If you've experienced, or are currently experiencing lower back pain, then you know there are few ailments that can keep you from living life to its fullest quite like a hurt back. And unfortunately, most Western remedies rely on potentially debilitating and expensive surgeries, and harmful prescription painkillers.
Luckily, there is a better path. Natural remedies to aid in the relief of lower back pain are numerous and effective, providing gentle, all-natural alternatives to dangerous operations and pills.
We have reached out to Natural Medicine physicians and experts from around the globe in search of the best natural remedies for lower back pain and compiled them here!
The Natural Medicine Experts Weigh In...
“One of my favourite home remedies for low back pain uses nothing but water. For back pain that has lasted more than a couple of days, contrast hydrotherapy, or the alternation between hot and cold applications of water, can help help relax back muscles and decrease pain and inflammation. Hot water dilates small blood vessels, relaxes muscles, and decreases pain. Cold water, on the other hand, first constricts but then dilated blood vessels, decreases inflammation, and improves muscle strength and recovery.
Alternating between hot and cold in the shower, or between a hot towel and a cold towel over the area of pain, increases microcirculation of blood through muscles and other body tissues by creating a circulatory pump. This helps move lactic acid, inflammatory byproducts, and other metabolic waste away from muscles and other tissues. For best results, alternate between hot for 3-5 minutes and cold for 1 minute, repeating 3-5 times and ending with cold.
Don’t forget about the mind-body connections in our experience of pain. Research shows that mindfulness-based stress reduction may reduce pain intensity and increase physical functioning when used for the treatment of low back pain. Mindfulness reduces both the physical and the mental-emotional experience of stress and may even change how our brains process pain.” - Dr. Cyndi Gilbert
"I recommend using an ice pack under a wet towel, with both frozen ice balls and cold gel, which can help relieve lower back pain. Exercise, including stretching, strengthening the abdominal muscles, and stepping in different directions, and even swimming, can be very helpful. I occasionally use a chiropractic technique of adjusting the hips to relieve lower back pain. Also, a scenar device, an electrical pulsation device, properly used, can be helpful." - Dr. Alan Dattner
Parviz Rashvand, ND, PhD has provided a comprehensive list of natural ways to promote a healthier lifestyle and reduce back pain in the process:
- To reduce consumption of excessive red meat due to excessive uric acid production and sugar (inflammation in susceptible people)
- Fresh dark-green leafy vegetables are loaded with magnesium and other important minerals which are essential for regeneration and alkalizing the body. But they have to be consumed as a single and separate meals.
- Fresh or dried raw nuts to supply the essential fat for regeneration
- Fresh fruits (but not America produced fruits since the American food industry uses about 8000 chemicals in their food and fruit production and they mainly contain GMO)
- Calcium, Magnesium supplements (2:1), EPO (Evening Primrose Oil) with Vitamin C and Silica
Herbal Remedies (locally and/ or orally):
- Hot, moist herbal packs on the painful area to increase circulation
- Chamomile and Horsetail extract
- Burdock can help with the pain
- St. John's Wort, borage and lemon balm or Valerian for muscle tension due to emotional stress
- Fresh yarrow juice is excellent for strengthening back muscles
- Black mustard seed and cinnamon crush for generating local heat of applied as a pack on the painful area
External physical therapies (for this, the diagnosis of the cause of the back pain is essential):
- For less severe pain, apply local heat compress but for acute injuries in the first night or so, only cold pack!
- Gentle back stretchering and exercise (mainly pulling the muscles)
- Strengthen the abdominal muscles
- Swimming but better in the sea water due to its magnesium and salt content (as opposed to a swimming pool, which by itself is better than nothing!)
- Keeping a proper posture
- Regular conscious walking when the weather is appropriate. Walking with a book on the head at home will help re-balancing your head and spine position
- Avoiding high heels
- Dancing is excellent for back pain and to control excessive weight. And since it involves all the muscles of the body, it a great body tuning technique!
