If you’ve never woken up with excruciating back pain — the kind that makes you grab your side and drop to your knees or hunch your body over like a little old grannie, then count yourself lucky.
It’s estimated that at least 80% of Americans are affected by back pain at some point in their lives — 25% in the last three months. Anything from a fall to bad posture to sleeping on a bad mattress can throw your back out.
The problem is; your back is your support. You need it to stand, walk, and carry out your everyday tasks.
With back pain so prevalent, it’s important to know what causes it and what you can do about it when it knocks you off your feet. Thus, we’ve created a guide to help you start managing your minor back pain.
*This article is not a replacement for a doctor’s diagnosis and care. If you are experiencing unexplainable extreme pain or pain that just doesn’t seem to go away, you should consult your doctor.
- 1 Causes of Back Pain
- 2 How to Relieve Back Pain
- 3 How CBDMEDIC™ Topicals Help Relieve Back Pain
Causes of Back Pain
Long-term back pain has reached epidemic proportions across the globe. It is one of the primary reasons that Americans succumb to a disability or prescription drugs.
Low-back pain, in particular, is the leading cause of disability in nearly all first world countries as well as Central Europe, Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and a portion of Latin America, according to the Global Burden of Disease.
Left untreated, it can become progressively worse.
Causes of Acute Back Pain
You can rest assured that most acute back pain is not life-threatening, despite what your inner hypochondriac has to tell you. However, back pain can be a symptom of something more serious (like spinal cancer or a kidney infection), so if you are experiencing inexplicable back pain, you should consult with your doctor just to err on the safe side. But chances are, if you experience sudden acute back pain and you did not fall or experience some kind of accident, it was caused by:
- Bad posture: Spending long hours at work in uncomfortable office chairs or hunched over computers in ways that put strain on the back and neck
- Over-exercising: Exercise routines that are too intense for weak back muscles, causing them to sprain and strain
- Wrenched muscles: Lifting a heavy object or moving heavy furniture in the wrong way, spraining the ligaments and muscles in the back
- Accidents: A blow to the back can bruise the area around the spine or wrenches the muscles and ligaments around it
Causes of Chronic Back Pain
A sizable portion of chronic back pain is lifestyle related. Slumping over your computer day in, day out and then plopping on your couch with a bag of Doritos to reward yourself for a long day’s work pays its price.
That said, other chronic conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis can cause recurring back pain as well. But they all result from the gradual deterioration of your spine, including the discs and ligaments that comprise it. This can be caused by:
- A lack of regular exercise
- Sitting or lying too long in the wrong position
- Old age
Any of these factors can cause slipped or herniated discs, bulging discs, trapped nerves, and degenerated discs, where a disc slips out of place and puts pressure on sensitive nerve endings that send a pain message to the brain.
While you can’t exactly reverse all of the root causes — say old age, you can alleviate your back pain symptoms with lifestyle changes and some good old fashioned self-care.
How to Relieve Back Pain
Oral and topical analgesics aka pain relievers can make it easier to cope with the pain while your muscles, joints, and ligaments recover. If you’ve just injured your back in a fall or an accident, medication can help you deal with the pain while your back heals. But use caution with prescription and over-the-counter medication. They can have ill effects on your health if you use them long-term or against doctor’s orders.
If you just started experiencing acute back pain, you can place an icepack on your back for fast, short-term relief. When the soft tissues in your back get damaged, they become inflamed, which causes them to press against the nerve endings in your spine. Applying ice to your back helps bring down the swelling and relieves the pressure. But make sure you wrap the ice in a towel or get a soft-covered pack. You won’t exactly find relief when icy cold water is dripping down your back.
2. Massages, Physical Therapy, and Chiropractic Care
When you’re in pain, you’ll likely want to live at your massage therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor’s office. I know I have my Tu Ina (Chinese Massage) guy on speed dial. You can get nearly instant relief—at least for a few hours. Massage and physical therapists can release tight muscles in your back to allow it to realign in a way that eases the pressure on painful joints or ligaments. They also can help ease stiff, sore muscles that are holding your spine in an uncomfortable position, bringing both upper and lower back pain relief. Likewise, chiropractors manipulate your back to relieve tension and allow stiff muscles to move freely without pain. And physical therapists can work with you on exercises to relieve the pain and correct some of your spinal problems over time. If your pain is significant, you may wish to combine two or three of these approaches as part of your treatment regimen.
