I first want to talk about back pain in general, because I find so many really don’t understand it. First of all, PAIN is an acronym – it stands for Pay Attention Inside Now. What most people do not understand is that pain is the last thing your body will send you when there’s a problem; your body is smart and will try to fix the problem first. If it can’t then it will send you pain messages.
Think of an extreme example; cancer. If not caught during a routine exam, the patient usually finds out they have it after going to the doctor for pain. There may or may not have been other symptoms associated with it before the pain, but once they’re hurting, people will seek medical care. And in the case of cancer, it’s often too late.
So if you learn one thing from this website, I hope it’s that symptoms don’t really tell you what is going on inside you, and to please consider other things as markers for how healthy you are!
As a chiropractor, I read a lot of X-rays. And I can tell you this… most people who come in for back or neck pain have had their issues for so long, that they have arthritis in their spine. Regular adjustments can stop or slow down the progression of the arthritis, but rarely can we undo it. But because there wasn’t any pain, the person had no way of knowing their spine was being damaged.
Chiropractic care is great for osteoarthritis prevention and of course, everyone knows it’s a phenomenal back pain treatment!
OK, so if you have back pain, the first thing you need to do is decide if your back pain is because of muscles, nerves, arthritis symptoms, the discs or something even more serious. Once you decide that, then you can figure out which back pain remedies to try. Because of the dangers associated with osteoarthritis drugs, any recommendations I make will be based on natural remedies.
Muscular Back Pain
If your pain is because of aching muscles, you’d likely tell someone that the pain is dull or achy, with the occasional twinge of pain when you move in a certain direction. The pain probably isn’t so bad when you’re still and it gets worse as you do things. You may find certain positions are pretty comfortable and it’s not affecting your sleep too much (although it may hurt when you roll over).
If you have muscular pain you can use heat or ice for relief. Which one works best for you is personal preference, but usually heat is better for muscle pain. If you’re using a dry heating pad, place a moist towel underneath it to keep your muscles from dehydrating (that can cause cramps after you remove the heating pad). Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated from the inside, too.
If you have chronic muscle pain, meaning it’s been there for months and nothing seems to help it, you may want to try living gluten free for a month. The gluten in wheat is very inflammatory, and I find in people with chronic muscle pain, this change can make a huge difference overall in how they feel.
If the muscle is overworked and inflamed (feels hot or tender to the touch) an ice pack can cool it down. Always put a thin towel between your skin and the ice pack (bags of frozen vegetable work great for this – but label it so you don’t accidentally cook them later!). Keep the ice on for 20 minutes every hour for up to 4 hours. If you have diabetic neuropathy or other nerve disorders, do not use ice without checking your skin every couple of minutes.
There’s a homeopathic remedy called Traumeel that is an excellent homeopathic back pain treatment for muscle pain. You can also get it in a cream that you rub directly into your sore muscles. There are also pain relief creams and gels that you can buy in the drugstore or online that have things like menthol and cayenne pepper (capsaicin) that can help. I personally like the capsaicin ones, but again it comes down to personal preference (whether you like a heating or cooling sensation). These rubs act as a back pain treatment by temporarily confusing your pain and temperature nerve pathways – this helps you feel less pain.
Sciatica and other Nerve Pain
If you have pain from a pinched nerve, you’d probably tell someone that it feels like shooting pain and that it goes down your leg, maybe just to your knee or sometimes all the way to your foot. It may feel burning or sharp, and if you show someone where it hurts you might point with your finger as you trace the pain down your leg. You may find that you get relief if you lean to one side, and it probably hurts if you’re moving or still. You might find it incredibly difficult to get in a position that’s comfortable.
A nerve can be pinched as it exits the spine, or as it passes through muscles. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between them, and you may have to try different treatments to determine which it is. If it’s pinched as it exits the spine, you’ll probably find leaning in one direction helps a little. This pain could be caused by a disc problem (herniation or arthritis) and you really should see a health care provider for X-rays or other imaging to see what is causing the problem. If the disc is just pressing on the nerve (and hasn’t completely herniated), then chiropractic care is a great back pain treatment. A medical doctor can prescribe anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants and patients have told me they have mixed results with those. Massage may help, but tell your massage therapist to be very careful going over the spine and gluteal muscles on the affected side. Because massage can be deep, you run the risk of inflaming an already upset muscle – and irritating the nerve that runs through it!
If the disc has herniated, then you need an MRI or other imaging to help decide what the best back pain treatment options are.
If the nerve hurts because it’s being compressed by tight muscles, you may still feel pain running down your leg, but it may run down the side of your leg and if you showed someone where it hurts, you’d probably run your whole hand down the area. The pain will feel more diffuse, but still kind of sharp. You’d be less likely to get relief by leaning to one side and you’re probably pretty comfortable when you’re sitting still.
This kind of pain responds well to stretching (but flare ups are common if you overdo it). Hot baths, massage, and light exercise are also good choices as a back pain treatment. A chiropractor can help you figure out which muscle is causing the problem and give you a customized back pain treatment plan. The muscle creams we’ve already talked about may help a lot, too.
More Serious Back Pain Issues
If your pain is caused by something pretty serious, you’re going to have warning signals. Some of these are: not able to get comfortable in ANY position, pain that never drops in intensity, pain that keeps you awake at night, numbness or weakness in your legs or feet or a sense that you can’t control your bowels or bladder, pain that radiates into your stomach, or pain when coughing or sneezing. This is NOT a comprehensive list! If you have ANY doubt to the severity of your back pain, see your primary doctor IMMEDIATELY. Back pain treatment for these issues require medical attention.
Related pages you might like to read
Using hypnosis for back pain can be incredibly effective.
Is an inversion table an option for your type of back pain?
Need an arthritis doctor in your area? Here is a directory of chiropractors.
To try stretching as a back pain treatment, click here.