Back Pain: Special Report

One of the most common complaints that people have is about pain in the back. Back pain can extend anywhere from the neck to the tailbone. It is a wide area with lots of room for injury.

But, back pain can be complicated. If the pain is dull at first, you may ignore it and thereby ignore the cause of the complaint in the first place. Over time, the pain may come back or worsen and you’ll have no idea what caused it.

In the fast paced world we live in, stress is not an uncommon thing. Stress that is unmanaged can lead to all sorts of problems within the body, including back pain. It is, in this case, a byproduct of a larger problem.

With as many reasons for back pain being present, there are also several ways to take care of the problem. It usually begins with a trip to the doctor. This can end with a prescription for medication, a recommendation for surgery or treatment options that you may not have thought of before. In any case, it is important to weigh these options carefully before proceeding, no matter how much pain you are in.

More and more people are turning to natural treatment options for their back pain. “Natural” here simply means a form of treatment that doesn’t involve surgical intervention or medications. We will go into the reasons to avoid these two options (if you can), later on in the report. For now, it suffice it to say that using every treatment at your disposal first is one way to find a healthy alternative to the pain that treats the main cause and not just the symptoms of the condition.

In this report we will discuss what back pain is all about. The anatomy of the back gives doctors and other practitioners clues to courses of treatment. Also, what are the causes of back pain? You could be doing something right now that will eventually lead you down that road of pain and anguish. Learn how to stop it in its tracks.

Lastly, we will explore the treatment options for back pain that are considered “alternative” methods. People have found great success with these treatment options and you may as well. All things don’t work for all people but you will never know what may or may not have worked for you unless you give it a try.

Back Pain Explained

If you’ve ever had a pain anywhere in your back then you know just how uncomfortable it can be. No matter what was on your mind at the time, that shooting or stabbing pain takes over your entire thought process. Until the pain is resolved, you can’t think of anything else.

Let’s take a look at the anatomy of the human back to see where the pain is actually coming from. The human back consists of a bony spine. This spine is divided into sections: 7 cervical vertebrae (in the neck region), 12 thoracic vertebrae (in the area of the chest, attached to the rib cage), and 5 lumbar vertebrae (what we typically refer to as the lower back) and the bones of the sacrum and coccyx (fused bones that extend to the pelvic region including the tailbone).

This bony structure gives us the gift of movement. Each bony vertebra sits on top of each other and moves when we move. It gives our body form and shape along with the bones of the skull and the extremities.

Another important job of the spine is to house the spinal cord. This is a muscular tubular structure that houses the nerves running from the brain down the length of the cord. Each nerve has a root that extends from the cord at the level of the organ that it is responsible for supplying “feeling” to. There are many nerve roots that arise from the spinal cord like tendrils. And, the spine keeps them all safe from injury during normal everyday activities.

Each vertebra is separated by a disc. It is a soft pad that cushions and absorbs the shock much like the soles of your shoes when you walk. But it is also tough to withstand a lot of pressure without moving. The middle of these pads contains a jelly-like center that also acts as a cushion.

Now you know what your back looks like. It maintains our erect posture so we can reach, stand, sit, bend and twist. So, now on to the causes of that pain you are feeling.

Causes of Back Pain

There are many causes of back pain. You may know them already but just didn’t know that you did. Let’s look at each one and a possible way to prevent it the next time.

Poor body mechanics – This has to do with posture. Standing on the ground, you may not realize that you are listing to the side or leaning forward. It is so natural to you now that you hardly notice it except when the pain gets to be too much. Poorly worn shoe soles, inadequate chairs, leaning and lumpy mattresses (you don’t have to keep it forever even if your mother-in-law gave it to you as a wedding present) all work to keep your spine out of proper alignment. For women, carrying around lots of breast tissue without proper support can do a number on your back as well.

The way to prevent this is to try ergonomics. It is all the rage in office buildings across the country. But, it can work for you in your home office or just sitting at home enjoying yourself. Chairs that adjust to the proper height for eating or using the computer raise your eye line so you don’t have to lean in and put extra pressure on your vertebrae. If you are short, use a foot stool to keep pressure off of your hip flexor muscles and lower back. As to the breast situation, find a bra that has maximum support for your size. A bra with a strong back support helps maintain posture so you don’t lean forward.

When it comes to standing, try a new pair of shoes. That could be the culprit of your back pain. When our posture is off, shoes begin to wear down in specific patterns. If you’ve ever worn someone else’s shoes you can tell if they walk on the inside or outside of their feet. Either can shift your weight and lead to backache.