3. Natural Topical Analgesics for Back Pain Relief
Topical analgesics are making headway in research and development thanks in part to concerns about the pill burden– be it compliance, side-effects, or dependency. Increasing evidence supports their efficacy for minor pain relief. Moreover, they have a strong safety profile. For instance, people who have sensitive stomachs or heart conditions might not be able to take oral NSAIDs, but could react well to topical analgesics.
That said, there are a whole host of topicals on the market that include NSAID’s, opiates, synthetic ingredients, and toxic chemicals. You’ll want to do your homework when you are looking for a natural solution to your pain management.
Your best plan of action to choose a natural product with menthol, camphor, or capsaicin as active ingredients. While they are applied directly at the source of the pain, their cooling or heating sensation interrupts pain signals in the brain. But be wary of capsaicin for long-term use. Some people find it difficult to manage the burning sensation. After all, it is the chemical in hot peppers that gives them their kick.
Natural topicals creams, ointments, and massage oils use camphor and menthol as counter-irritants that offer temporary relief by distracting your brain from the pain. But unlike capsaicin, they do not max out neurons and cause desensitization over time. Moreover, research suggests that natural creams or ointments can easily and quickly penetrate the skin and soothe the affected area directly.
Of course, you’ll get the best result when you use topicals alongside another form of treatment and lifestyle adjustment that targets the underlying cause of back pain. For example, applying a topical analgesic before a massage or a physical therapy session might help you experience a longer and more thorough treatment, which aid the recovery process. If you are reluctant to do gentle exercise because of the pain in your back, topicals can help you relieve your pain enough for you to get up and get your body moving. By exercising, you can strengthen your back until it’s strong enough to push the pain away for good.
Likewise, it’s worth evaluating your nutrition. If you are overweight or not getting the right nutrition for your condition, it could exacerbate your back pain.
4. Natural Oral Analgesics for Acute Back Pain Relief
You might be tempted to take OTC or prescription anti-inflammatory medications, but this should not be your frontline solution. Sure, they can help bring down the swelling and block the pain when you are suffering. However, they carry a risk of serious side-effects or addiction when used long-term, so it’s best to avoid them altogether if you can. If the pain is severe enough to send your grabbing for a bottle of pills, you should consult with your doctor. You could have an underlying condition that needs close monitoring.
In the meantime, you can try nutraceuticals to get your pain under control. Your food is your medicine. While natural remedies for pain relief have been used for umpteen years, scientific studies are only now surfacing. You can try one or a few of the supplements or herbs below as well as following an anti-inflammatory diet. Here are the top 5 herbs and natural oils that are worth a shot:
- Omega 3: Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid found in vegetables, some beans, nuts, seeds, and fish. You can add more omega-3 rich foods simply to your menu by tossing chia seeds, hemp seeds, or nuts in your salad; eating more Japanese food since fish and seaweed carry the recipes, or by preparing recipes with kidney or soybeans. You can also purchase Omega-3 supplements at most grocery stores and pharmacies. If you are vegetarian or vegan, pay close attention to the label for gelatin or fish.
- Curcumin (Turmeric): Turmeric is an excellent herb for your overall health that happens to be one of the most common ingredients in your spice cabinet. It’s that rich yellow spice that gives color to your curry recipe. While it originates in East Asia and has been used historically in Ayurvedic medicine, alternative and complementary medicine across the board has adopted it for its anti-inflammatory benefits—as well as other conditions it can treat. If you’re not a fan of curry dinners, you can add it to milk or nut milk and gently heat it on the stove for a night time treat. You can also purchase curcumin supplements at your local health food store and many generic stores.
- White Willow Bark: Willow bark is an ancient multi-purposed bark used as an analgesic, astringent, and exfoliant (among others)—not to mention sweat lodge frames. It contains salicylic acid, the primary ingredient in aspirin. But unlike aspirin, it doesn’t have as many side effects. That said, you should speak with your doctor if you have any condition that makes you sensitive to salicylic acid. While you could theoretically harvest it yourself if you live in a region where it grows, you shouldn’t do it if you have not trained as a naturopath or herbalist. You can buy tinctures or herbal pills at most health food stores—all of which contain directions for consumption.
