For most people who suffer with back pain, depending on the cause, it can be a long journey to recovery, or at least to reaching the stage whereby pain is manageable and the sufferer is able to live with it. You may choose to take anti-inflammatory drugs to achieve this, or you may want to try a more natural approach. The choice is yours. If you choose the latter, you will need to make some changes to your lifestyle such as diet, or how you handle stress, and you must be a little patient. The following information may help you to decide.
Fresh salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring and flaxseed (linseed) contain omega-3 fats which are anti-inflammatory. Fresh fruits, vegetables (especially green leafy), whole grains, nuts and seeds contain valuable nutrition, particularly minerals, essential for maintaining spinal structure and function. Fresh clean water is needed (6-8 glasses per day) to regulate all bodily functions, and to prevent dehydration and acid build up in the tissues, both of which increase pain.
Chiropractic or Osteopathy can restore balance and normal movement to the back by correcting any misalignments of the vertebrae which may press on a nerve and cause pain. Remedial massage can relieve the pain of muscle spasms and stimulate blood flow to the affected area. The abdominal muscles which help support the lumbar spine need to be kept firm. Consult your physical therapist about which exercises suit you. He or she can also advise you about techniques regarding posture, standing, sitting, sleeping and lifting. Developing such body awareness will improve your flexibility, coordination and prevent or alleviate pain. Certain Yoga exercises may also do this. Yoga and / or meditation may also reduce physical and emotional stresses which over a period of time can compound existing pain.
Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids help with the formation of collagen (holds tissues together) and so strengthen and aid repair. Magnesium relaxes muscles and eases nerve irritation. Bromelain, an enzyme from the pineapple reduces soft tissue inflammation and swelling. Glucosamine which is mostly derived from shellfish, Chondroitin and MSM, together are being prescribed by both medical doctors and natural therapists. Clinical trials have shown them to be effective in reducing pain, swelling, inflammation and maintaining healthy fibro cartilage in the vertebral discs. However, if you have an allergy to shellfish, you cannot take Glucosamine.
Certain herbs have proved themselves over many years to be very effective alternatives to anti-inflammatory drugs in treating back pain. Taken orally , Ginger, Cayenne pepper, Celery, Devil’s claw and White willow bark all help in reducing inflammation, swelling and thus, pain. However, if you are pregnant, breast feeding, taking blood thinning medication such as warfarin or aspirin, or suffering from any major illness that requires long term medication, please consult your doctor or health care professional before taking any of these herbs.
When applied topically (externally), German chamomile, Peppermint, Wintergreen and Arnica (not on broken skin) are excellent pain relievers.
Remedies which stand out include Arnica, Aconite, Rhus tox and Ruta grav. These are best taken after consultation with a qualified accredited homoeopath, depending on the symptom picture. Homoeopathic medicines may be used during pregnancy and do not interfere with any prescribed medications.
Greg Blain is an accredited Naturopath and a Bad Backs Champion. Learn more about Greg’s story here.
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