By Karen Appold
Lower back pain can strike for a variety of reasons. As you get older, you have decreased muscle elasticity, tone, and bone strength. Discs start to lose their fluid and flexibility, so they don’t cushion your vertebrae as well–causing back pain.
You can also experience back pain if you lift something that’s heavy or you overstretch, resulting in strain, a sprain, or a muscle spasm in your back. If severe, you may rupture a disc. This can put pressure on nerves in your spinal cord, causing pain to worsen.
Low back pain can also result from bone lesions, as well as nerve or muscle irritation. A host of other reasons include certain diseases, such as arthritis or osteoporosis, as well as stress, smoking, obesity, weight gain while pregnant, and sleeping in certain positions.
Natural therapies to try
Acupuncture. A licensed professional (acupuncturist) inserts needles at strategic places on your body. It is believed that this releases pain-killing molecules (called peptides) and restores your body’s normal energy flow.
Bed rest. While this is good for a day or two, bed rest for any longer amount of time can actually make pain worse. One study showed that continuing activities increased flexibility in your back. While resting, lie on one side with a pillow nestled between your knees.
Ice, followed by heat. Try lying on an ice pack, which can lower pain and inflammation, for 20-minute periods several times a day. After a couple of days, switch to heat (such as a heating pad) for short stints. This will relax your muscles and increase blood flow. A warm bath might help to relax muscles, also.
Exercise. Exercising will expedite your recovery and strengthen your back muscles. Types of exercises that may be beneficial include stretching, walking, yoga, and swimming.
Massage. Studies show that massage can relieve low back pain for six months or even longer.
Spinal manipulation. See a chiropractor, who will use leverage to adjust your spinal structures and restore your back’s mobility.
Traction. This technique involves using weights to apply intermittent or constant force to slowly pull your skeletal structure into a better alignment. Your chiropractor may prescribe this.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Electrodes are attached to your skin at or near your source of pain. A device sends small electrical pulses along nerve fibers that block pain signals from being transmitted to your brain. Your chiropractor may prescribe this.
Karen Appold is a medical writer based in Lehigh Valley, PA.