Natural Remedies for Back Pain and Inflammation
Natural Remedies for Back Pain and Inflammation
Written by: Taylor Rodriguez
Taz Fitness and Nutrition, LLC.
As someone that has struggled for years with back pain - lower pain from a herniated disk injury and mid-back pain from a rib misalignment and weak scapula - I've spent A LOT of time learning how to ease pain, repairing the areas and strengthening them to prevent future injuries from occurring.
Now, let me just be clear...
*Disclaimer: these tips and strategies suggested are not intended to treat or cure severe chronic back pain. We encourage you to reach out to your local Chiropractor or PCP if pain is severe.
As reported from MedlinePlus, almost 8 out of every 10 people will suffer from some sort of back pain eventually in their lives as it’s one of the most commonly seen injuries amongst doctors. The question becomes, how do we stop this from occurring? The short answer would be to strengthen the back muscles...but, when there are over 40 muscles total in the back, 20 on each side of the spinal column, this might be an unrealistic goal, especially when many of us have time constraints that keep us out of the gym to begin with. This doesn’t mean we can skip this necessary step entirely though. We just have to learn how to maximize our time exercising while performing back exercises that provide us the “biggest bang for our buck.” More on this a little later though…
Here’s the reality of the situation, I don’t know you nor do I know the severity of your injuries. So for me to type up a universal document stating “this will cure you” would be incredibly ignorant. However, I can share with you methods I’ve used along my journey, methods that have been provided to me from my personal team of coaches, doctors and trainers. You can share these methods with your team to see what would work best for you and if you have any specific questions, never hesitate to message me directly here.
Introduction & Temporary Relief Strategies
There have been dozens of strategies I’ve used over the years to aid in my recovery, many of them you’ve probably used yourself. Techniques such as heat/cold therapy, acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic adjustments, muscle stimulation, foam rolling, and anti-inflammatory medication usage are some of the most frequently seen in the wellness industry. However, we must develop the internal awareness necessary to ask ourselves, “what is the root cause of the pain I’m currently feeling?”
As beneficial as some of these practices are, most of the time, they are simply band-aid methods used to provide a quick answer to a patient so they can get some instant relief, not even realizing they haven’t treated the original cause of why the back pain surfaced to begin with. Ultimately leading to another injury, sometimes more severe, than the previous one.
The ultimate goal of this document is to provide you the awareness necessary to get to the root cause of your pain, to not just treat the current symptom. I cannot tell you how many years and how many dollars I’ve personally spent to discover the root cause of all of my back injuries - which has been due to a slow and steady shifting of my spine, eventually turning into scoliosis, due to one of my legs being slightly shorter than the other. This slow shift eventually caused muscular imbalances and nerve pinching while decreasing my overall posture. You add in my consistent weight lifting and running multiple miles every week, I was on the fast track for some serious pain. Doctors told me it was due to a herniated disk, inflammation, rib misalignments, exercising too much, sleeping incorrectly and more...all of which are causes of a much greater issue at hand that they failed to properly diagnose over several years.
Just to be clear, this isn’t intended to put down doctors. A doctor was the one who properly found out the root cause of my pain. But, I’m sharing this with you so you can become aware enough over your own body and recognize that if you’re “treating” a herniated disk, inflammation by exercising less, stretching, getting adjustments, and doing all of these techniques that doctors suggest and you’re STILL experiencing these recurring injuries...something much deeper is going on so I encourage you to keep investigating and discover what really is going on.
According to Spine-Health.com, the leading cause of back pain comes from muscle or ligament straining. In other words, this means the muscles and ligaments haven’t been properly developed or maintained enough to handle a particular load it’s forced to carry. Other frequent injuries are due to bulging or ruptured disks, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Due to a 2010 study, it was discovered that as many as 42% of Americans do not meet the recommended requirement for calcium while 41.6% of Americans are also Vitamin D deficient. You add in that the typical American diet is heavy on processed carbs and fats while being light on protein (a muscle & bone strengthening macronutrient) and it’s a no-brainer as to why individuals are getting injured at a rapid pace.
So, what can we do? There are 4 main steps or “phases” as I like to call them to properly provide us a pain free life. They are the phases: Evaluate, Recover, Rebuild, and Maintain.
Evaluate - this is the initial assessment phase where proper diagnosis must happen before any repairing can begin. We must stop treating the symptoms and treat the root cause and this can only happen through proper evaluations being completed from your local physicians, and specialist coaches, therapists and doctors. Keep asking questions and even though this phase can honestly be the most frustrating, don’t take “no” for an answer. This is your body and you deserve to feel good in it while moving around...and no, the aging process is not a valid excuse given by doctors or individuals to try to “normalize” pain. I can honestly introduce you to 60-90 year olds that move around pain free.
