As we’ve evolved as a species, a number of new physical ailments have arisen as an unintended result of our lifestyle upgrades.
But there’s nothing new about back pain. This chronic problem will affect 85% of human beings in their lifetime and has been around since the beginning of our existence. How do we know?
Because there are a number of effective remedies for it that date back to ancient times. Although, the cause of back pain in the old world probably had nothing to do with sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer all day…
Did you know that back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work? In fact, it is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office (next to upper-respiratory infections).
The good news is that in most cases, this pain is mechanical in nature – and is not caused by a serious medical condition.
Today, I’m going to give you 5 remedies for back pain, each from different schools of natural medicine, that you can put into practice right now. (I know, for us Americans, we’re shaking off the cobwebs after a long Thanksgiving weekend, but there’s probably no better time to give your body a little attention!)
When checking out the remedies below, it’s important to be willing to move out of your comfort zone. Some of these exercises and herb preparations may seem unusual or “not you”, but when we’re trying to make a shift in our reality, we sometimes need to venture into uncharted territory.
Let’s dive in!
1) Hip Circles
How good of a dancer are you? The greats all know that the secret to moving fluidly with grace, flexibility, and style is all in your hips. Yet most of us are blocked there, not using our hips and pelvis the way the were meant to be.
If you spend a few minutes making a full circle with your hips, pushing your butt out farther than it feels appropriate to, and rolling around to push your front out, in a hula-hoop motion, there can often be a huge release of lower back pain.
This may feel a little quirky or uncomfortable for the lumberjacks out there, but I promise there is magic in this motion.
Hip circles show up in a variety of different cultures stemming back thousands of years, whether it’s in traditional dance, stretching, or meditation practices.
It takes a little technique, so we’ve included 5 pictures below (compliments of Tristan Truscott) that show us this hip circle movement beautifully:
*I listed hip circles first because I’ve personally found them to have an immediate and positive impact on any lower back pain that I might be experiencing. It might take a couple of times around to really start feeling into the stretch, but when you do, oh boy. There are muscles in there that never get worked and it feels wonderful.
2) Comfrey Root
This herb has been used since Roman times and beyond for its anti-inflammatory effects. It was and still is turned to in folk medicine across Europe to treat muscle sprains, strains, and pulls.
The most popular comfrey preparation for back pain is in the form of an ointment. Scientific research shows that moderate doses of comfrey applied directly to the affected muscles can lower pain significantly.
This remedy comes with a warning though – make sure you get your comfrey from a reputable source because some strains contain potentially toxic alkaloids.
ALSO: this treatment can have negative side effects if used extensively over a long period of time, so keep usage to no more than 10 days in a row.
I know, we’re always hearing about yoga in the alternative health world, but it’s for good reason. This ancient art has been proven to benefit all types of health challenges – including back pain.
According to Mercola.com, “People suffering from low-back pain who took one yoga class a week had greater improvements in function than those receiving medicine or physical therapy.”
If you visit The Yoga Journal, they have a specific page with various poses that may be helpful for back pain.
4) Hot / Cold
I recently shared an article entitled “What Being Naked In The Snow Taught Me” that was about my wintery rite of passage with a shaman a few years ago. I am not suggesting that you run out and try that for your back pain, BUT the power of hot and cold should never be underestimated.
Used in the right proportion, controlled hot and cold therapy is proven to be very effective in treating a variety of muscle pain, including back pain.
For most people with back pain, doctors recommend using cold for the first 48 hours — and then switching to heat.
You can go as basic or sophisticated as you’d like. I’ve used a bag of cold peas before, in place of the pricey synthetic Velcro ice wraps. You can do the same with heat – sometimes a simple hot bath with epsom salts can work wonders.
A quick warning – ice therapy should be avoided by folks with rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud’s Syndrome, cold allergic conditions, paralysis, or areas of impaired sensation.
5) Rest and Time
According to studies, about 90% of back pain episodes will dissipate over time. What matters most is that you allow yourself some time to put your feet up and relax. The hidden beauty of functional aches and pains is that they remind us that we need to love and care for ourselves, looking out for our body’s needs.
This is your time to do that. Let your loved ones know that you need a little space to take care of yourself. If they argue, well, send them to us for a little lesson on compassion 🙂
One last bit of general healing wisdom before I go:
Many times, the physical symptoms we’re experiencing are linked to patterns of thought and corresponding behavior that are not serving us. The way we think about ourselves and the reality around us can actually affect our posture and other points of our physiology. So while we’re taking self care measures externally, we should also be working with some sort of meditative practice to bring peace and clarity internally.
Director, The Sacred Science