Looking to heal back pain? You're not alone. On a global level, more than 80% of folks feel low back pain at some point or another. Managing back pain isn't fun. But the prospect of corrective surgery is downright scary.
Fortunately, you can probably trace your back pain to one or more of these factors — which are all fixable:
Taking steps to holistically heal back pain is a lot like taking care of yourself. Plain and simple self love. This is good news. Not only will your back feel better. You will too.
Heal back pain and feel happy, in 5 steps
#1 – Move more
How often do you sit?
Just in your car? Only at home? When you're at the office? Chances are high that you sit often. And while you sit, you might tuck your pelvis and lean forward. Slowly, your butt flattens – your pelvic floor looses tone – and your abdominal muscles grow lazy.
Lack of movement will naturally lead to stiff and weak muscles. If you want to heal back pain, you need to move. Specifically, you need to move and engage those muscles that hold most of your organs. Otherwise known as your core, this means:
- Your diaphragm, which helps you breathe
- The deep muscles of your abdominal wall
- Your pelvic floor, the layer of muscles stretching from your pubic bone to the bone at the base of your tailbone
Most folks think that the good ol' toe-touch – bending forward to touch your toes – will stretch your hamstrings and relieve low back pain. But as it turns out, doing the opposite of your norm may be more beneficial. In other words, backbending.
As Bikram yogini Barbora Simek explains,
The reality is, we spend most of our day in an unsupported forward bend. Internally, forward bending causes the front vertebrae move closer together, forcing the inter-vertebral disks and spinal nerves back.
The bones and joints in your spine bend forwards and backwards. They also rotate. Working a simple spinal twist into your day will help you to move more and heal back pain.
#2 – Move better
According to developmental kinesiology, your posture develops naturally along with your nervous system – beginning in infancy. Those muscles that helped you turn over, crawl, and walk as a baby work together and stabilize joints in adulthood.
If you struggle to activate one muscle or part of a muscle, you might unwittingly recruit another muscle to do the work. This “weak link” puts stress on passive structures – like ligaments, cartilage, and joints – and leads to chronic pain.
Besides backbends and spinal twists, practitioners who focus on developmental kinesiology and something called dynamic neuromuscular stabilization suggest that you stabilize your core so that you're able to easily transfer movement through your trunk, to your hands and feet.
This means moving like a baby.
Or at least, recreating the movements you went through during infancy so that you can retrain your brain to fire different sets of muscles. If you want to heal back pain, the steps you take are sometimes less about weak or tight muscles and more about training the brain.
#3 – Look within
After digging into the mechanics of how to heal back pain, it's helps to look at your own emotions surrounding pain and fear of pain.
Fear of hurting or being unable to move can make you “freeze up,” feeding a vicious cycle of pain and immobility.
Acupuncturist Dr. Mikio Sankey also suggests that back pain is linked to feeling unsupported in life. Once you heal back pain, you may find that you're able to break patterns of:
- Taking life too seriously
#4 – Mange inflammation
Pain is a sign of inflammation. So, it helps to throw in a couple of tricks that reduce inflammation and ease pain. Here are my favs – this list is by no means exhaustive:
- Eat a paleo diet – The simplest thing you can do to heal back pain is switch up your diet to one that minimizes inflammation. In short, give the paleo diet a whirl. Remove foods that either put your immune system on high alert or weaken it – like processed grains and refined sugar. Aim for high-quality fats and source your meat from well-treated animals. If paleo meal planning confuses you, go here.
- Add in collagen – Collagen is the stuff your bones, ligaments, and tendons are made of. And eating collagen – or gelatinous foods – gives you more collagen to work with. Makes sense, no? I use this one.
- Take fish oil – One of the many benefits of a good quality fish oil is that it contains omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation and reduce pain. I like this one.
- Eat turmeric – Turmeric is spice that comes from a bright orange rhizome. It's related to ginger and used often in Indian cuisine. In many ways, turmeric is cure-all for chronic conditions. This includes on-going inflammation and pain. One compound that's responsible for turmeric's ability to heal back pain is curcumin. To target pain, you can take a supplement with concentrated curcumin. I like this one.
#5 – Manage pain naturally
Pain medication is not without side effects, the most alarming of which may be addiction. According to a recent report from the CDC, at least half of all opioid deaths involve a prescription for opioid medication – which is often used to relieve pain.
Fortunately, safe alternatives to medication and surgery exist. So, spread the word! It's worth knowing that the following can massively reduce and heal back pain:
- Acupuncture – Useful for both chronic back pain and acute back pain that follows an injury, acupuncture is often more effective than medication.
- Essential oils – There's evidence that essential oils may help to relieve back pain. For example, along with massage, ginger essential oil can help to relieve on-going low back pain. And rose essential oil might reduce low back pain linked to pregnancy.
What have you done to heal back pain? Let me know in the comments below!