraser, M. (2007). Lower back pain and sleep disturbance are reduced following massage therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy, 11, 141-145.
As a stand-alone treatment, massage therapy reduces pain and improves function compared to no treatment in some conditions. Source: Bervoets DC, Luijsterburg PA, Alessie JJ, Buijs MJ, Verhagen AP. Massage therapy has short-term benefits for people with common musculoskeletal disorders compared to no treatment: a systematic review. J Physiother. 2015 Jul;61(3):106-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jphys.2015.05.018. Epub 2015 Jun 17.
Eating certain substances called advanced glycation end-products could be a factor contributing to a pre-diabetic state, calcifications in spinal tissues, and musculoskeletal complications that are more generally known to occur with chronic diabetic conditions. Source: Illien-Jünger S, Lu Y, Qureshi SA, Hecht AC, Cai W, Vlassara H, Striker GE, Iatridis JC. Chronic ingestion of advanced glycation end products induces degenerative spinal changes and hypertrophy in ageing pre-diabetic mice. PLoS One. 2015 Feb 10;10(2):e0116625. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116625. eCollection 2015.
Our findings show that a 2-week intravenous magnesium infusion followed by 4 weeks of oral magnesium supplementation can reduce pain intensity and improve lumbar spine mobility during a 6-month period in patients with chronic low back pain with a neuropathic component. Source: Yousef AA, Al-deeb AE. A double-blinded randomized controlled study of the value of sequential intravenous and oral magnesium therapy in patients with chronic low back pain with a neuropathic component. Anaesthesia. 2013 Mar;68(3):260-6. doi: 10.1111/anae.12107. Epub 2012 Dec 17.