In most cases of back pain, the cause is either weak back or abdominal muscles or degeneration of the disks that cushion the vertebrae. In addition, bad posture, inactivity, drafts, stress, poor nutrition and obesity can all be contributing factors in back pain. The first signs of a weak back are aching shoulders, tense neck muscles and a heavy feeling in the head. If the muscles are truly overloaded, they will go into spasm. Painful as it may be, a spasm is actually helpful because it forces you to stop what you're doing and so prevents you from causing more damage. With age, the disks lose moisture and elasticity. This may leave them vulnerable to herniation (prolapse), which puts pressure on the nerves that extend from the spinal cord. Depending on the location of the prolapse, the result may be numbness, tingling and pain in the arms or legs, as well as back pain. Exercises to stretch and strengthen muscles are the key to preventing back problems.
An herb compress
When back pain strikes, relieve it with an herb compress. Soak a towel in hot laurel or lavender tea. Place it on the affected area and cover with a linen cloth. To intensify the heat treatment, put a hydrocolator or hot water bottle over the towel.
What you can do
Apply ice or a cold compress immediately after an injury to reduce pain and muscle inflammation. After a day or two, switch to heat to enhance circulation, further ease pain and relax tense muscles. Warm baths, particularly whirlpool baths, and massage are also helpful in keeping muscles supple.
Ice massage for pain and swelling
Cold reduces pain sensitivity and ensures fast reduction of the swelling. Place a few ice cubes in a linen bag and ask your spouse or a friend to massage the painful areas.
An excellent back stretch
The cat stretch is one of the most effective exercises you can do to keep your back flexible. Kneel on all fours with your hands shoulders width apart. Slowly arch your back, placing your chin on your chest. You should feel a gentle stretch in your back muscles; stop if you feel any pain. Hold for 5 seconds. Next, raise your head and press your stomach down topward the floor, making the small of your back concave. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat the sequence. Perform this exercise for 5 minutes each day.
Willow bark for pain
Willow bark contains salicylic acid, an active ingredient found in aspirin. A tea made from 1 tsp. of willow bark and 1 cup of boiling water has an anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect.
Extra tip : To keep your spine aligned when you're sleeping, lie on your side and place one pillow under your head. Bend your knees and place another pillow between them.
When performed by an experienced acupuncturist, this ancient Chinese healing method can help reduce back muscle tension by making adjustments in the flow of Qi (energy) throughout the body.
Misaligned vertebrae frequently trigger back pain. After a diagnosis confirmed by X rays, a chiropractor's skilful manipulation can realign the spine and alleviate pain.
Rhus toxicodendron 30C helps with back pain caused by psychological stress.
Improving your task
If you have chronic back problems, ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist or a back school. These specialized programs, often organized by health insurance companies, teach simple strengthening and stretching exercises that everyone can perform to counteract the unilateral stress on the spine. They also often provide additional information on an overall fitness program to complement the back exercises.
Swimming is probably the best form of exercise for people who suffer from back pain. The water supports your weight, so you do not put stress on your muscles. In addition, this activity uses muscles in the back, abdomen, arms and legs, thus providing overall conditioning. However, avoid the breast stroke and the butterfly, which require arching your back.
If you cant get to a pool, resort to dry swimming. Lie down on your back on a towel or exercise mat. Alternately raise your left arm and your right leg, making swimming movements for 2 sec. Rest for the same length of time and repeat the same movement with your right arm and left leg. Perform this exercise for up to 10 min. a day.