Lifestyle Changes To Relieve Back Pain

LIfestyle changes to cure or relieve back pain

Back pain is a common affliction that touches the lives of many Australians, transcending age and lifestyle. This discomfort, often an indication of the daily stress and strain we put on our bodies, can range from a mild, nagging ache to a debilitating condition that impacts every step we take. It’s a health concern that’s as prevalent as it is varied, and one that consistently calls for our attention in the quest for relief and better musculoskeletal health.

 

Currently, the most common medicines for back pain include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen (Advil, Neurofen), Naproxen (Aleve), and Diclofenac (Voltaren). 

 

However, while the use of NSAIDs give the quickest pain relief, prolonged use of NSAIDs pose certain risks that shouldn’t be ignored. Such risks include gastrointestinal issues like ulcers and bleeding, cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and strokes, renal complications that can lead to kidney damage, and hepatic concerns, potentially resulting in liver injury. They can also cause serious bleeding if used with certain other medications or alcohol, and in some individuals, they may trigger severe respiratory reactions. It’s important to use NSAIDs with caution, especially in individuals with pre-existing health conditions or those taking other medications​​.

 

So, are there any safe long term medications that will permanently relieve back pain? Whilst there is insufficient evidence to form a conclusion, many health professionals suggest a more natural approach to help relieve back pain. Let’s take a look at 7 lifestyle changes to relieve back pain. Please note that if you are suffering from back pain, you should speak with your treating health care professionals before making any changes to your lifestyle.

7 Lifestyle Changes To Relieve Back Pain

LIfestyle changes to cure or relieve back pain
7 Lifestyle Changes To Relieve Back Pain

Dietary Adjustments

Dietary adjustments that aim to reduce inflammation can help relieve back pain, as inflammation is a key factor in many types of chronic pain, including back issues. The connection between diet and pain is grounded in the understanding that certain foods can either promote or inhibit the inflammatory process in the body.

Reduce Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates

High intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates can increase inflammation in the body, exacerbating pain. Cutting back on foods like sweets, soft drinks, and white bread can be beneficial.

Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and in flaxseeds, have anti-inflammatory properties. Including these in your diet can help counteract inflammation.

Incorporate Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that can reduce inflammation. A colourful variety on your plate ensures a range of nutrients that can combat pain.

Choose Whole Grains
Whole grains contain more fibre and less sugar than their refined counterparts, which helps in reducing inflammation.

Limit Red Meat
Red meat can contribute to inflammation; opting for leaner proteins like chicken, turkey, or plant-based proteins can help manage inflammation and pain.

Healthy Fats
Avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil contain healthy fats that can help reduce inflammation.

Spices
Certain spices like turmeric and ginger are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and can be included in the diet.

The correlation between these dietary changes and back pain relief is based on the premise that what we eat can influence the body’s inflammatory processes. By adopting a diet that reduces inflammation, you may not only find relief from back pain but also promote overall health and well-being. These changes are not a quick fix but, rather, part of a holistic approach to health that may lead to long-term improvements.

It is important to note that while these dietary adjustments can help many people, they are not a substitute for medical advice. Individuals with back pain should consult with healthcare professionals to devise a comprehensive pain management plan.

Stress Management

Stress management can play a significant role in alleviating back pain, and the correlation between the two is well-established. Stress often manifests physically in the body as tension, particularly in the muscles of the back, neck, and shoulders. This tension can exacerbate pain and lead to a cycle where pain increases stress, which in turn, increases pain.

Stress management also helps in: 

  • Muscle relaxation: Chronic stress can lead to persistent muscle tension, which can contribute to back pain. Stress management techniques can help relax these muscles and reduce pain. 
  • Improved blood flow: Stress can cause constriction of blood vessels, leading to reduced blood flow to tissues, including those in the back. Stress relief can improve circulation, facilitating the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to these tissues, aiding in healing and pain relief.
  • Hormonal balance: Chronic stress is associated with the overproduction of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can lead to inflammation and pain. Managing stress can help rebalance hormone levels, potentially reducing inflammation and pain.
  • Behavioural changes: Effective stress management can lead to healthier behaviours, such as better posture and more regular exercise, which can help in preventing and managing back pain.
  • Mental health: High stress levels can alter the perception of pain. Techniques that reduce stress may also decrease the perception of pain, making it more manageable.
  • Sleep quality: Stress can interfere with sleep, which is essential for healing. Better stress management can improve sleep quality, which is vital for the recovery of strained muscles and other back structures.

Regular Physical Activity

Exercising and engaging in regular physical activity can be a boon for those suffering from back pain. When we exercise, our body responds by strengthening the muscles that provide support to the spine. This enhanced support alleviates undue pressure on spinal structures and can contribute to pain reduction. But it’s not just about fortifying muscles; exercise also promotes flexibility and mobility. These improvements can help in reducing the stiffness and discomfort that often accompany back pain.

exercise impacts on relieving back pain
Regular Physical Activity

Furthermore, as we move our bodies and exercise, blood circulation is improved. This increase in blood flow ensures that the discs in our spine, along with the surrounding muscles, receive a healthy supply of oxygen and nutrients, aiding in repair and maintenance. Improved circulation also helps in flushing out inflammatory by-products that can contribute to pain sensations.

 

There’s also a chemical response when we partake in physical activities: the body’s production of endorphins increases. These natural hormones are powerful painkillers and mood elevators. The elevation in endorphins can lead to a decrease in the perception of pain, potentially reducing the reliance on medication for pain management.

Regular physical activity doesn’t just have immediate effects; it also has a preventive aspect. By maintaining a routine of exercise, we can often stave off the recurrence of back pain, and when it does occur, it tends to be less severe. This preventive effect is likely due to the cumulative benefits of strengthening, increased flexibility, and better circulation. Just remember to start slowly and increase gradually.

