What Is Causing Your Back Pain?
As there are many different causes of back pain, it makes no sense to follow advice or use products that would not be helpful, or may be even harmful, in your specific case. Professional consultation in this regard is important to properly diagnose your condition before considering a specific intervention. Assuming your health care provider has ruled out an underlying non-musculoskeletal condition, some general guidelines usually apply. When searching for natural back pain relief options, these guidelines may be helpful in not only choosing the best products for your specific case but also to minimize aggravating factors for certain conditions. The good news is that by properly addressing individual requirements, natural back pain relief is indeed possible for most people. We hope that you find the following information helpful on your journey to a pain free spine.
For disc related problems, it is usually advisable to minimize "rounding" your spine by slouching, bending forward or looking down. Doing so can put additional pressure on the discs and can worsen disc bulges or herniations. Lumbar traction devices are often used in these cases to drop the pressure in the discs and reduce the degree of herniation. However, as every case is different, you should talk to a qualified health care provider to see if this type of product would be appropriate for you.
Slightly extending the spine backwards can also sometimes relieve a little pressure on herniated discs; however, in certain cases hyperextending the spine backwards can "pinch" the herniated portion of the disc and a nerve associated with it. For this reason, a "neutral" spinal position is often recommended - this is the position you are in when standing up straight looking forward.
Hyperextending your spine backwards may also be uncomfortable for "facet joint" problems and typical "mechanical low back pain" so the neutral spinal position is usually recommended here also. Luckily, a neutral spinal position is advisable for sacroiliac (SI) joint problems too. This is a very common cause of lower back pain and frequently presents as pain in the lower back usually a little off to one side; if you put your hands on your hips and bring your elbows back, the pain may be approximately where your thumb ends up (at the sacroiliac joint).
Elastic back supports like lumbar and sacroiliac "braces" can provide some relief by helping support joints so muscles don't have to spasm as much to do the job. These supports are generally recommended for short intervals - perhaps for a few days - until the pain subsides instead to long term use.
A stiffer brace worn for a longer interval may be more appropriate in certain cases such as a spinal "compression fracture". This frequently occurs in people with osteoporosis and should be properly diagnosed by a health professional as additional medical treatment may be required.
Other general guidelines to help maintain a neutral spinal position include using a small pillow or lumbar support behind the lower back when sitting to support the lumbar spine natural curvature. If you are on a computer, it is important to have the screen at the correct height to avoid looking down at placing needless stress on the cervical spine (neck area).
With regard to stretching or strengthening exercises, this will really depend on the condition you are trying to address and should be discussed with your qualified health care provider. For example, it may seem like a good idea to do abdominal strenthening movements like crunches to address a muscle imbalance in the "core" but this may aggravate an acute lumbar disc herniation. The same applies to stretching the hamstring muscles - it may help some causes of back pain but aggravate others, especially in the acute phase. Always discuss your condition with a qualified health professional.
Controlling Inflammation & Natural Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
In certain cases, such as following an injury, the body releases substances that promote inflammation. This is actually an important mechanism that triggers a healing response from the body. The problem, however, is that a high degree of inflammation can cause pain as well as some negative healing consequences such as an overaccumulation of scar tissue in the injured area. This can both limit long term mobility and promote joint deterioration over time.
The good news is that there are anti inflammatory supplements that can help mediate your body's inflammatory response without shutting it down completely. This can allow your body to heal while minimizing some of the negative effects. Below are some natural anti-inflammatory supplements to consider for this purpose.
Posture, Ergonomics & Associated Products
"Proper posture" usually means maintaining a neutral spinal position as much as possible throughout the day. When sitting or standing the spine should be vertical, not slouched, and you should be facing forward, not looking down. Of course, you will deviate from this position during certain activities or actions but movements should occur with spinal biomechanics in mind. Postural support products that can be worn, ergonomically designed office chairs and standing desks in the workplace are some examples of useful products to help maintain proper posture and avoid prolonged positions that can not only cause back pain but contribute to structural spinal problems over time.
