Four drug-free back pain remedies
We’ve all experienced it. You bend over to pick something up the wrong way, or you twist in an awkward direction, and zap! Your back starts radiating pain. Until recently, the common recommendation for a hurt back was drugs and more drugs, mixed with a little rest. However, after a number of studies proved that drugs don’t really help in most cases, the American College of Physicians has ripped up the old guidelines. And what they’re replaced them with might surprise you.
Because, not only should you avoid drugs and all the inherent risks they come with, but you shouldn’t rest, either. At least, rest alone isn’t your best course of action. And this is something you need to get right—because back pain isn’t just a nuisance. It can interfere with your every waking moment.
Another Case of Over-prescription and Mistreatment
There’s no doubt, back pain can affect everything you do.
And I’m not talking about a serious back injury, like you’d get in an accident or from a slipped disk. I’m just talking about the common back pain that comes from overexertion, awkward positioning, or sometimes simply the rigors of age.
The human body hasn’t been standing on two legs for all that long, evolutionarily speaking. And your back bears the brunt of the issues that come from walking around on a jury-rigged bipedal system.
So it’s no surprise that back pain—especially lower back pain—is something we all have to deal with. What is a little surprising, though, is just how low it can lay you.
Depending on the severity of the pain, you could be knocked out of work for a week or more. You might not be able to leave the house. Even just going to the bathroom could be a major chore.
That’s why, until recently, most doctors prescribed powerful drugs to anyone with a back injury, no matter how minor.
Too bad we’ve now discovered those drugs don’t help your back at all.
What’s more, all that rest doesn’t help either.
Don’t get me wrong—when you’re suffering from back pain, you don’t want to leap into an intense workout routine and hope for the best.
But research has now shown us better drug-free back pain remedies: moving around!
Not just any old movement, either. You want to attack your back pain in very specific ways.
Natural Back Pain Relief #1: Yoga
When you’re in pain, the last thing you probably want to do is go to a yoga class.
But that’s exactly what the College of Physicians has found works.
You don’t want to do just any yoga, of course. There are specific movements and poses that aim to relieve pressure in your back, stretch out the muscles there, and ease as much tension as possible.
Any good yoga instructor will know those poses well, and be able to guide you. But I don’t recommend doing this alone with an online video or DVD. Doing a yoga pose the wrong way could hurt, instead of help.
But, work with a trained instructor, do the recommended poses the right way, and you’ll feel relief as soon as you’re done. It’s nearly magical, how well it works.
Natural Back Pain Relief #2: Massage
In addition to knotty muscles, one of the biggest causes of back pain is inflammation.
And few things can clear up both problems faster than a professional massage.
In addition to soothing problems in your muscles, massage can also work out “wrinkles” in your myofascial layer—dense tissue wrapped around your muscles. Sometimes, problems in the fascial layer can cause pain by constricting muscles—like a twisted sheet can trap and squeeze your legs.
But the best part about massage is that it literally rubs out inflammation. During massage, blood flow may increase, but it also releases tension and clears the way for inflammation to go down in the immediate aftermath of a massage.
Specifically, it appears that massage inhibits the production of inflammatory cytokines. Why this happens isn’t entirely understood—but we know it works.
Again, you want a trained professional to give you your massage. Someone who doesn’t know the body well could end up making your problems worse.
But any skilled professional has studied human anatomy, and knows exactly how to relieve back pain, without causing any damage. A good masseuse will speed the healing process, not hinder it.
Natural Back Pain Relief #3: The Chiropractor
A good chiropractor is like a passive yoga session, combined with a skilled masseuse. A good chiropractor can speed your recovery from back pain like few other people.
However, in this case, it’s extremely important you know who you’re working with. Many chiropractors like to put on a show—giving your back an adjustment with a good crack, for instance. However, if you’re already suffering from back pain, cracking your back is often counterproductive.
It might feel good in the moment. But it can get in the way of recovery long-term.
You might have noticed a pattern forming here—the best things for you are often uncomfortable in the moment, but help as soon as you finish.
That’s why it’s so important you have a chiropractor you know and trust. They will likely manipulate you in ways that can be uncomfortable. You need someone you trust so that you can take discomfort, knowing that it’s leading to less tense, less inflamed muscles.
A chiropractor who doesn’t have the necessary skill can wind up irritating your muscles, which is worse than if you’d done nothing.
Natural Back Pain Relief #4: Active Release Technique (ART)
Active Release Technique (ART) is just what it sounds like. Using specialized movements, you manipulate your muscles into stretches, release tension, and promote quick recovery from injuries.
The best way to think of ART is as a western, clinical version of yoga. They work in much the same way, and towards the same sorts of goals. Indeed, some of the ART techniques bear a striking resemblance to yoga.
You can practice ART on your own, using online guides. But again, getting help from an expert will always be safer and, usually, more effective.
Many chiropractors actually use ART, as do physical therapists. Get a program from someone who knows, and then you can practice yourself at home.
All of these methods, done properly, are completely safe—unlike pain relievers or muscle relaxants, which carry a number of side effects.
And also unlike drugs, that only mask pain temporarily, leaving you vulnerable to over-doing it further, these methods actually work to relieve your pain permanently, and help your body heal faster.
Some injuries—especially serious ones—will require more attention from a doctor. But the vast majority of back pains go away on their own, as irritation calms down. These four methods just help that irritation go down faster, and get rid of your pain quicker.
Now that even the College of Physicians recognizes the benefits, there’s no reason you should turn anywhere else when you’re in need of pain relief.
- Neighmond, Patti. Got Back Pain? Try Yoga Or Massage Before Reaching For The Pills. NPR. Published Feb 20, 2017. Accessed Jun 8, 2017.
- Five Active Relief Technique Benefits, Including Lowered Pain & Increased Performance. Dr. Axe. Accessed Jun 10, 2017.
- Weingus, Leigh. 9 Simple Yoga Poses To Help With Back Pain. Huffington Post. Published Jun 20, 2015. Accessed Jun 10, 2017.
- Bankhead, Charles. Muscle Massage Rubs Out Inflammation. MedPage Today. Published Feb 2, 2012. Accessed Jun 10, 2017.
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: July 5, 2017