If you are among the 31 million Americans who experience chronic back pain, you know how such discomfort can make even small tasks seem like major burdens. What you may not know is that there are some simple things you can do to naturally reduce daily aches and pains and allow you to work, rest and play with fewer distractions.
Understanding that such options, when effective, are almost always preferable to invasive medical procedures, here are five natural back pain relievers that may just help you feel and function better.
1. Engage Your Endorphins
Endorphins are hormones that act as the body's built-in pain relievers. These powerful products of the pituitary gland have a morphine-like effect and prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. However, unlike morphine, endorphins do not have addiction as a side effect. Endorphins are released during extended and moderate exercise, so activities like yoga, swimming, light jogging and brisk walking can get your endorphins flowing.
2. Let Loose
Pain is a self-perpetuating problem. It can cause your muscles to tense up, which in turn causes more severe pain. Ease tense muscles with morning and evening stretch routines that incorporate yoga poses like these. If you need advice on the best stretches to reduce your pain, a physical therapist can help.
3. Practice Positive Thinking
Your thoughts and expectations play a huge role in pain perception and your healing process. Positive thinking can help you get through rough patches when your end goal seems impossible to reach, and may even ease pain.
A 2005 study suggested that people exposed to a painful sensation who were first told the pain would be minimal perceived it to be significantly less discomforting than their counterparts who were told the same sensation would be more painful. So stay positive about yourself, your health journey and your ability to live pain-free, and your body will try to catch up with your brain!
4. Warm Up to Hot and Cold Therapy
Athletes know that hot and cold therapy can help tired and achy muscles, but all-stars aren't the only ones who can benefit from this treatment. Hot therapy stimulates blood flow and inhibits pain receptors. Cold therapy reduces inflammation and slows nerve impulses, easing pain.
Always use ice for the first 48 hours after an injury. Then incorporate contrast therapy by placing a heating pad on the sore area for 20 minutes and then switching to the ice pack for another 20 minutes. If heat works better for your pain, then ditch the ice (or vice versa).
5. Seek Satisfactory Sleep
Sleep has amazing restorative powers! The body does most of the work to repair and regenerate itself while we sleep. Science has proven that consistently sleeping fewer than seven hours has serious mental and physical health consequences, possibly including back pain.
Finding comfortable sleeping positions when you have back pain can be a challenge, but you can rest easy in these two positions.
In addition to the above suggestions, think about your daily routine and the repetitive motions you regularly perform. Bending, lifting and twisting repeatedly can cause problems, but by using the proper techniques you can protect your back from possible injury.
When you're in the throes of chronic back pain, finding relief may seem like an unattainable goal but suffering in silence is no answer. Beyond the at-home remedies offered above, AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab offers physical therapy, massage therapy and acupuncture, all without a referral needed. Learn more about our comprehensive care today.
Note: Please consult your physical therapist for instruction on a program to improve your back mobility and strength.