Injury – Maybe you were in a car accident or took a bad fall when playing sports. Quick twisting movements can lead to bulging discs and other back problems. In an effort to protect itself, the muscles of the back tense up causing intense pain for you. If you’ve ever seen someone’s back give out, they instantly become a statue.

Seek medical attention. Back pain due to injury requires a diagnosis of the underlying problem. If you have a herniated disc, pinched a nerve or injured vertebrae, this may mean surgical intervention to fix the problem. Even if you feel fine at first, it doesn’t hurt to get checked out. You may need that proof later for insurance purposes at the least.

Lack of exercise – As we age, we often get sedentary. It could be a result of other age related issues like arthritis. Movement is difficult so we stop moving altogether. When you don’t exercise the muscles of the body begin to atrophy (weaken). In this state, sudden jarring movements can stretch those muscles leading to sprains and lots of pain after that. A prime example is doing too much exercise after living a sedentary life for years. You may get more than simply run-of-the-mill soreness out of the deal.

Solutions lie in getting active again. You don’t have to hit the weight bench just yet. Start with walking. Put your muscles on alert that it is time to buff up. A personal trainer can design a program for you that include weight lifting and cardiovascular work to improve endurance and build stronger muscles one fiber at a time.

Stress – As we touched on before, stress can kill – literally. It can lead to poor choices such as bad eating habits and lack of sleep. When the body doesn’t have time to repair itself at night while you snooze, the machine begins to break down. Small aches become big pains. The immune system falters and even normal everyday activities can lead to injuries leaving you with a backache.

Stress management is the key. Learning how to manage stress, through diet, exercise and instruction, gets stress under control. You are better able to handle problems at work and at home without destroying your body. Meditation is a useful tool in stress management that puts the mind back in control over the body.

Obesity – It has become an epidemic in the United States and other developing countries around the world. Even our kids have not been spared. Poor eating habits, stress and lack of exercise have led to more weight on the frame than the frame was designed to bear. Just walking around with extra pounds puts three times more pressure on the knees for each pound. For the back, which has to hold all of “you” up, it is even easier to slip a disc or injure the vertebra.

Lose weight. It is easier said than done, but if we do nothing, things won’t change. Success begins with small steps. Before your back begins to hurt chronically, start a walking program. Change the foods you eat so that your body becomes a fat burning powerhouse instead of a fat storage unit. Enlist the aid of family and friends to help you reach your goals.

Treatment for Back Pain

Medicines

We will briefly talk about medicines so far as to give reasons why you should consider them as a last resort. Conventional medications are full of different products. That is the reason for the long list on the insert that comes with your prescription bottle. While the main ingredients are designed to deal with your ailment, there are side effects that can be introduced into your system as well.

What does the list say? It might say “common side effects.” here are a few: dry mouth, coughing, constipation, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, edema, angina, itching, redness and swelling. Now all of these side effects are not present in every medication, but the stronger the medication gets, the more side effects there are that can be present.

Some might be mild, but who wants to deal with that anyway? Also, there is a list of contraindications. These are the medicines that should not be used in conjunction with the new med for back pain. Your doctor will look at your medical history and the list of medications you may currently be taking for any possible dangerous drug interactions.

Another fear that many people have about medication is the drug dependency. Pain medication treats the symptom but not necessarily the underlying cause. When you are experiencing a lot of discomfort, that pain medicine may look pretty good. But, if your back pain is the result of an ongoing cause, the medicine is not curing the condition.

Potent narcotics like oxycodone, Percocet and Darvocet can become addictive. Your brain may perceive the pain as still existing even when it is gone. Prescription drug addiction is very real and a major problem in health care.

So, instead of enduring the side effects and facing the fear of possible addiction for terrible back pain, the alternative is to consider natural options for your treatment.

Natural Alternatives

They call it “alternative medicine.” It is another name for medical healing methods that go back hundreds even thousands of years, predating modern medicine. In fact, many of the herbal remedies and such used today were the precursors for modern pharmacology.

Massage therapy – And you thought massages were just for getting away from the family for a few hours! Massage therapy is an ancient art in Indian and Oriental cultures that have been used to rid the body of pain and other ailments. The basic tenet behind massage therapy is the use of the hands and other tools to manipulate the tissues, bones, ligaments and tendons of the body to relieve pain and discomfort.

The body is made up of energy pathways according to ancient medicine. Oriental medicine calls them “chi” (chee). When these pathways are blocked, that is when illness occurs like back pain. Only by removing the blockage can energy be restored to the affected area and pain removed. There are different types of massage styles that may help to relieve your back pain.

Indian head massage – also called “champissage,” it uses the chakras of the head and neck to help the body begin to heal itself.

