Nature And Health: How to Treat Chronic Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Sciatica With Natural and Alternative Treatments

How to Treat Chronic Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Sciatica With Natural and Alternative Treatments

Most people, at some point in their lives, experience some type of short-lived back pain. This is usually a relatively temporary occurrence that doesn't interfere with daily life in a major way. But, for an unlucky percentage of the population, back pain is a chronic problem that's debilitating physically and emotionally. To make matters worse, treating and managing chronic back pain tends to be a frustrating process because not all causes are totally understood. The first step to treating and managing chronic back pain is finding a doctor who specializes in back disorders, an orthopedic surgeon or a neurologist. This doctor will be able to diagnose what type of pain you have and, hopefully, determine what is causing it.

Neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica may be muscular or nerve-related. It may occur in the upper or lower portion of the back. (Lower back pain is the most common type, and some studies indicate that its prevalence is on the rise, possibly due to a higher percentage of the population being overweight or obese.) It may be the result of an injury or it may be age-related. Common causes of chronic back pain include herniated discs, arthritis and sciatica.

Conventional treatments for chronic neck pain, back pain, and sciatica include oral medications, injections, weight loss and surgery. If you have tried these options without success, or if the cause of your pain has been diagnosed as 'non-specific,' it may be time to consider alternatives such as physical therapy, reducing stress, getting more and better sleep, changing your diet, getting acupuncture or acupressure treatments, going to a masseuse regularly, using an inversion board, or getting chiropractic adjustments.

Physical Therapy: If your back pain is caused by muscular stiffness or inflammation, physical therapy may be helpful. The purpose of physical therapy is to loosen and work muscles to improve your mobility. You may be able to independently perform flexion (bending forward), extension (bending backward) and other stretching exercises. Or, you may need to go to a specialist to help you perform the needed movements (possibility in conjunction with apply heat/cold treatments and/or electrical stimulation).

Stress Reduction: High levels of stress intensify the body's sensitivity to pain. Therefore, reducing stress is one way to reduce neck pain, back pain, and sciatica. Consider visiting a mental health care specialist to develop a plan of action for reducing stress in your life. Managing stress through the use of regular meditation or deep-breathing exercises can be helpful as well. You may prefer to practice such exercises on your own, or as part of a guided group.

Improving Sleep: Not getting enough sleep, or having poor-quality sleep, can be both a cause and a symptom of chronic back pain. If you feel tired in addition to having back pain, or frequently wake up at night in extreme discomfort, consider spending some time addressing this aspect of your overall health. Of course, sleeping on a comfortable mattress that properly aligns your spine is important. But ruling out disorders like sleep apnea is a smart idea. No matter what, if you're as rested as you can be, you'll be likely to experience less pain and be better able to deal with the pain you do have.

Dietary Changes: It's probably pretty obvious that eating a healthful, varied diet and maintaining a consistent, healthy weight is vital to overall well-being. But other, more specific changes to your diet might help reduce back pain and sciatica. For example, you may have food allergies or sensitivities that you're not aware of, deficiencies in specific nutrients or vitamins (like Vitamin D), or undiagnosed digestive problems (like celiac disease). Elimination diets, allergy testing and other diagnostics can help you determine if a diet-related problem is causing or exacerbating your back pain.

Acupuncture and Acupressure: While not totally accepted in the U.S. nor confirmed to be effective, this practice is gaining popularity. It involves inserting thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body to unblock 'Qi' or 'life-force' channels. Studies have confirmed that acupuncture may be effective in reducing neck pain and back pain if combined with other treatments. Some practitioners use the same principle to perform acupressure, in which pressure (rather than needles) is applied to specific points on the body.

Massage: As with physical therapy, if your neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica is caused by muscle tightness, massage may help. Massage may be general in nature, or more specialized as with 'rolfing,' a practice that involves loosening the fascia (tissue covering muscles) in the back through the use of strong pressure.

Inversion Therapy: If you have back pain and sciatica caused by a compressed disc or sciatica, inversion therapy (a form of 'traction' treatment) may provide short-term relief. It involves hanging upside down by the ankles or tipping upside down in a special table, which allows gravity to stretch the spine, decompressing nerve roots and discs in the process. This isn't a long-term solution to chronic pain, but might be helpful in combination with other therapies.

Chiropractic Treatment: This type of treatment involves physical manipulation of the spine and/or surrounding tissues to alleviate neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica. It is performed by chiropractors and osteopathic physicians, and may be helpful but shouldn't be used if you have certain conditions such as compressed spinal cord or inflammatory arthritis. Check with your primary doctor first.

In most cases, the options discussed here represent ways to manage chronic back pain rather than cure it. One or more of these options may temporarily eliminate or alleviate your pain, but it's quite likely that you'll need ongoing treatment to maintain a pain-free or pain-reduced life. Exercise, weight loss, and any one or several of the above strategies, when applied in concert will alleviate and possibly eliminate neck pain, back pain, and sciatica once and for all!