Recover - once we’ve had a proper diagnosis, we can begin setting a plan into action for recovery. Depending upon the severity of your injury, this phase can last anywhere from a couple days to several months. The primary objective to this phase is understanding that we must provide our body the proper “tools” that it needs to have a speedy and effective recovery. This means spending time returning to maintenance level calories to give our body the proper amount of fuel it needs to recover. Supplementation to aid with particular vitamin and mineral deficiencies may be beneficial during this stage as well. This step also means reducing inflammation to reduce swelling and increase mobility.
Rebuild - warning...this is where most people start out when dealing with injuries while skipping steps 1 and 2. By this point, you should have a proper diagnosis and have spent a few weeks or months in recovery. The reality is, most individuals hate having to slow down their lives (and their health goals) to focus on steps 1 and 2 so they “suck it up” and continue on like everything is fine. I highly discourage this. Moving on, this is the phase where we spend rebuilding (or strengthening) that impairment, muscular or ligament weakness so this injury doesn’t happen again. This is the phase where we spend the majority of the time performing light strength training to properly develop the bones, muscles and surrounding ligaments.
Maintain - Once proper recovery and rebuilding has occurred, then the only step left is to maintain what we have through proper nutrition, fitness, and strategic rest and recovery periods. Remember that we cannot diet year-round and constantly beat our body’s into the ground through exercise and lifestyle stressors and not expect an injury to occur. We must remain highly aware of what is going on in our lives and when we should press the acceleration and when to press the brake.
Make sense? Now, let's get into the meat of this and provide you with the tips you’ve been waiting for…
Best Strength Exercises
As stated earlier, the leading cause of back injuries is due to muscular and ligament weaknesses. Due to our lifestyles, most of the time we are spent sitting down in a hunched over position at a keyboard or cellphone. Similar as before, with over 20 muscles on each side of our spinal column, it would be foolish of me to try to write out a bulletproof resistance training program that would help everyone. However, there are a handful of “must do” exercises that my chiropractor and physical therapist have had me performing that have increased the overall strength and health of my back, keeping me pain free. If you’re currently seeking help on an individual basis, I’ll provide some helpful links below.
Best Stretches & Mobility Techniques
Stretching techniques, as beneficial as they are, have started to become an overly used “quick fix” to a much bigger problem. Yes, stretching can have a positive influence on our overall mobility but we must know when it becomes necessary and when it doesn’t. If we aren’t careful, we can actually over-stretch and elongate particular muscles, causing injuries, especially when done before exercising when we need a particular amount of “tightness” to our muscles to allow proper performance. With that being said, yes, there are particular stretches that can be performed to release tension temporarily within our backs, I’ll list some of my favorites below as well as some mobility techniques.
Supplements in today’s age have, similar to stretching, become a quick fix solution for most. Everyone always thinks they are just one pill away from a cure when in reality treating acute or chronic back pain is an in-depth process, as you should be able to tell by now if you’ve gotten this far. But, it doesn’t mean supplements don’t have value when recovering from an injury or maintaining a strong back. These are a breakdown of supplements that may help you on your journey. As always, consult with your physician before starting any supplement.
Magnesium - muscle and nerve function support and energy production.
Organ Meat - packed with vital nutrients such as A, B, D, E, K and much more.
Vitamin D - helps with calcium and phosphorus absorption, and supports normal immune system function.
Calcium - development and maintenance of bone and organ health.
Creatine Monohydrate - energy production, muscle tissue development and recovery.
Collagen - development of connective tissues including tendons, ligaments, skin, and muscles.
Writing a guide such as this is always a large challenge due to its complexity but I hope it has added some value for you. If it has and you know someone that is dealing with back pain, please share this with them so it can help. If your pain has been ongoing for an extended period of time, I highly recommend reaching out to a licensed professional and working with them on a 1:1 basis so they can provide you with an individualized program to get to the root of your concerns. For more diet and fitness related content, subscribe now to our e-newsletter.
"Coach Taz" aka Taylor Rodriguez is the owner and head coach of Taz Fitness & Nutrition. He is a Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach located in Deltona, FL that coaches individuals online and in person. Taylor was a former partying pro wrestler turned fitness enthusiast after the economic downturn of 2008-2010. After losing almost 70 lbs, his new passion is to help struggling individuals find new confidence within themselves to achieve any goal that they see possible. To begin coaching with Taylor or to request a free consultation, contact us today.