Back Pain Relief – A National Obsession
Seeking back pain relief is a natural part of daily life for many Americans. With symptoms ranging from a dull ache to absolute agony, back pain can put your life on hold. It's second only to the common cold in causing missed work days for adults under age 45 and four out of five people have had low back pain at one time or another, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Most low back pain clears up in a few days or weeks with a combination of rest, appropriate exercise, and over-the-counter pain medicines or natural pain relief treatments. Persistent pain, however, is a warning.
Types of back relief include back arthritis pain relief, chronic back pain relief, lower back pain relief, upper back pain relief, shoulder arthritis and shoulder pain relief.
Fortunately, no matter the cause, you can fight back pain and, in many cases, keep it from returning. Sometimes, obtaining back pain relief requires acting quickly and aggressively. While it’s remotely possible you may need surgery right away to get better, in most cases, you have time to try different options.
"About half the time, back pain gets better within two weeks," says David Borenstein, MD, clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "About 80 percent of the time it improves within two months."
A healthy back can prevent back pain
Keeping your back healthy is the best way to prevent low back injury. There are several practical things you can do:
- Don't lift too-heavy objects. Lift by bending your knees, not your back; keep your back straight and your head down in line with your back, and don't twist when lifting.
- Regular, low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, stretching, or stationary bike riding 30 minutes a day can increase muscle strength and flexibility. Yoga can also help stretch and strengthen muscles and improve posture.
- Practice good posture. Your back supports your weight most easily when it is straight. When standing, keep shoulders back. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. When sitting, use a chair with good lower back support, switch positions often and walk around every so often to relieve tension.
- Sleeping on your side on a firm mattress helps your back.
- Eat a healthy diet with enough calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D all found in a quality multivitamin to help promote new bone growth.
- Lose weight - Keep extra weight off your waistline, where it can strain your lower back.
- Stop smoking - Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine and causes the spinal discs to degenerate.
Treatment for Back Pain Relief
Whether you've been in pain just a few days or beyond the two-month point, the following 16 suggestions may help you accomplish back pain relief:
- Heat. Heat may be dry or moist. Dry heat sources include heat lamps, heating pads or "wearable" disposable heat packs. Moist heat sources include warm baths and washcloths soaked in warm water. See which works best for you in providing back relief.
- Cold. When back pain is severe, apply cold packs for no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Always put a towel between your skin and the cold pack. Using ice for too long can cause stiffness, limit cold for pain associated with an injury to the first 24 to 48 hours after pain starts (then switch to heat). For muscle spasms try using heat for 20 minutes, light exercise 20 minutes and ice for 20 minutes.
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist can help strengthen the back muscles for back pain relief and to regain motion. Exercises designed to strengthen back muscles is useful even if you don’t have back pain yet.
- Water exercise. Water is an excellent environment to help build muscle strength more comfortably for those who find it difficult to exercise on land. For best results and to get a good full-body workout in water, use a heated pool. You can do warm-water exercise on a smaller scale in your own tub, spa or whirlpool bath.
- Massage therapy. Massage can relax tight, painful muscles, making movement easier. It also relieves stress, and is one of the most widely-used - and perhaps most useful - therapies for back pain. There are several types of massage, including Swedish, deep-tissue, neuromuscular and myofascial release.
- Braces or corsets. Braces and corsets are both used to reduce pressure on spinal discs, or as a way to restrict movement of the spine during recovery from a fractured vertebra or surgery. Both can typically be worn under your clothing and support the lower hips, lower back and abdomen for back relief.
- Yoga and tai chi. Yoga and tai chi get you moving, gently and in moderation, which is usually beneficial for stretching and strengthening muscles in the hips, back, legs, and abdomen. Tai chi adds an additional benefit of improving balance to help prevent falling for those who can least afford it—osteoporosis patients, for example.
- Rest. Rest is beneficial for back pain relief, but resting too long can make pain linger longer than necessary. Rest and activity go hand in hand. You should have appropriate time for both, even if the activity is limited to getting up, walking, stretching or light exercise.
- Weight loss. Losing weight provides probably the greatest benefit for people with the most weight to lose. But even those who carry 10 to 20 pounds excess weight will also benefit. Accomplishing weight loss usually involves increased exercise levels and decreased eating, which is a double plus in providing significant back pain relief.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is bad for your back. Smoking decreases oxygen to the various tissues that have difficulty getting oxygen in the first place such as the discs in your spine. Smoking may also weaken the ligaments (tough bands of connective tissue that attach bones to one another) that support the spine, leading to instability. Smoking is also a risk factor for osteoporosis, which can lead to painful vertebral fractures. Another negative: If you have a back problem that eventually requires surgery, studies show smoking slows the healing process.
