Back pain is the most common reason people miss work, and in one survey, more than 25 percent of adults had suffered low back pain within the past 3 months. The good news is that most back pain only lasts a short period, ranging from just a few days to maybe a couple of weeks, and it usually clears up on its own. But when your back hurts, you want to hurry up the healing process as much as you can. While over-the-counter pain relievers can help, here are four drug-free alternatives you might consider:
1. Apply hot or cold packs
The application of hot and/or cold has shown promise for reducing inflammation and enhancing mobility. Cold tends to reduce pain and muscle spasms, while heat increases blood flow and elasticity of tissues.
2. Try gentle movement
Many people would prefer to lie in bed, but evidence shows that those who attempt to keep up with their daily activities usually have improved back flexibility when compared with those who choose bed rest. While strength-building exercises are generally not recommended when suffering from acute low back pain, gentle stretching might be helpful. Yoga has been studied as a means of treating chronic low back pain, and one 2013 meta-analysis of eight studies revealed that including yoga as a treatment for low back pain “can have a medium-to-large-size effect on pain and functional disability and that adverse effects are extremely rare when conducted under the supervision of a well-trained therapist.”
3. Consider chiropractic care
Spinal manipulation can be performed by a licensed chiropractor, and this treatment adjusts and stimulates the spine and the tissues around it. While chiropractic care might not be appropriate if you have arthritis or osteoporosis, spinal manipulations (or adjustments) have provided short-term benefits for those suffering from low back pain. A study of US military members combined usual medical care with chiropractic care for the treatment of low back pain over a 6-week period, and results showed moderate improvements in pain and disability over traditional medical treatment alone.
4. Learn mindfulness-based stress reduction
A 2016 study has suggested that psychosocial aspects are often primary players when it comes to experiencing pain. While cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven effective in managing some chronic pain conditions, it isn’t always accessible to patients. However, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which encourages people to accept uncomfortable sensations and emotions through awareness, has become popular and widely available in the US. The study’s results at 26 weeks and at 52 weeks revealed that both CBT and MBSR were effective in reducing pain and depression and increasing functionality for patients dealing with low back pain.
If you have acute back pain, applying hot and cold packs, doing some gentle stretching, and considering chiropractic care as well as mindfulness-based stress reduction might be noninvasive, drug-free strategies to think about. Doctorpedia encourages you to talk to your doctor, especially if your low back pain persists. This might be an indication of a more serious problem that requires medical attention. With your physician’s help, you’ll be on the mend quickly!
- Cherkin, D.C., Sherman, K.J., & Balderson, B.H. (2016). Effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction vs. cognitive behavioral therapy or usual care on back pain and functional limitations in adults with chronic low back pain. JAMA, 315(12), 1240-1249. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.2323
- Goertz, C. M., Long, C. R., Vining, R. D., Pohlman, K. A., Walter, J., & Coulter, I. (2018). Effect of usual medical care plus chiropractic care vs usual medical care alone on pain and disability among US service members with low back pain: A comparative effectiveness clinical trial. JAMA Network Open, 1(1), e180105. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0105
- Holtzman, S., & Beggs, R. T. (2013). Yoga for chronic low back pain: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pain research & management, 18(5), 267–272. doi:10.1155/2013/105919
- Low back pain fact sheet. (2014). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet
- Malanga, G.A., Yan, N., & Stark, J. (2015). Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury. Postgraduate Medicine 127(1), 57-65. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25526231
Nan Kuhlman is an author, freelance writer, and part-time university professor based in Los Angeles, CA. She currently works full-time as a technical writer in Los Angeles and part-time as an online adjunct writing instructor. She has written for scholarly publications like the University of California, Davis Writing on the Edge and Chapman University’s Anastamos Interdisciplinary Journal, among others.