According to the British Pain Society, almost 10 million people in the UK suffer from back pain daily. This is a frightening statistic and has a major impact on the quality of life of those suffering. Not only does this condition effect the sufferer’s physical state, it also puts financial strain on them, with around 5.6 million working days in the UK being lost each year due to back pain…second only to stress!
Today, many treatments for this condition are heavily focused on medicine, by prescribing opioid painkillers, steroid injections and spinal surgery to treat the pain. Not only are these treatments said to be unhelpful to many, but they are even potentially harmful. Professor Sidney Rubinstein, a back-pain expert from the University of Amsterdam, sums up this truth by saying “No one dies of lower back pain, but people are now dying from the treatment.” – Um wow! As a response to this reality, doctors and patients are being advised to try non-drug therapies and avoid prescription drugs or surgical options wherever possible. If you are one of the many sufferers of back pain, read on to find out how you can seek natural relief.
Turmeric is an ancient superfood found in southern Asia. It is known for reducing symptoms of pain and inflammation. It contains the anti-inflammatory compound curcumin that has been used as a herbal remedy for arthritis and is found to relieve the symptoms of back pain at the same level as paracetamol or ibuprofen, without any of their side effects. Turmeric root is commonly ground-up and used as a spice, giving curry its distinctive yellow colour. We provide organic turmeric in both capsule and powder form. Tip: consume with black pepper to increase the absorption of turmeric.
Omega-3 consumption is another way to reduce inflammation. You can increase your intake by eating oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines.
Magnesium is often called the ‘relaxation mineral’, helping to relax muscles and reduce stress. Muscle weakness can contribute to back pain, together with having tense and tight muscles. So a high magnesium diet will relax the body and reduce discomfort caused by a bad back. The best natural sources of magnesium are in whole plant foods, such as green vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish and whole grains. Organic cacao is also a fantastic natural source of magnesium and potassium but without the added sugar and sweetener found in shop-bought cocoa.
Vitamin C is essential for ligament, tendon, and bone creation. A lack of Vitamin C may contribute to neck pain, lower back pain and sciatica. Foods high in Vitamin C include Strawberries, Mango, Papaya, Kiwifruit, Broccoli, Bell peppers and Brussel sprouts, all of which contain more vitamin C per serving than Oranges. Interestingly, baobab powder has around 5 times the amount of Vitamin C as an organic, gram for gram.
Water deficiency can also start to cause pain and stiffness in the back. The reason for this is because our joints and spinal discs are partly made up of water, so dehydration can attribute to back pain. Aim to drink at least 2 litres of water or herbal teas throughout the day. Click here to view our blog on water intake and hydration levels.
What to avoid? It is best to avoid pro-inflammatory foods such as foods high in refined sugar; these include sweets, sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates like white bread, coffee, and too much alcohol. You should also try to avoid frying or cooking foods in vegetable oils as this can create free radicals that contribute to inflammation in the body. It is best to use cooking methods that don’t require fat or oil, such as steaming, however if you are looking for a frying alternative, use a good-quality coconut oil.
Active and Passive Therapies
A healthy mix of active and passive therapies are used in the treatment of back pain.
Exercise is an active approach to back pain and is imperative to the healing process. Active therapy is when a patient is actively involved in their own treatment. Staying active means continuing with regular day-to-day activities to avoid stiffness of the body. Exercise can increase muscle strength, improve flexibility and range of motion and boost blood flow to the soft tissue. With chronic back pain in particular, studies comparing exercise to no exercise are consistently clear, revealing that physical activity can help relieve pain, whilst inactivity can delay a person’s recovery. Endorphins are hormones that are made naturally in the body and are released when a person becomes active. What most people don't know is that these endorphins can be just as strong as manufactured pain medication, triggering a positive feeling in the body with much to the same effect as Morphine. These endorphins help block pain signals from registering with the brain and can heavily ease symptoms of discomfort. Consider introducing any of the following to your lifestyle for an active approach to back pain; aerobic exercise, swimming, light strength training, yoga, Pilates, or tai chi.
Passive therapies are an alternative treatment for back pain and involves something being done to you by a practitioner. This type of therapy works most effectively at the early stages of injury and is only warranted in the case of certain types of injury. Passive therapies include massage, ultrasound, electrical current, heat, cold and acupuncture. In contrast to active therapies, these usually demand more resources in terms of time and money. As rehab progresses, passive treatment is discouraged and active treatment should take over as the predominant approach. This allows the patient to participate in their treatment and teach them sustainable practices they can carry out themselves.
With the popularity of holistic therapy on the rise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation is another form of treatment recommended for chronic back pain. This term is used to describe the physical, psychological and social factors that cause pain to arise. Multidisciplinary therapy views physical conditions as only one part of the equation, considering also what may be going on inside the sufferers’ head as part of their therapy. Perhaps not surprisingly, studies have revealed that multidisciplinary therapy appears to work slightly better than physical therapy alone, claiming to reduce pain and improve bodily function in patients with chronic back pain in both the short and long term.
Back pain is different for every individual and should be treated on a case-by-case basis. Many have found natural therapies to be beneficial to their relief, resulting in a decreased reliance on drug therapy. However, because only the patient truly knows their own level of pain, it is worth exploring various pain relief options and treating it as a process of trial and error, including those practices over time which provide the best individual fit.