Stretching, Flexibility Exercises & Relieving Muscle Spasms
Since muscles cross over joints, tight muscles keep more pressure on these joints. Over time this can lead to joint irritation and pain. A muscle that is tight, or "hypertonic", is also more metabolically active than a "loose muscle" so it releases more waste products that can accumulate in surrounding tissue and contribute to soreness. Even non-spinal muscles can have effects on the spine as in the case of the hamstring muscles in the back of the thighs. Because these muscles attach at the bottom of the pelvis, if they are tight they can rotate the pelvis in a way that causes a pull the lower back structures.
Activites such as yoga or stretching after being warmed up can be helpful. Some supplements can also be helpful in relieving muscle spasms due to electrolyte imbalances. Magnesium, for example, can help reduce "charlie horses" in some people. Always review the supplements you are considering taking with your family physician to ensure they are appropriate in your specific case and to make sure they will not interact any medications you may be on.
Strengthening Weak Muscles & Correcting Muscle Imbalances
Spinal stability involved a balance of strength of muscles around the spine and body in general. Weak abdominal muscles, for example, allow the spine to be pulled back in a way that places unnecessary stress on the facet joints in the back of the spine. Home exercise programs can be useful in not only addressing this problem but contributing to overall health. This may, but does not have to, involve special equipment. Even targeted body weight exercises, performed on a regular basis, can have a dramatic effect on spinal stability and resolving ongoing back pain in many cases.
Maintaining Bone Density
Maintaining bone density is vital to minimize the chance of "compression fractures" as we age. A targeted effort to maintain bone density is especially important for women who, after menopause, are at an increased risk of spinal compression fractures due to the bone weakening effects of hormone changes. Although it is usually never too late to start an exercise program that helps maintain bone density (talk to your doctor), the earlier this can begin the better.
The type of exercise that is most helpful in maintaining bone density is one that gives the bones a reason to stay strong. Specifically, this involves placing some type of "load" on the bones, as in the case of resistance training. This may involve lifting barbells or dumbells or even doing body weight exercises that place a degree of stress on the bones. The "catch" is that we want to avoid doing something so stressful that is can CAUSE a compression fracture or other negative health consequence. For this reason, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor about what type of exercise is most appropriate in your particular case. In addition to an exercise program, supplements to help support bone density are often appropriate. Some common ones are reviewed for your convenience.
Spinal Joint Supplements To Relieve Back Pain
Maintaining spinal joint health and preventing or eliminating back pain involves numerous factors. These include: avoiding sprain and strain injuries to spinal joints, getting professional care to help maximize recovery from such injuries and minimize joint degeneration over time, providing optimal nutrition to the spinal joints and more. To stay on topic, we will focus our recommendations on joint supplements to help relieve or prevent back pain and pick the ones most likely to be helpful from the multitude of products available in this category.
Sleeping Positions, Mattresses & Pillows
As a good percentage of our lives are spent sleeping, it makes sense that we should try to choose sleeping positions and surfaces that will minimize spinal stress and provide the support and comfort required to for restful sleep. With regard to sleeping positions, in order to minimize stress on the neck and lower back, most people should avoid sleeping on their stomach. Sleeping on your side or back tends to keep the spine in a more neutral position - you don't have to twist your neck to be able to breath, or hyperextend your lower back - and is thus recommended for most people.
To further help maintain adequate spinal alignment, your mattress should be firm enough that your body does not sink down at the hip level but soft enough to allow some "give" to avoid creating pressure points and maximizing comfort. Your choice of pillow should be directed by your sleeping position, with side sleepers typically needing a pillow that is a little thicker than back sleepers in order to avoid excessive angles between the neck and upper back. People with certain medical conditions, such as CPAP users, people with extreme spinal curvatures, etc., may have specific requirements that require a modification of the usual sleep posture recommendations and should discuss this with their qualified health care provider.