An estimated 8% of all adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic or persistent back pain. It’s the most expensive health condition in America, costing more than $12 billion per year. While there are many conventional treatments available, many people turn to back pain natural remedies to get relief without side effects. We’re going to share what causes back pain, the different types of back pain and the most common natural remedies for back pain to help you better understand what’s happening in your body.
Types of Back Pain
There are a few different types of back pain:
Many people describe nerve pain as a radiating or shooting sensation. Doctors call this radicular pain because it radiates away from the spinal cord down the nerve pathway. Sciatica is an example of radiating pain.
Usually, when nerve pain affects the back, it’s because of a herniated or compressed disc. The only real way to get long-lasting pain relief is to alleviate the pressure on the nerve.
Fortunately, this type of pain usually resolves itself after a few weeks. But in the meantime, you’re left dealing with some serious pain. Natural remedies may help (more on that soon).
Bone and Cartilage Pain
Bone and cartilage pain is the least common type of back pain, but that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable. A broken bone can cause this type of pain, but it can also be caused by other medical conditions.
Bone pain is often described as a chronic ache that just won’t go away.
Osteoporosis can cause this type of back pain. It’s a common condition affecting more than 10 million American adults. When osteoporosis affects the spine, it increases your risk of compression fractures. This happens when weak vertebrae collapse.
Certain types of cancer, like leukemia, can cause bone pain as well as bone infections. However, in most cases, bone pain is caused by something far less scary: arthritis or degeneration.
Muscle and Ligament Pain
Back pain can also be caused by a strained muscle or ligament. Strains can be very painful, and they can affect many areas of your back, including:
- Erectors spinae
Although there are several ligaments near the spine, sprains are rare unless they're caused by another major spinal injury.
Muscle pain usually feels like a dull ache, and it’s most noticeable when you move around. Fortunately, muscle strains heal pretty quickly if you follow the RICE protocol:
The healing process can take a few weeks for muscle strains. Ligament strains can take a little longer.
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain can be caused by many things, from poor posture to strains, medical conditions, and other factors.
Some of the most common causes of back pain include:
Osteoarthritis can affect many areas of the body, including the lower back. When the area surrounding the spinal cord narrows, this is called spinal stenosis.
One of the most common causes of back pain, and can develop because of:
- Heavy lifting
- Awkward movement
Poor physical condition can put a constant strain on your back, leading to muscle spasms and pain.
Discs act as a cushion for the bones in your spine. When this soft material bulges or ruptures, it can put pressure on nerves and cause pain.
Osteoporosis develops when the body either makes too little or loses too much bone. Low bone mass can make your bones weak, brittle, and porous. When it affects the spine, it can cause back pain or painful fractures.
In many cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated or bulging disc. The disc presses on this nerve, which runs from the lower back down through the buttock and the back of the leg.
One of the leading causes of back pain is poor posture, and a big part of the problem is that most people have sedentary jobs. Only 20% of workers have physically active jobs, which means 80% of employed people spend most of their days sitting.
Sitting at a desk for long periods of time can lead to poor posture. Sitting at a desk and using a computer can cause back and shoulder pain if your workstation isn’t set up to promote good posture.
Some people develop back pain because of shingles, an infection that can impact the nerves. Shingles is a reactivation of the same virus that causes chickenpox. It causes a painful rash that wraps around the torso and can cause back pain.
Some infections can cause back pain, including:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Kidney infections
- Bladder infections
- Infection of the spine
Infections require immediate medical care. Once the infection is cleared, the pain should disappear.
Back Pain Natural Remedies
Although pain medications are available, many people look for natural remedies for their back pain to avoid side effects and the risk of addiction. Some natural back pain remedies include:
Heat and Cold Therapy
Alternating between heat and cold therapies can help alleviate pain while reducing swelling and promoting healing.
If the pain or injury is fresh, start with cold therapy. A simple ice pack will do (make sure there’s a towel or cloth between the ice pack and your skin). Cold therapy constricts blood vessels and helps reduce inflammation.
Heat therapy helps improve circulation, allowing more blood to reach the injured area.
Overall, research shows that heat therapy may have a slight edge over cold therapy when it comes to pain relief. In one clinical trial study, patients who underwent heat therapy had significantly less pain compared to the control and cold therapy groups.
Many people find that massage is a simple and effective way to treat their back pain. And more research is showing that these pain-relieving effects aren’t just wishful thinking. Today, more doctors are recognizing massage therapy as a legitimate method for treating back pain.
A 2011 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that massage may be effective in treating lower back pain. The benefits, researchers found, lasted at least six months after receiving weekly massages over ten weeks.
Another study involving 64 patients with chronic lower back pain found that deep-tissue massage reduced pain.
Acupuncture has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat a wide range of health issues, including pain. Now, research is showing that this ancient practice really may be effective for pain relief.
In one study involving 1,162 patients with chronic lower back pain, participants were treated with traditional Chinese acupuncture, a sham acupuncture procedure, or conventional treatments (drugs, exercise, physical therapy, etc.). Those who received acupuncture treatments experienced instant pain relief and overall better quality of life.
Turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of conditions, including pain. The earthy root, which is used as a spice in cooking, contains curcumin, which has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It also acts as an analgesic (natural pain reliever).
Research shows that curcumin can help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with sciatic nerve pain, back pain caused by herniated discs, and spinal cord injuries. These results suggest that turmeric may be an effective natural treatment for back pain.
Hatha yoga or gentle stretching can help reduce or even eliminate back pain. Stretching helps improve blood circulation and flexibility.
Here are some simple stretches that may help with back pain:
- Knee-to-chest stretches
- Seated spinal twist
- Pelvic tilt
If you’re looking for a gentle yoga routine, YouTube has many free videos available. Many yoga classes are focused on a particular problem or goal, so you’re sure to find plenty for back pain.
Cannabinoids like CBD will attach themselves to specialized receptors in a person’s brain and immune system. The CB2 receptor, in particular, can play a significant role in managing pain and inflammation. As CBD enters your body, it can attach to your CB2 receptors. CBD also encourages the body to create its own cannabinoids. This is why researchers have come to believe that CBD can have a significant impact on chronic pain.
One study showed that CBD acts through the TRPV1 receptor, which is the cause of functions like inflammation and pain awareness,. The study concluded that “the nontoxic and nonpsychoactive compound CBD, may represent a useful pharmacological alternative in the treatment of the disease-associated chronic pain.”
These results suggest that CBD may be an effective natural treatment for back pain.
Back pain can have many causes, and for many, the pain is only temporary. While conventional pain medications are available, these natural remedies may help bring some relief without negative side effects.