- Capsaicin (Chili Pepper): If you love spicy food, you can pile on the peppers and get control of your pain in the process. Capsaicin, the compound in chili peppers that gives them their heat as a protective mechanism, activates the heat receptor protein TRPV1. This tricks your brain into thinking you are under attack by extreme heat, say a great burning fire, therefore sending out pain-interrupting signals to your brain. In addition, the sinapic acid, ferulic acid, and vitamin C are all linked to anti-inflammation. As long as you don’t have ulcers or other interfering stomach condition, consider adding chili peppers to your regular menu to minimize your pain. If you’re one of those people who goes running for water when you taste something spicy, you can always take supplements that hide powder in protective capsules.
- Green tea: Green tea is practically a heal-all tea. Not only does it give you energy without the coffee buzz; the polyphenols in the tea can help keep your inflammation at bay—among many other benefits. The tea is especially recognized as a beneficial tea for people living with arthritis. But be careful with over-consumption or you’ll be spending inordinate time in the restroom. And that’s not going to get you back on your feet. You can start with one cup of green tea a day and see if it does the job. But you shouldn’t drink more than 3 cups a day.
5. Low-Impact Back Pain Relief Exercises
For years, the conventional way to treat back pain has been to rest as much as possible. However, that treatment has been overruled by and large. Sure, bed rest for a day or two can bring lower back pain relief, but it’s not recommended for longer periods. Bed sores and atrophied muscles are hardly what’s going to get you back on your feet. Instead, you should perform gentle, low-impact exercise like yoga, walking, or swimming to gradually strengthen the muscles and ligaments that support your back. A strong back is a healthy back.
6. Change Your Posture
All of that being said, one of the biggest banes of human existence is the modern, sedentary lifestyle. Evolution has not quite caught on to our office culture quite yet.
Maybe in a few 100 generations, we’ll have naturally curved spines and necks to compensate for endlessly hovering over computers and smartphones. But right now we suffer from the way we sit and read.
Our spines create unnatural curves, bends, and twists that cause immense pain when we spend significant time in front of a screen if we are not mindful of our posture.
So pay attention to the way you sit and stand, especially if you spend most of the day sitting. Take frequent, short breaks to stretch your body and change position. This will help reduce stiffness in your joints and muscles.
7. Ergonomic Office Furniture
You don’t have to play extreme sports to kill your back—your chair can do it for you. If you sit all day, your health depends on comfortable office furniture that will adequately support your posture. Encourage your employer to invest in a comfortable, ergonomic office chair that supports your lower back. If you’re adventurous, you can even try a standing desk or a yoga ball chair to maintain your core. No matter whether you are sitting or standing, your computer screen needs to be is at the ideal height – with the top of the screen level with your eyes. Otherwise, you’ll have to hunch over to view it. You also want to keep your feet firmly on the ground standing or at a 45-degree angle when sitting—no dangling legs or pretzel legs.
How CBDMEDIC™ Topicals Help Relieve Back Pain
CBDMEDIC™ Back and Neck Ointment has been developed with a high level of natural ingredients and emollients, including active ingredients camphor and menthol, blended with CBD hemp extract (Cannabis sativa L). Menthol and camphor terpenes cause a mild sensation of coolness and warmth in the affected area, acting as an analgesic. This sensation stimulates the nerve endings with a low-intensity feeling that interrupts the pain messages that were being sent to the brain, which distracts you from your discomfort.
CBDMEDIC products are OTC approved topical medications produced in a cGMP audited manufacturing facility to ensure high-quality control standards. CBDMEDIC’s topical analgesics bring fast pain relief to your back and surrounding ligaments thanks to the unique formula that helps it bind effectively with pain receptors and deliver a more effective analgesic response.
A little self-care using CBDMEDIC combined with regular exercise and massages can help you get back on your feet, pain-free.
Have you experienced back pain? If so, tell us about your favorite natural approach to ease the pain.