Joan, a 45-year-old mother of two, consulted a doctor for acute onset severe low back pain after lifting a heavy box. Her doctor recommended acetaminophen and some muscle relaxants. She felt better but her pain troubled her frequently. Three weeks later, she had to visit her doctor again with an aching lower back pain that was radiating into her left buttock. On examination, she was found to have no spinal deformity and no neurological signs. All her test results were normal with just a typical case of persistent lower back pain.
There are many among us, who like Joan, just go through our life with the burden of constant back pain. We mostly resort to pain medication, muscle relaxants and maybe physiotherapy at times. However, long term use of these medication could cause problems like hyperacidity, possible addiction.
In December 2008, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released new findings on Americans’ use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). According to this, around 38 per cent of American adults use some form of CAM to treat various health problems they might have. And out of these 38 per cent, around 17.1 per cent of people use CAM approaches for managing back pain.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese procedure in which extremely fine needles are inserted into the skin at specific points called acupoints. Your acupuncturist will insert 4 to ten needles and leave it on for 10 – 30 minutes. The treatment may include 6 – 12 sessions, depending on the intensity of pain.2
Acupuncture works by stimulating the nerves that produce endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers that reduce your pain perception.
Studies have repeatedly shown that acupuncture is significantly better than no treatment and as good as medication and physiotherapy, as far as pain intensity and quality of life is concerned.
Acupressure uses the same points and works the same way as acupuncture. The only difference is instead of needles, acupressure therapy uses gentle but firm finger or hand pressure.
Although you may experience pain relief pretty quickly with acupressure, don’t expect an immediate cure. “From my clinical experience, I have found that people with chronic pain must consistently practice the methods in Acupressure Pain Relief on the average of three times a day to achieve long-term benefits”, says Dr. Michael Gach, the author of ‘Acupressure Pain Relief.’
It is better to stay away from acupressure if you are pregnant since acupressure could harm the fetus, according to experts. Acupressure therapists sometimes use Chinese massage therapy along with acupressure for added pain relief. Discuss with your therapist before you begin.
Reiki practitioners believe that although low back pain and associated sensations are a physical reality, its roots can be traced to your emotional life and history. Reiki works by rebalancing energy flow and reducing the stress through stressful emotion release.
If you want to do Reiki as self-treatment, try these steps –
- Rest your hands on the hollow of the lower back above the buttocks. Place the hands either horizontally with palms facing up or down (whatever is comfortable), or in a V-shape, that is, the heel of each hand at the waist level and fingers pointing slightly downward. Hold the position for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Place one hand on each buttock and hold the position for 2 – 3 minutes.
Reiki is a non-intrusive hands-on holistic healing technique, so just placing the hands on the affected parts won’t suffice. Make an intention; the healing energy has to flow out of your hands to the affected parts. The main chakra for lower back pain healing is the root chakra. Visit a certified Reiki therapist for your lower back pain.
Spinal manipulation / chiropractic
Chiropractic treatment is a type of manual therapy in which a high-velocity, short lever arm thrust is applied to the affected vertebral bone. This type of spinal manipulation helps improve functionality and restores range of motion in the lower back.
Research conducted at Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research, Davenport, USA,5 indicates that adding chiropractic manipulative therapy to standard medical care offers a significant advantage for decreasing pain and improving physical functioning for individuals between 18 and 35 years of age with acute low back pain (not for persistent low back pain).
Spinal manipulation is not something you can do on your own. Do make an appointment with a certified chiropractor. Expect to answer basic, but important questions such as the first time you noticed the pain, location of the pain, etc. Describe your pain well, in as much detail as you can and also carry your pre-existing medical conditions, family history, etc.
Hydrotherapy or water therapy is a treatment consisting of exercises done in the pool, water spas, and even your bathtub. These exercises are specifically designed to relieve lower back pain and to increase the mobility and strength of the lower back.
The hydrotherapy program generally consists of 3 sessions per week for 4 weeks. Each session is of 20 minutes duration in the first week, and increases by 5 minutes every week. 6
The warm-up prior to exercise consists of walking forward, backwards, and sideways in shoulder-deep water. This is followed by holding on to a rail with both hands and hip flexion alternated by knee flexion; then hip and lumbar extension with a straight leg, and last, alternate hip abduction.
Exercises include –
- standing with feet shoulder width apart, and doing trunk rotation, hand lifting and sliding, and hip movements
- floating supine with hip and neck support, and doing knee and leg flexion, pushing both hands and feet simultaneously under water, freestyle kicking, and even backstroke and breaststroke swimming for those who enjoyed swimming
All of these therapies have been proven to be effective and reliable in their field of expertise performed by experts. Feel free to probe your therapist about the ins and outs of the technique before you commit to anything.
- National Prescribing Services Limited (2003). Case study 27: Management of musculoskeletal pain. [online] Available at: http://www.nps.org.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/35402/Case_27_results.pdf [Accessed 28 Aug. 2014].
- harvard.edu, (2014).Relieving pain with acupuncture – Harvard Health Publications. [online] Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/relieving-pain-with-acupuncture [Accessed 28 Aug. 2014].
- nlm.nih.gov, (2014).Complementary and alternative medicine. [Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep). 2010] – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23126534 [Accessed 28 Aug. 2014].
- Spine-health, (2014).Chiropractic Treatments for Lower Back Pain. [online] Available at: http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/chiropractic/chiropractic-treatments-lower-back-pain [Accessed 28 Aug. 2014].
- nlm.nih.gov, (2014).Adding chiropractic manipulative therapy to … [Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013] – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23060056 [Accessed 28 Aug. 2014].
- Smit T. and Roney Harrison, (1991). Hydrotherapy and chronic lower back pain. A pilot study. Australian Physiotherapy. Vol.37, No.4. [online] Available at: http://ajp.physiotherapy.asn.au/AJP/vol_37/4/AustJPhysiotherv37i4Smit.pdf
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