- Sleeping on a bed which is not too soft. The best sleep position in on the back with no or a small pillow. If sleeping on the side, put a small pillow in between your knees.
- Massage if done regularly is always a good idea to release the tensions in the back
- Reflexology and other natural modalities such as homeopathy and acupuncture could help too but they must be done by professionals."
"One of the best natural remedies for pain is medical marijuana. Unfortunately this plant has been criminalized, but can offer significant pain relief. Cbd, or cannabinoid, the non psychoactive part of the plant, can be taken as an oil or topical salve. It binds to endocannabinoid receptors that all of us naturally have in our bodies and produce pretty instant pain relief. They even make pain patches with it!
Another great way to reduce pain for patients is with a blend of anti inflammatory herbs, which are synergistic and can work together. Blends like this can be as powerful as a narcotic without the habit forming qualities. Things like curcumin or turmeric, cat's claw, grape seed extract, alpha lipoic acid, white willow bark (be careful with this one if you're on a blood thinner), resveratrol and frankincense are POWERFUL pain relievers." - Dr. Jessica Peatross
"As a certified homeopath, my #1 go-to for lower back pain (and muscle pain in general) is homeopathy. Homeopathy can be used both for chronic or acute pain. For acute pain, homeopathic remedies can offer immediate, safe, and effective relief, whether on it's own or as a supplement to other modalities.
In chronic pain treatment, homeopathy not only aims at reducing and eliminating pain, but it also heals by addressing the underlying issues behind the chronic pain, which tend to be more psychologically related. By resolving the core essence of what's asking to be healed in a person in general, this also includes the chronic muscle pain as well as all other mental and emotional symptoms. The mind-body connection must not be ignored!" - Ariel Baradarian
Dr. Peter Eckhart believes in the power of vitamins and supplements to help with injured tendons...
- Take 10 grams/day of crystalline MSM (organic sulfur) for at least a year. Take 3 grams/day or more of Vitamin C. Take 200-400 mcg/day of Chromium Nicotinate or GTF Chromium.
- It may take 3 months to a year for the pain to subside. Do NOT exercise or stress the tendon at this time.
- Once the pain subsides, wait the same amount of time before attempting to exercise the tendon. For example, if by taking this regimen, the pain in your back stops after 6 months, wait another 6 months to fully heal the back before exercising the back. If you do not rest, and immediately exercise the back once it feels good, you risk rupturing the tendons even more.
- After the back is fully healed, you must maintain at least 3 grams/day of MSM, 200 mcg/day of GTF Chromium, and 1 gram/day of Vitamin C for the rest of your life. The exception to the rule is, if you have solved and reversed the gut malabsorption problem that precipitated all of this.
"Breathing is a good way to relax the lower back muscles. Lay in the most comfortable position possible and just breathe. Pretend that you can breathe into your lower back where it's tight or hurts. Try to let all of your ribs move, slowly. Let your belly move with your breath, in and out. Take your time. This subtle movement helps the muscles around your spine and hips to relax. Pay attention to the rhythm of your breath and allow your lower back muscles to relax." - Kathryn Merrow
Dr. Carolyn Ross believes in a number of natural methods' and herbal supplements' abilities to reduce chronic lower back pain:
- Back pain affects 25% of the US population and for many the cause is unknown
- For chronic LBP, mindfulness based stress reduction has been shown to be helpful according to research published in the journal Spine
- Yoga has also been shown to be as effective as physical therapy in studies (75 minute class plus home practice)
- Chiropractic manipulation improves pain and the ability to walk and move. For people with herniated discs as a cause of their pain, spinal manipulation may sometimes worsen symptoms
- In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine - acupuncture was found to be helpful
- St. John's wort is an herbal remedy used for depression has been also used for nerve pain (Caution: people taking antidepressant medications)
- Ginger is used for LBP related to inflammation such as muscle injuries or arthritis
- Valerian can be used for muscle spasm and can help promote sleep which can be difficult when there is pain. Best taken at night for this reason