Backaches not only disrupt life, but they also make it more difficult to improve our bone health. When we have pain we have a tendency to become sedentary, even laying in bed for long periods, and that in itself can lead to bone loss.
Some types of back pain, if caused by a spinal abnormality or injury, may require more intensive professional care, but other sources of pain can be reduced through simple strategies.
Today we share seven drug-free ways to get rid of back pain, so you can regain your active, bone-supporting life.
Back Pain Is A Big Problem
Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work, affecting half of working Americans, and accounting for more than 264 million lost workdays per year.1,2 An estimated 80% of the population experiences back pain at some point, and it can affect people of any age.3
The majority of cases are not caused by a serious condition, an abnormality, or an acute injury, and most people recover but find that their issues recur.
Your back is complex and plays an important role. It consists of an array of ligaments, muscles, nerves, bones, and joints. Unfortunately, there are many types of injuries that can occur: sprained ligaments or muscles, ruptured disks, irritated joints, and pinched or irritated nerves. Even simple tightness can have a domino effect that leads to a surprising amount of pain.
Because our back is involved in almost every movement we make, it can be injured by large or small occurrences and actions. An accident might cause an injury, but a simple motion like bending over to tie our shoes, or picking something up from the ground can lead to back pain.
Unless your back pain is the result of a traumatic injury or a spinal abnormality, which would require specialized care, you can alleviate it naturally. Through a combination of habits to prevent pain and holistic responses to discomfort, you can solve this problem without taking acidifying pain killers.
The back is a complex and intricate part of the body with many different components that can suffer minor and major injuries. Even simple actions might result in tightness or a sprained ligament or muscle. Developing healthy habits and responding to back pain with holistic strategies can bring relief without taking acidifying pain killers.
A study published in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation found that walking two to three times a week for 20 to 40 minutes can significantly relieve back pain. Participants in that study got as much benefit from walking as from clinic-administered back pain treatments.4
Another study found that going for a walk, even just one single walk, improves back pain by as much as 50 percent. 5
It's best to start slow if you're dealing with chronic back pain, and work your way up to more vigorous walking. Mild discomfort is normal, and so long as the pain isn't incapacitating, movement helps to alleviate the conditions causing it.
Studies have shown that walking can alleviate back pain by as much as 50 percent, and as effectively as in-clinic treatments.
2. Cold And Heat
Applying cold or heat can provide relief to your back. If your backache is acute you should apply cold first, and then follow up with heat.
If the pain is more chronic, try applying continuous mild heat.
If you're trying to manage soreness from exercising, simply ice the affected areas. You can get re-freezable ice packs that contour to the shape of your body.
Listen to your body and gauge the effectiveness of heat versus cold for alleviating pain. If one isn't working, try the other, or consider alternating.
For acute pain, apply cold then follow up with heat. For chronic pain use continuous mild heat. For soreness from exercise, ice the affected area.
3. Relieve Stress To Relieve Back Pain
The connection between our emotional and mental state and our body is incredibly direct. Stress, no matter the source, can cause physical tension and strain. These are major sources of back pain and can make us more prone to injury.
Stress also prevents us from staying active or sticking to other health goals. Sometimes stress saps motivation and energy or lowers focus, to the point where exercise or other physical activities become difficult or impossible.
That's why reducing stress is critical both for alleviating and preventing back pain. There are many ways to lower your stress levels. Start with making time to relax, and valuing that time as highly as the time you spend working or being productive.
Stress leads to tension and straining, which in turn cause back pain and make you more prone to injury. Stress also prevents exercising and other beneficial physical activities. Reduce your stress levels by making time to relax.
4. Sleep Is Crucial
Getting enough sleep is foundational to your bone health and overall health, and also helps your back. How you sleep matters too. Poor sleep posture can cause tightness and backaches and could be making an existing condition worse.
Make sure that your sleeping posture allows your spine to stay in a neutral pose. Sleep on your back if you can. If you can only sleep on your side, you should alternate sides periodically to create more balance. Sometimes your mattress can be a problem. If you're waking up with back pain, try a firmer or softer mattress and see if that helps.
Poor sleep posture can cause or worsen back pain. Sleep in a position that keeps your spine in a neutral pose, ideally on your back. If you sleep on your side, then alternate sides. If pain persists, try a mattress with a different firmness.
5. Your Shoes Matter
Your shoes have a large impact on your back. Wearing shoes that don't support your posture and alignment can wreak havoc on your body, and especially on your back.
Avoid wearing high heels and completely flat shoes. Arch support and cushioning are crucial to giving your back the support it needs. This will allow you to walk with a neutral and aligned gait. Wearing the wrong size shoes can also impact your gait, and subsequently, throw your back out of alignment. Additionally, wearing unsupportive shoes like flip flops makes you more likely to trip and fall.
That doesn't mean you need to throw away all your shoes though! In many cases, orthotic insoles can transform your shoes into back-friendly footwear.
Always wear shoes with arch support and adequate cushioning. Be sure that your shoes are the right size for you. Shoes without support and that are too small or large will change your gait and throw your back out of alignment, potentially causing tension and pain.
6. Consume Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation is a major source of back pain. You can reduce inflammation throughout the body– and reduce the problems it causes– by increasing the anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. Here are some foods that lower inflammation levels:
- Oily fish*
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Red Wine
- Red Grapes*
- Dark Chocolate*
Inflammation contributes to back pain. Include anti-inflammatory foods in your bone-healthy diet to reduce inflammation in your whole body.
7. Stretching And Exercise
If you're experiencing back pain, remaining sedentary often makes the problem worse, not better. Stretching and light exercise can help to improve the health of muscles and joints, increase circulation, build flexibility and strength, and loosen up muscles and ligaments that are tense and causing pain.
Because your back is essential to basically every physical activity, you might want to choose low-impact and easy-to-control activities that allow you to move at your own pace and reduce strain. Swimming, yoga, and stretching workouts are all great choices to strengthen your muscles and get your back moving, while allowing you to minimize the pressure you apply on it.
While you’re experiencing back pain, avoid exercises or movements that target the back or involve too much bending through the back. Those include toe-touches, sit-ups, and anything that has you lifting using your back.
The Save Institute's online workout platform SaveTrainer has stretching programs to help you reduce back pain, low-impact exercise instructional workout classes to help you build strength to prevent back pain or injury, and even guided meditation to help you reduce stress and get a better night's sleep.
Stretching and exercise are powerful tools for reducing back pain. Choose activities that don't put a great deal of pressure on your back. While experiencing a backache, avoid toe-touches, sit-ups, or other exercises that involve repeated bending of the back.
What This Means To You
Back pain can be really life-disrupting, but fortunately, recovery is possible, and now you have the tools to get there.
Take your time, take care of yourself, and take these simple steps to reduce tension and pain while building habits that support strong bones, a pain-free back, and a full life!