- Relieve stress. Being under stress can add to your pain and feeling pain can add to your stress. “Regardless of what causes pain, stress can make it worse or keep it around longer than necessary because it heightens our awareness and feelings of discomfort,” says Dr. Borenstein. Learn to relax. Consider talking with a counselor. To avoid drugs, try a natural stress relief supplement whose properties have helped people for centuries.
- Acupuncture. If other therapies haven’t helped your pain, you may want to try acupuncture, a key component of Chinese traditional medicine that involves inserting thin needles at key acupoints on the body. Acupuncture has gained credibility in the medical community. Make sure your acupuncturist is certified (the major certifying board for acupuncturists is the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), is licensed by your state and uses sterile, disposable needles.
- Proper footwear. Do you have back pain after standing or walking? Take a look at your shoes. Wearing shoes with high heels or heels with uneven wear can throw off your posture and put unnecessary stress on your back. If you spend a lot of time on your feet, picking a comfortable shoe may not be enough; you may benefit from placing an orthotic device into your shoe.
- Chiropractic. chiropractors and osteopathic physicians use manipulation to ease back pain, although the way they do it varies. Osteopathic manipulation often involves massaging the soft tissues (such as muscles) about the spine, whereas chiropractic involves manipulating the ligaments and vertebrae of the spine.
Either type of manipulation can be effective for back pain, particularly if pain is caused by problems such as sprains (damage to the ligaments) or strains (damage to the muscles).
- Medications. Pharmaceutical medications for back pain include the following:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Examples: ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
- Analgesic (pain-relieving) drugs. Examples: over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol), narcotic drugs such as acetaminophen with codeine (Fioricet), hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Lortab, Vicodin)
- Antidepressants. Examples: amitriptyline (Elavil), nortriptyline (Pamelor)
- Muscle relaxants. Examples: cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), carisoprodol (Soma)
- Topicals. Examples: capsaicin (Zostrix, Zostrix HP), salicylates (Aspercreme, BenGay, Flexall)
Note: Taking glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate natural nutritional supplements (see below) may reduce some patients’ need for anti-inflammatory or pain medications, while others may continue to take other medications for back relief. However, patients taking daily aspirin therapy should avoid taking chondroitin sulfate supplements, as it may contribute to bleeding.
- Natural pain relief. The use of glucosamine against degeneration of articular cartilage has received much attention. According to the NIH, one may be impressed by the more than 100 papers that almost without exception report beneficial effects of this supplement in osteoarthritis patients.
Some of these benefits include pain relief, possibly due to an anti-inflammatory effect of glucosamine, and improved joint function. However, the NIH cautions that one should only use a trusted quality glucosamine supplement for true results.
Glucosamine, as well as chondroitin sulfate, alone or in combination, appeared effective against osteoarthritis of the knee (by far the most studies), finger joints and hip, and may thus possibly have beneficial effects on cartilage of all joints, including back relief of the intervertebral disc in the spine.
Go natural – most people don’t need drug treatment long-term
Too often people take medications as their only line of defense against pain, says Dr. Borenstein. "What medications are supposed to do is make your back less painful so you can do the things you need to get better."
Most people who take medications for back pain relief don't need them long term, unless you have a diagnosed disease (example, arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia, etc) in which case you may need to continue taking the medication for other aspects of your condition even when back pain is better.
But pain that persists for more than three months--chronic back pain--is more difficult to treat, in part because there are many different possible causes.
Recommended natural back pain relief supplements
More and more people are choosing safer alternative to treat symptomatic pain and there are natural treatments for back pain relief that can have significant benefits to help you lead a more comfortable life.
After extensively researching natural treatment options, we've discovered three trusted and safe natural products that you may want to consider for attaining back pain relief:
Pain Relief: Dietary supplement caplets consisting of patent-pending safflower extract and clinically-proven boswellia extract contains no aspirin and is gentle on the stomach. Use as a complement or potential replacement to existing NSAIDs as it’s a natural anti-inflammatory with minimal side effects and no bleeding..
Joint Health: Dietary supplement capsules that help build cartilage to promote joint health and flexibility, consisting of glucosamine hydrochloride and clinically-proven cat’s claw extract for faster relief in as little as one week.
Muscle and Joint Pain Cream: A natural blend of plant extracts with pain-relieving, cooling menthol that provides temporary deep back pain relief rub and for minor pain associated with arthritis, bruises and sprains.
Try one or more of these safe, natural treatments to see if they work for you, or click on the following link for additional details and our personal testimonies on each: Three Natural Products.
Disclaimer: Health statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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