A Natural Solution for Back Pain– Integrative Wellness and Holistic Physical Therapy
The prevalence of back pain in our current culture is the ‘norm’. The National Institute of Health publishes a Low Back Pain Fact Sheet that states, “Nearly everyone at some point has back pain that interferes with work, routine daily activities, or recreation. Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain, the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States…” Back pain is actually so common that people consider it normal. In fact, it is not normal, but it certainly is typical.
There are a myriad of causes for back pain. In particular, some of these contributors include traumatic injuries such as a car accident or sports injury, a lifting or bending injury, stress, too much job-related sitting, pregnancy, and more. An Acute injury can become a chronic problem that lasts for months or even years.
People commonly will rest and reduce their activity level when they experience back pain. They may use ice and over-the-counter medication; they may stretch and try to resume activities with modifications. Our culture does not always allow for a reduction in functional activities. Consider a single parent with three kids, managing their work life and home life—in this scenario, there is no opportunity for a break! This person has to ‘function through the pain’. Our common philosophy in this country is that age is correlated with ‘breaking down’—getting older means getting weaker. To attain optimal health at any age, this misconception needs to be changed!
Possible Causes of Back Pain
There are multiple natural strategies for eliminating pain. It is helpful to understand the underlying reasons for a person’s pain to be optimally successful in achieving sustainable results. Why does the back hurt? Is it because of postural issues at the low back? Could back pain be contributed to by disc herniation or disc degeneration? Is it caused by tension of the sciatic nerve and tightness of the piriformis muscle? Could it be caused by pelvic floor inflammation associated with men’s and women’s health issues or irritable bowel syndrome? Can hip dysfunction contribute to low back pain? In the following paragraphs we will discuss the various possibilities.
A person may not know the cause of their back pain—especially when the underlying cause may be more obscure such as inflammation of the pelvic bowl. It can be frustrating and depressing to endure back pain without relief.
Manual Therapy—a Natural Strategy for Back Pain
Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) is a gentle, hands-on therapy that incorporates the whole body. Assessment of the spine and possible underlying contributors to spinal dysfunction is integral to this comprehensive approach. The IMT therapist looks at the ability of the joints to move, for example, the lumbar spine and the sacroiliac joints. They also assess the alignment of the joints such as the individual spinal vertebrae and the pelvis. Gentle techniques are used to improve mobility and alignment of these joints. IMT Therapists assess the tension of the fascial tissues in the lumbar and pelvic region to determine areas of compression and possible ‘protection’. Assessment goes beyond the joints and includes soft tissues such as the pelvic organs, nerves, arteries and veins, lymphatic drainage vessels, and more.
The body has an amazing ability to self-correct and heal itself. Therapists utilize IMT to create a healthier environment in an area of body dysfunction that is more conducive to healing. For example, consider someone that has undergone disc surgery in the lumbar spine. Following surgery, there is very likely inflammation and tension of all the tissues in the region, as well as poor circulation and drainage. This environment often leads to limited healing and complications following surgery such as stiffness and residual pain. For this individual, an IMT treatment plan may include general healing support as well as techniques to promote healthier circulation and drainage to and from the disc region, scar release therapy to reduce fascial tension, and treatment of posture and joint mechanics to support improved spinal alignment.
IMT is beneficial in correcting structural dysfunction and promoting a healing environment to support reduction and elimination of pain. There are additional natural strategies that may also be helpful in eliminating underlying causes for back pain. Implementing some important dietary and lifestyle changes can be instrumental in reducing inflammation in the body, thereby, helping the body to heal. This healing response can help to eliminate pain in the body and restore normal function.
Nutritional Wellness—How to Change your Diet to Support Health
Our body requires proper nutrition to heal. Often, people do not recognize that many of the foods that we eat regularly may be causing an inflammatory response in the body and delaying healing. In particular, with spinal health and back pain, which is so often caused by and exacerbated by inflammation, making some basic but essential dietary changes can significantly help to promote health by reducing inflammation in the body.
A great way to begin shifting your diet is to consider what foods are inflammatory. As an example, Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oat, is an inflammatory grain that can contribute to joint pain and dysfunction. There are many individuals that have experienced a reduction in chronic pain by completely eliminating gluten from their diet. A gluten elimination diet can create a healthier environment in our body that is more conducive to healing.
It is well documented that eating high levels of processed and refined sugar can interfere with healing. Processed sugar is neuro-toxic which means that it can contribute to inflammation of the nervous system. Often, back pain is caused by sciatic nerve irritation and spinal nerve involvement contributing to disc inflammation. Eating processed sugar can inhibit nerve healing and prolong recovery from nerve related chronic pain. There are many substitutes for refined sugar, including: honey, pure maple syrup, palm/coconut sugar, and fresh fruit. Reading ingredients is a great way to educate ourselves about what is in the foods we eat. By substituting with natural sweeteners, we can promote health of our body and support healing from nerve related injuries.
Back pain can be debilitating. It can alter our lifestyle and get in the way of our function. A person may have difficulty working a full day which could impact their income and financial security. Even lifting our laundry can be hindered. There are so many interventions that mask symptoms and can lead to other problems. By incorporating Integrative Manual Therapy and healthy nutrition into our lives, we can feel better and achieve greater health.