Massage & Physical Therapy

Massage and physical therapy are increasingly recognised as viable long-term treatments for back pain, offering a multidimensional approach to pain management and functional improvement. These therapies not only address the immediate symptoms of pain but also target the underlying causes, promoting healing and preventing recurrence.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy contributes to long-term relief from back pain by improving blood circulation, which facilitates the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells. This process aids in the healing of tissues and the removal of waste products, thereby reducing inflammation and promoting relaxation. By targeting muscle tension, massage can alleviate the knots and spasms that often contribute to back pain, offering a non-invasive solution to chronic discomfort.

The psychological benefits of massage, such as stress reduction and enhanced relaxation, also play a critical role in managing back pain. Reduced stress levels can decrease muscle tension and lower the perception of pain, contributing to an overall sense of wellbeing.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy stands out as a cornerstone of long-term back pain management due to its tailored approach to individual needs. It encompasses a range of techniques, including exercises to strengthen the back, improve flexibility, and enhance core stability. These exercises not only relieve current pain but also fortify the body against future episodes.

Physical therapists often employ manual therapy techniques, such as mobilisation and manipulation, to increase joint mobility and relieve pain. They also educate patients on proper posture and body mechanics to prevent pain from arising during everyday activities.

A key aspect of physical therapy is its focus on patient education and self-management strategies. Patients learn how to manage their condition through exercise, lifestyle changes, and ergonomic adjustments, empowering them to take an active role in their recovery and long-term health.

Integrating massage and physical therapy into a long-term management plan for back pain requires a commitment to ongoing care and self-maintenance. Regular sessions can provide cumulative benefits, while the skills and knowledge gained from physical therapy can be applied daily. This holistic approach not only addresses the physical aspects of back pain but also considers the psychological and lifestyle factors contributing to the condition.

Alternative Therapies

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is believed to help relieve back pain through several mechanisms:

Neurological Effects
Acupuncture is thought to stimulate nerves in the body, which can lead to the release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors. The release of these natural painkillers can change the way pain is processed by the brain and spinal cord, reducing the sensation of pain.

Circulatory Changes
By stimulating certain points on the body, acupuncture may increase blood flow to the affected areas. Improved circulation can help to remove toxins and bring nutrients to the tissues, aiding in the healing process and reducing pain.

Reduction of Inflammation
Acupuncture may help in reducing inflammation by promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors that can calm the immune response and lead to a decrease in swelling and pain.

Muscle Relaxation
The insertion of acupuncture needles can also help to relax tense muscles, which can alleviate pain and discomfort. This relaxation of muscles can improve mobility and reduce the risk of further strain or injury.

While these explanations provide a scientific basis for how acupuncture might alleviate back pain, the effectiveness can vary among individuals. Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating chronic back pain. A systematic review published in PubMed found that acupuncture was more effective than sham procedures, or no treatment at all, for reducing pain intensity in patients with chronic low back pain.

Medical Marijuana

Medical cannabis has been explored as a treatment for back pain through its various components, primarily cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a key role in regulating pain, inflammation, and immune system responses. Additionally, THC has muscle relaxant properties, which can help relieve the muscle spasms often associated with back pain. Relaxing these muscles can reduce discomfort and improve mobility.

Medical cannabis is also considered for its potential to reduce reliance on traditional pain medications, including opioids, which have a high risk of dependency and adverse side effects. Patients seeking alternatives to conventional pain management strategies may find medical cannabis a viable option, a therapy that has been legal in Australia since 2016.

Quitting Smoking

Quitting smoking is a significant step towards alleviating back pain, and the connection between smoking cessation and pain relief is grounded in several scientific principles. Smoking has a detrimental effect on the body’s circulatory system; it constricts blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to the spinal tissues. This diminished blood flow can lead to a decrease in the delivery of essential nutrients and oxygen to the discs and vertebrae in the spine, impairing their ability to heal and function properly. Over time, this can contribute to degenerative spinal conditions and exacerbate back pain. Moreover, smoking has been linked to increased inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is a key factor in many chronic pain conditions, including back pain. By quitting smoking, individuals can reduce this systemic inflammation, thereby potentially reducing the intensity and frequency of back pain. Nicotine, a potent chemical in cigarettes, also affects the way the brain perceives pain. It can alter pain thresholds, making individuals more sensitive to pain. When smokers quit, their pain threshold may gradually return to normal levels, reducing their overall perception of pain.

Appropriate Footwear

Wearing proper footwear plays a crucial role in alleviating back pain, a fact supported by the biomechanical understanding of how our feet support our body’s structure and function. The right shoes can provide a solid foundation, significantly affecting how the rest of the body aligns, including the spine. 

When you wear shoes that properly support your feet, it helps distribute your body weight evenly, reducing the strain on your back. The right footwear helps maintain the alignment of the spine and reduces the stress placed upon it, mitigating pain in the lower back. Shoes with adequate cushioning can help absorb shocks and reduce the impact on the spine when walking or running.

In conclusion, addressing lower back pain necessitates a comprehensive approach that extends beyond mere physical interventions. It calls for a holistic modification of one’s lifestyle. Embracing these changes not only promises relief from the discomfort associated with lower back pain but also enhances overall well-being and quality of life. It is imperative for individuals suffering from such ailments to consult healthcare professionals to devise a personalised plan that suits their specific needs. Through sustained effort and dedication to these lifestyle adjustments, one can hope to achieve significant improvements in their condition, paving the way for a healthier, more active future.

Written by

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.

Written by

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.

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