Swedish massage – this gentle massage is used to restore circulation to various parts of the body. With circulation comes white blood cells and healing at the sight of pain. Toxins are also removed via the lymphatic system through gently kneading of the tissues. If stress is the underlying cause of back pain, a regular massage will help you to manage it.

Aromatherapy massage – different essential oils can be used in the massage process to bring healing to the body. For instance, massaging in lavender oil helps to bring release to tired muscles and let the kneading process increase flexibility and unknots stiff muscles.

Deep tissue massage – this massage is for deep muscle pain, but might not be good for beginners. If muscles are particularly tight, then the thumb or knuckle techniques can be used to relieve the tension. You might feel like Nurse Ratchet has been working on your when you’re done.

Dietary Changes

Food is more than something to put in your mouth. It can change the entire course of your health. As we age, the body becomes weaker. It is a natural part of the aging process if nothing is done to affect it. One way that you can affect it is through the use of antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals in the body.

You may have heard about free radicals. They are the substances that bombard the organs causing diseases like cancer, cataracts, heart disease and other ailments. On the outside, they can cause wrinkling, lead to age spots and other things we would rather the world not see.

Antioxidants are found in a variety of food types termed “super foods.” One of the best foods to find antioxidants is broccoli. Yes, we said broccoli. Those little trees are full of polyphenols. They provide strength for your bones and your heart. It also has fiber which lowers cholesterol levels.

Another super food is blueberries. All berries in fact have some sort of antioxidant properties. Fill your body with delicious smoothies; add fruit to oatmeal and cereal in the morning. Eating good foods can lower your weight which also takes pressure off of your back.

Exercise

Get physically active and you will notice a change in your back. One reason for back pain is a weakening of the muscles. And, if your back is weak, then other muscles are probably following suit. Just 60 minutes of moderate exercise a day will improve your health and add years to your life.

Another component of physical fitness is strength training. The muscles are continually broken down and built up to form new muscle tissue. As you work to strengthen your back muscles, don’t forget to work your abdominals to keep your core strong so that sudden turns and twists won’t injure you. Strength training is great for all ages. It preserves bone and muscle so you can live a longer healthier life.

Acupuncture

This is along the same lines as massage therapy. The body is a bundle of energy pathways. When one is blocked, you have pain like in your back. An acupuncturist uses different techniques to release the blockage so that the energy can flow and the body can repair itself.

Tiny sterile needles are inserted along meridians in the back. Depending on the type of pain in your back and when you feel it, cupping, acupressure and heat may also be used to deal with the pain. Once they are in, cupping, the use of a cup or bowl and heat over the affected area is used to draw pain away and also release spasms in the muscle. Those who have tried acupuncture say that they don’t even feel the needles going in.

Hot Bath

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. Even back aches that pose mild discomfort can be relieved with a hot bath and some Epsom salts. The salts help to unknot the muscles while the heat increases blood flow to the site of the pain. Eucalyptus oil is also helpful to increase blood flow.

Lifestyle Changes

This is all about your mattress. A good night’s sleep is highly underrated. Those with back pain often notice that is can get worse at night. One reason is the type of mattress. Even when we are sleeping we need support.

If you have had your mattress for more than five years, it may be time to switch up. Even pains due to poor posture during the day can be relieved if you have a supportive mattress to sleep on. Don’t forget the pillow as well. There are ergonomically designed pillows that support the vertebrae of the neck. It may feel weird at first just like anything that is designed to support proper posture but you can get used to it.

Stretching

Muscles that are not stretched can get injured easily. Before any type of exercise it is important to warm up and also to give the muscles a signal that you are ready to get to work.

Stretching for stretching’s sake is what yoga is all about. Through different poses and stretching maneuvers, the muscles of the body gain flexibility. The further that a muscle can stretch the harder it will be for it to be injured. Yoga is not as easy as it sounds so start with a beginner’s class to get the hang of it.

If you are you suffering from back pain, you are not alone. It is one of the biggest complaints people have about their body. Your doctor may suggest medication, but there are other ways to deal with the pain before you have to resort to that. Medications have side effects that are not favorable so it is nice to have options.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you notice discomfort in your back, examine the root cause. Nip it in the bud early by changing your shoes, getting a new mattress, losing weight, using ergonomic products and other practical tools.

If you are encountering chronic back pain now, there is help in the form of alternative therapies. Massages are not just for a day out with the girls. They can help relieve back pain and get you on the road to a permanent recovery. Even after surgical intervention (if it is necessary) choose alternative natural methods to help with rehabilitation instead of using medication.