Updated: Aug 22, 2019
The thing we all hate the most, back pain. Whether it keeps us from going somewhere or doing something fun, the goal is to avoid it at all costs. But how much are you contributing to the prevention of it? According to the Mayo Clinic in 2018, back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. This is why it’s so important to do what we can, to heal and prevent any ailments as they arise. First, we must look at the wide range of causes. It can be hard to figure out the source of the pain, whether it be chronic or acute. As a massage therapist, I notice the majority of my clients come in for neck and back pain. These are people who have desk jobs, nurses who stand all day, people recovering from injuries and everyone in between. Lifestyle, stress, physical health and even trauma play a major role in where the pain originates. Thankfully, most people get their pain under control thus avoiding major surgeries and unwanted medications.
Let’s talk causes
There are some nonphysical causes people tend to overlook, that I would like to start with. Trauma, whether it be emotional or physical, has an effect on the muscular system. When a traumatic event occurs, our muscles tense up. From here on out, the muscles remember the traumatic event. Yes, muscle memory works this way too! This could be the cause of chronic pain throughout areas of your body, especially back pain. The science shows inward healing is an approach worth looking at.
In addition to trauma, stress is another non-physical cause. In the Chakra system, the Root Chakra is the grounding and survival energy center. If something threatens your means for survival (food, shelter, money) it can cause a blockage in the root chakra. Because this chakra is located at the base of your spine (tailbone), it can cause lower back pain, low energy, depression or problems with your immune system.
Next, lets look at muscle groups. If you have a desk job, I’m willing to bet you have pain somewhere in your body. Most commonly; neck, shoulders, back and sciatic pain. Sitting for long periods of time can put strain on these areas, making it hard to continue working or relax after work. Although your back might feel okay throughout the day, the sitting position causes the gluteal muscles to be flexed. Imagine flexing your biceps from 9-5, every Monday-Friday… you would be sore! When the hamstrings and gluteal muscles are tight it starts to pull down on the low back causing tension and soreness. People often complain of chronic numbness running down their leg, they assume is sciatic pain. Your Piriformis muscle is located beneath your gluteal muscles, and commonly pinches the sciatic nerve. This is called Piriformis Syndrome, which mimics true Sciatica. Doing specific stretches to relieve the piriformis, so it no longer pinches the nerve, combined with manual manipulation to that muscle (massage, trigger point ball, foam roller) can reduce this pain significantly.
It is also possible that the Psoas Major is causing the back pain. This muscle helps to flex at the hips and originates on the sides of the lumbar vertebrae. People who sit frequently (desk job) or runners, have a bigger chance of having a tight Psoas. This has a direct effect on the muscles of the lower back. We naturally have a habit of resting all our weight on one hip while we wait in line, which over time causes an imbalance. When the hips are no longer aligned, this puts pressure on the Sacroiliac joint (SI joint). This joint also plays a major role in back pain.
Another major culprit is your wonderful and hard working spine. It consists of 26 vertebrae counting your sacrum and coccyx (tailbone), separated by inter-vertebral discs. These discs provide the flexibility to your spine as well as absorb any impact. Overtime these can start to wear and tear, or start to shift out of place. These conditions can be painful, may pinch nerves, or put pressure on your spinal cord. These symptoms should always be consulted with by your Doctor or Chiropractor, because they can lead to long term damage.
Ways to ease the pain
First, stay hydrated! Dehydration can cause muscles cramps and fatigue, so simply drinking water can improve movement tremendously. Also, those discs in your spine are majority water, so keeping these hydrated will keep your spine working smoothly.
Try stretching regularly. Stretching improves blood flow to your muscles, an essential process for muscles to recover and the for prevention of soreness. Specifically, try stretches that encourage healthy muscle movement in your back and posterior legs. This will help ease current back pain, in addition to preventing future back pain. Stretching also calms the mind, so for your stress-induced back pain, this is perfect. Make sure to stretch out the piriformis and gluteal muscles we talked about earlier!
Work-out! Strengthening the muscles of your back, muscles supporting your spine, and leg muscles will improve your back pain. Working out, similar to stretching, will decrease muscle stiffness and also improve circulation. You never want to overexert yourself while in pain, so listen to your body and go slow.
Get massage! Massage improves circulation to the area worked and decreases muscle tension. Getting regular massages will help ease muscle spasms, tension and improve range of motion. Now imagine combining massage with the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD. Thanks to our Endocannabinoid system, topical CBD binds to our CB2 receptors that help reduce pain, swelling, inflammation and promotes homeostasis. — Well Being offers a CBD enhanced massage to promote a boost to your treatment. This is a non-psychoactive balm or oil used on the main tension areas of your body, to provide a quicker and measurable reduce in muscle tension and joint pain.
Rice bag. This is my #1 go-to for back pain (or any pain really). You can find these online or make them yourself. They come in all sizes but usually they’re a rectangle shape pouch full of rice with the option of an essential oil. Lavender has a calming effect and works great if you decide to make your own. Throw it in the microwave for 30 seconds - 2 minutes to provide a moist heat for tension spots. You can lay on your stomach and put the rice bag on your back until it cools off (it stays warm for a while). This is great for sore muscles, arthritic joints, menstrual or digestive cramps and fibromyalgia pain. Throw it in the freezer and use it to reduce swelling or soothe headaches. This will be your new best friend.
*This article is not for diagnosing, it is to educate on the common causes and to provide complementary therapy to any current medical treatments.
My personal back pain remedy: Take an anti-inflammatory supplement like turmeric, use a rice bag until the pain is significantly reduced, book a massage, use CBD or magnesium oil topically before bed and then stretch it out!