Although the causes of back pain can differ, the result is still a chronic health concern that can greatly diminish overall quality of life. Further, when back pain is left unaddressed, it can lead to greater deterioration that later becomes a progressive rather than a preventable condition. When considering methods for pain relief with back conditions, it is always important to receive a proper diagnosis, as relief for a slipped disc can be different than that for a pulled muscle.
It is also important to note that in practically any case of back pain, the use of NSAIDS is the most common resort for symptom control. While these medications are effective in terms of dulling the impact that the body feels, long-term use can lead to gastric conditions, and can also mask progressive deterioration. For this reason, alternative and proactive approaches to control back pain can not only give the benefit of relief, but can also improve natural healing functions in the body.
While appropriate NSAIDS should still be considered for immediate relief, individuals should also gain proper diagnosis and professional advice, as this can inform people about the best course of action to take for both relief and healing.
Cranio-Sacral Therapy for Back Pain
This technique is employed by many physical therapists, but is also practiced by specialists and massage therapists. While some of the principles regarding postural alignment are similar to those in the chiropractic field, the greatest difference is that cranio-sacral work utilizes gentle pressure to create space in the joints. Patients will usually be asked to lie on a massage table, while practitioner softly manipulates the base of the skull and spine. The result is also that patients are able to relax into the process more easily, and this has a further positive impact on the benefits of this therapy.
Cranio-sacral therapy can be highly applicable for a number of conditions, including:
- Slipped discs
- Damaged or deteriorating discs
- Pinched spinal nerves
- Back pain that is leading to migraines
The manner in which pain relief is achieved for these varied conditions is through releasing the pressure points where the back pain is occurring. However, in creating space along the spine, this also allows greater circulation and more synovial fluid to flush out inflammation and increase natural healing processes.
Stretching and Traction
A great majority of back pain issues are the result of either postural issues or injury. This means that stiffness in the joints of the back can quickly turn to pain with sudden movements after sitting still for long periods, and also that muscle and ligament strain, as much as a structural issue with the spine, could be responsible for the pain. In these cases, the use of stretching and traction can be appropriate for both realigning the back, and increasing the flexibility and resilience of the muscles in the back.
Specific stretches for the back:
- Increase mobility
- Improve circulation
- Realign vertebrae
- Build core strength to protect the spine
- Reduce inflammation through creating heat along the back
While it is ideal to consult with a physical therapist before engaging in these activities, much stretching can be performed by the individual on their own. The use of a fitness ball can provide support, so that even severe knots can be eased out. In this manner, stretching as a form of back pain relief is similar to the use of sports massage, while working to strengthen a hurt muscle can also avoid future injury.
Traction can be performed at home, with the use of an inversion table, but physical therapists can also provide this service for clients without the need for inversion. This approach is similar to cranio-sacral therapy, in that it is increasing circulation by generating space between the vertebrae, but traction is slightly more aggressive. For this reason it can also be ideal for relieving pain while also improving postural alignment.
Muscle Stimulation and TENS
One practice that has shown as highly effective with nearly all causes of back pain, structural or muscular, is the use of electrical or manual stimulation to offset the pain sensors in nerves. Manual stimulation has been more common in cases where the pain is the result of inflamed muscles, and practices that are included in this realm include:
- Deep tissue work
- Hot stone therapy
Although the mechanisms for resulting in pain relief may seem very different, they all function on the same principle that knots of energy that are trapped along the back and need to be diffused for healing to occur. When a person thinks about a knotted back muscle that is eased out through the use of massage, the concept does become more apparent.
However, the same concept also applies for the relief of pain through offsetting the nerve sensors. The painful stimulus is diffused, either manually or through an electronic charge, and this reduces the sensitivity of those particular pain receptors. These practices also reduce inflammation, which can be putting further pressure on already sensitive nerves.
While TENS can be administered through a pain management clinic or with home devices, it is important that people consult with their doctor before using this method of pain relief. Certain medical conditions, such as a seizure disorder or the presence of a pacemaker, counter-indicate the use of electronic pain relief.
Hydrotherapy is one the oldest and most relied upon methods for back pain relief that does not involve medication. The practice was initially developed in the field of Naturopathy, and was used to relieve a number of pain issues from various causes. The basic concept is that immersion in water that is just at body temperature heightens the natural ability to:
- Reduce the sensation of pain
- Calm nerves
- Balance physiological functions
Modern hydrotherapy for back pain relief is a little more involved, and can include water based physical therapy as well as effervescent soaking tubs. While the temperature and the buoyancy of the water help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation and pinching in the back, it can also improve circulation, which can lead to better health promotion.