Sprains to the ligaments, ruptured disks, strained muscles, and irritation to the joints are some common causes of back pain. Research has shown that spinal manipulation by a chiropractor can result in better outcomes for lessening lower back pain.
But that hasn’t always been the usual medical approach.
Often, doctors mostly just threw pain medication at the condition giving rise to the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
Consider this: half of all working Americans experience back pain symptoms each year. For some, it is debilitating enough to cause them not to go to work and result in lost wages and even job loss.
That is the scope of people who may or may not have received a prescription for opioid drugs in America each year.
Now that reputable health groups like the American Chiropractic Association have identified the correlation between opioid addiction and back pain they are recommending other approaches to care including heat therapy, acupuncture, spinal manipulation, and massage as the primary care options.
If there’s no improvement, then one can receive a prescription for drugs like Ibuprofen and in some cases muscle relaxants which are less addictive. Even these should be used sparingly and with caution, as they can have damaging effects on your GI tract, liver, and kidneys. And they don’t often help you address the underlying injury and can actually slow the healing process.
But here is the catch: most of these treatments require a third party to work effectively. For example, you need an acupuncturist for acupuncture, a chiropractor for spinal manipulation, and a certified massage therapist for a proper massage that doesn’t worsen the situation.
One of my goals when working with people is to help them find better ways to manage the inevitable flare-ups that come with life, stress, or just overdoing it.
Here are some things you can do on your own to lessen the pain.
Whatever movements you can do – do them as often as you can. Using other muscles can help shift the strain off the injured ones while they heal. Finding ways to keep moving also improves circulation, and helps reduce the anxiety and fear that often comes with pain and injury.
You can often start moving more by literally working from the ground up. Get on the floor (near some sturdy furniture to help you get up if necessary). Hands and knees, on your back or belly – whatever is most comfortable. Gently rocking, rolling, breathing, and even crawling are generally “safe” ways to move without aggravating muscle guarding and spasms.
Here is what the doctors don’t tell you: when you continually avoid using injured muscles, they actually become more sensitive, and soon even the slightest movement of those muscles results in pain. So the continued movement of the muscles results can actually make them less sensitive over time.
Stop “picking at the scab”
People will constantly rub, foam roll, or otherwise poke at an injury. Fun fact: deep pressure like foam rolling does calm down the pain signals to your brain, temporarily. But if you do it too much, it can cause more damage to already injured tissues.
When you learn to stop picking at the scab, you give the muscles a chance to heal and regenerate. During this restorative time, you experience less and less pain until it is no more. All you have to do is learn to use positive movements and good posture to avoid triggering the injured muscles.
Deep belly breathing is one of the most basic and easiest ways to relax your nervous system when you are in pain. It’s also the best way to activate those cranky core and abdominal muscles. You can lay on your back, side, or belly – any position that feels comfortable. Take 5-10 deep slow breaths and then gently start moving the injured area.
The human body is a self-healing organism, and so when the pain sensors are triggered, the back naturally tries to find ways to mend the problem. Unfortunately, we keep continuing with daily harmful patterns that cause re-injury and nullify the self-healing that has taken place.
Even doctors believe that bypassing the body’s self-healing ability to use external components like drugs can ignore the very thing that the body needs to recover.
With the right understanding of natural pain management in the body, you can help your lower back improve, heal, and stay pain-free.