Pain is our body's way of getting our attention, and we should treat it as such. You don't want to mask the symptoms without addressing the cause, or you are likely to cause additional damage and potential chronic pain. Our bodies were designed to heal, we just need to provide the tools to do it. Natural back pain relief can often be achieved at home.
How to Avoid Back Injury
Most of use treat our backs very badly, using them in ways that they were not designed to be used. The first step to relieving back pain is to avoid causing it in the first place, if possible.
Squat, don't bend – use your knees and legs for lifting, not your back. Since I have switched to more squatting, I have noticed that it stretches out my lower back and I am much less sore after long sessions in the garden.
Don't lift and twist – Keep your back straight. to help train yourself to lift properly and support your back, you may wish to invest in a back support belt, such as those manufacturer at Core Products International Inc. in western Wisconsin. I purchased the one shown in the photo at the top of the post, the Corfit Belt Advantage Belt, and wear it when I am doing heavy or repetitive lifting, such as moving firewood or heavy garden items. (A good friend of mine works at Core Products. If you end up purchasing any of their products, tell them I sent you. Maybe if we generate enough traffic, they'll offer a discount to CSH readers. ;-)) Free Shipping on purchases of $20 or more at Core Products – Enter Code “FREESHIP” at checkout.
This video illustrates proper form for sitting and squatting.
Natural Back Pain Relief – What should I do if I strain my back?
First, let's define muscle strain. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) states: “A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon (fibrous cords of tissue that connect muscle to bone). Depending on the severity of the injury, a strain may be a simple overstretch of the muscle or tendon, or it can result from a partial or complete tear.” They advise you to see a healthcare provider for sprain treatment if:
- You have severe pain and cannot put any weight on the injured joint.
- The injured area looks crooked or has lumps and bumps (other than swelling) that you do not see on the uninjured joint.
- You cannot move the injured joint.
- You cannot walk more than four steps without significant pain.
- You have numbness in any part of the injured area.
- You see redness or red streaks spreading out from the injury.
- You injure an area that has been injured several times before.
- You are in doubt about the seriousness of the injury or how to care for it.
RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation can help to relieve pain ( see more on the NIAMS site).
Topical Treatment of Muscle Sprains
The best commercial ointment I have found to date for muscle strains is Herbalix Smart Salve. I've been using Herbalix products for several months now, and I was so impressed that I bought my siblings some of my favorite products, including their deodorant, detox deodorant and Smart Salve. My brother, Richard, pulled a muscle in his back tackling this:
He's a big guy, but the pile of wood was bigger. He was pretty sure he was going to need a visit to the chiropractor, as he had a painful knot of muscle mid-back. He applied the Smart Salve three times within 24 hours of the injury, and the pain and swelling decreased dramatically, to the point where he no longer felt he needed to see a chiropractor. He was so excited by how well it worked he called me up to tell me.
Yesterday, I pulled a muscle between my shoulder blades lifting a heavy potted plant. That one was so sore it made me catch my breath. I applied the salve three times yesterday and once this morning, and the pain has faded to just a bit of “ow”. The salve is also good for bruises and hemorrhoids, too – basically any type of surface inflammation.
Foods and Supplements that Help With Back Pain
If you have long term back problems, you need to look at underlying causes. Pain is caused by inflammation, so an anti-inflammatory diet may help.
Best Foods and Supplements for Fighting Inflammation
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed and cod liver oil are all good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids
- B vitamins, especially B12 – Nutritional yeast, fermented foods, shellfish, liver, caviar, beef, cheese, lamb and eggs (source)
- Magnesium – spinach, chard, blackstrap molasses, halibut, turnip greens, pumpkin seeds, sea vegetables, green beans and collard greens
- Turmeric – turmeric contains curcumin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory, as well as having many other health benefits. It pairs well with chicken and other poultry, and is common in many Indian dishes
- Vitamin D – the best source for vitamin D is sun exposure, but high quality cod liver oil and pastured animal fats are also good sources
- Water – Dehydration is a common cause of muscle fatigue. Simple, but true.
Foods to Avoid – Transfats, excess sugar, highly processed foods, excess caffeine
Professional Care for Back Pain
If you are coping with severe or chronic pain that does not respond to standard self-treatment, please seek professional help. The techniques described in the book “Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection” by Dr. John Sarno seem to hold potential for helping those with chronic pain. I have not tried these techniques, but a friend has, and said that they were pleased with the initial results.
Should You Exercise if You Have Back Pain?
If you are able to move, in most cases, you should. Mercola.com states:
Inactivity promotes muscle weakness, joint contractures, and loss of range of motion, which can lead to more pain and loss of function, and even less activity. To break this potentially devastating cycle, regular exercise is essential
Be gentle, start slow, and if you experience intense pain, weakness, numbness or any of the other symptoms listed at the top of the post, please seek professional help, but don't stop moving just because you ache, or the problem will only get worse.
This information is for educational purposes only and should not replace any advise from a medical doctor. I hope you will find some of the home remedies my family and I use to be helpful.
You may also find useful:
- Home Remedies for Sore Muscles
- Home Remedies for Arthritis
- Things We’re Embarrassed to Talk About – What’s a Healthy Bowel Movement?
*Note – the t-shirt in the top photo says “Duct Tape University” in case anyone was wondering. 🙂