The second leading reason for visits to the doctor in the United States is back pain. Almost 80% of the U.S. population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Many of them will end up on dangerous and potentially addictive pain medications and will eventually end up having surgery, steroid injections, and other invasive procedures—often continuing for years.
Research shows that most of the 25,000 back surgeries performed each year may not be necessary, and the condition often reappears in four years or less. Holistic medicine offers alternative options for curing back pain. Instead of just masking symptoms that often leads to failed results, chiropractic adjustments and other measures can be taken for successful treatment. Back pain can worsen over time, and prevention and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle are essential building blocks for aligning the body for optimal performance.
What Causes Back Pain?
The back is a complex mechanism. It has bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons; these are all held together by connective tissue called fascia. Soft tissue, nerves, skin, and collagen also play their part in the formation of the back. Imbalance or injury to any of these components can result in back pain. Some causes of back pain include:
- Poor posture
- Lack of exercise or physical activity
- Muscular strain from exercise, excessive body weight, or sleep posture
- Lack of movement and exercise
- Liver disease or liver toxicity (including from drinking alcohol)
- Misalignment of the spine, shoulders, and hips that can lead to a chronic condition
- Inflammation of the fascia, joints or tendons from injury, medications, or deterioration of surrounding ligaments
- Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and other spinal problems
Treatments for Back Pain
Prevention is the best treatment for back pain—and a solid prevention plan includes staying in good physical condition, eating a healthy diet, and stretching frequently. Paying attention to movement and posture is essential. Be sure you have a firm and spacious sleeping arrangement, and that your back is supported in the car (most car seats are not good for the back) and at work. This is especially important if you are overweight. Also, abusing alcohol or prescription medications (including antihistamines) can cause back pain from liver and kidney toxicity.
For easing back pain, you first need to identify the type of pain. Sharp, pointed lower back pain is often a symptom of muscular imbalance. This can easily be cured with long, slow stretching exercises done on the floor. If stretching and movement make your pain more acute afterward, then your back pain may be related to spinal or tissue damage. Use antiinflammatories as described below.
Dull, aching back pain located in the lower and mid back may be related to the kidneys, and may require a cleanse of the kidneys and liver (see appropriate sections in this book). Powerful herbs that may help include milk thistle (liver tonic and detoxifier), Devil’s Claw (back pain relief), boldo, and green tea and extract (diuretic and antiinflammatory).
Next, focus on inflammation with the best antiinflammatories available in the natural world: fish oil supplements, garlic, cinnamon, and tumeric supplements. Nutritional supplementation helps prevent back pain and improve overall health. Use calcium and magnesium along with vitamin C, vitamin E, evening primrose oil, coenzyme Q10, and Glucosamine.
Herbs such as lobelia and cramp bark can be rubbed on the affected area to reduce pain, and other useful herbs include cat’s claw, feverfew, rosemary, wild yam, and yucca root. If your back pain is related to kidney toxicity, then massage is not suggested. Instead, use saunas and detoxifying treatments. Other options for treating back pain include:
- Inversion therapy: Now accepted as one of the more successful treatments for certain types of back pain, inversion therapy involves hanging upsidedown (at gradually increasing increments of time) on an inversion table. This helps your back muscles to completely relax and allows your spine to naturally correct itself. The extra blood flow to your head is another benefit of this treatment.
- Acupuncture to increase blood flow to stressed muscles
- Bodywork, including massage and deep tissue work, helps create balance and reconnect tissue.
- Feldenkrais Method to correct posture and improve range of motion
- Chiropractic to detect and correct spinal misalignments
- Hydrotherapy that applies water, ice, and steam to restore health
Other alternative methods including oxygen therapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Ayurveda.
Prolotherapy is a seminatural treatment that stimulates the body’s production of collagen and consequently the growth of ligaments and other connective tissues. This has been useful in curing some back problems caused by ligament damage. The therapy involves injecting an irritant solution into the desired area. This causes an intense inflammatory response, which triggers a chain reaction of healing events in the body leading to the rebuilding of connective tissues. Some studies show that the new connective tissues are actually stronger than the original tissues. The treatment is generally repeated several times for full regeneration.