What Are The Causes Of Lower Back Pain And Natural Ways To Relieve It?

Lower back pain can present itself at any age and negatively impact your quality of life. Learn how you can manage the pain and get active again.

A young man suffering from lower back pain while jogging

There are numerous reasons why you may be experiencing lower back pain.

Often, a sprain or strain of the back muscles causes this condition, but other factors can also come into play, such as an underlying health condition or sitting too long.

Here are a few notable causes of lower back pain and several ways to do away with this debilitating condition.

Types and Symptoms of Lower Back Pain

A woman holding her back in pain while sitting on a sofa
Identify the pain that you feel in the lower back region, so you can take the next step to relieve it.

There are two distinct types of back pain: acute and chronic pain. Acute pain is short-term and only lasts a few days to 12 weeks. It tends to go away with self-care.

Chronic pain, meanwhile, can continue for 12 weeks or longer. It can even recur after you have received treatment for the initial acute or underlying cause of pain.

For some people, the pain may feel like a dull, constant ache. Others may feel a sharp, sudden sensation.

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

Most of the time, lower back pain occurs due to a muscle sprain. Other factors may also come into play, such as disc herniation, a pulled muscle, poor lifting technique when exercising, and sitting for a long time.

Nerve pain and compression may also be due to conditions such as:

  • Bone hyperplasia (enlargement of an organ or tissue due to an increase in cell reproduction)
  • Intervertebral disc herniation (bulging, protruding, or ruptured disc)
  • Obesity
  • Childbirth
  • Trauma due to an accident or injury
  • Liver disease
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Some autoimmune conditions

When to Seek Treatment

It’s worth noting that several considerations warrant consultations with a healthcare provider. For instance, you may wish to seek medical treatment if:

  • Your pain doesn’t go away after a week of at-home care
  • You experience a numbing, weak, or tingling sensation in your buttocks or legs
  • You develop severe pain or muscle spasms that affect your ability to perform daily activities
  • Your pain is accompanied by fever, weight loss, or bowel problems

Lower Back Pain, According to TCM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), excessive consumption of cold, raw, or pungent-tasting foods relates directly to lower back pain. This condition may also be associated with a kidney qi (vital life energy) or kidney essence problem.

According to Eu Yan Sang TCM Physician Sam Ng Teck Xian, many office workers suffer from lower back aches after sitting at their desks for a long time.

People who deal with manual labor – such as transporting or supporting a load by hand or bodily force – often suffer from a sore back or waist at work.

“From a TCM perspective, the waist and kidneys are indeed related to each other. However, the reasons behind lower back pain are complicated. For instance, one of the possible syndrome diagnoses for lower back ache can be kidney qi or kidney essence deficiency,” explains physician Ng.

TCM practitioners will likely diagnose back pain as lumbago or lower back pain due to one of the following: damp-cold or damp-heat, kidney weakness or deficiency, or blood stasis. According to TCM, exposure to cold, rain, or a damp environment can also result in this condition.

  • Damp-cold or damp-heat lumbago: Living in a humid environment, catching a cold after rain exposure, or wearing cold and damp clothing will weaken the body, thus enabling external pathogens to affect pain perception. This can obstruct the waist meridians, resulting in a poor flow of blood and qi, causing damp-cold or damp-heat low back pain.
  • Lumbago due to kidney qi or kidney essence deficiency: Dull ache in the lower back usually happens with a lack of kidney qi or essence.The pain can worsen from exhaustion or excessive sexual intercourse, but improves with rest. It can also be accompanied by symptoms like blurry vision and ringing in the ears. Other symptoms include weakness in the limbs and frequent and uncontrollable urination.
  • Lumbago due to blood stasis: Improper exertion of the waist or a lumbar muscle sprain or strain can cause blood stasis, blocking the meridian. This can impair the circulation of blood and qi, which progresses into lower back pain.

How to Reduce Lower Back Pain with Western Medicine

The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help alleviate this condition. However, NSAIDs are not suitable for everyone and should not be taken for long unless prescribed by a physician.

Notably, NSAIDs may be linked to stomach ulcers and other GI issues.

If you cannot take NSAIDs, then non-sedating painkillers may be effective. You can find these at your local pharmacy. Many times, pharmacists are available to answer general questions about over-the-counter medications.

Your doctor may suggest paracetamol, a common painkiller. Muscle relaxants such as baclofen, carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine, and tizanidine can also help.

However, they may cause side effects like dependence, dizziness, falls, fractures, overdose, or car accidents. Therefore, you should avoid cycling, driving, or operating heavy machinery while taking these medications.

How to Relieve Lower Back Pain with TCM Therapy

Acupuncture stimulates the body’s self-healing process and frees up blockages that lead to pain

The clinical prescription of TCM treatments mainly focus on muscle relaxation, promoting blood circulation, and removing blood stasis and meridian channel obstructions.

1. Acupuncture and cupping

Both therapies can support the treatment of pain-related conditions. Their mechanisms are different, but they employ similar meridians and acupoints to relieve discomfort by removing blood stasis and regulating qi flow.

Cupping therapy is often considered more cost-efficient and involves a shorter treatment duration.

If you’re not familiar with these methods, consult with a certified and registered TCM practitioner.

2. Acupressure

The Chengshan point can be found in the center of the back of the calf, between the Kunlun (BL 60) and Weizhong points

According to Physician Ng, stimulation of the Chengshan (BL 57), Shenshu (BL 23), and Weizhong (BI 40) acupoints can be good for relaxing tension in the lower back muscles.

3. Chinese herbal formulations

According to physician Ng, consuming a kidney tonic soup can potentially improve vitality by nourishing the kidney and strengthening the waist.

A waist tonic is also a good remedy for strengthening the body and alleviating lower back pain. The use of an enzyme tonic that’s formulated with Cordyceps can also revitalize the body whilst improving bowel movement.

Other TCM supplements that are especially beneficial for reducing back pain due to female hormonal health and invigorating the kidneys during menopause or menstrual cycles include Bak Foong pills and Menoease Pills.

What Else Can I Do?

Stretching daily can help relieve back pain and support healthy posture.

Ultimately, you can prevent lower back pain by maintaining good posture when sitting, standing, sleeping, or lifting heavy objects. Here are some other ways to soothe your aching lower back naturally.

Stretch

Incorporating stretches for back pain, such as back flexion, knee-to-chest, kneeling lunge, and piriformis muscle stretches, as well as exercises like bridges and pelvic tilts, can soothe a sore back.

“You should get into the habit of becoming physically active and warming up properly before exercise,” reminds Physician Ng.

Yoga

Practicing yoga can help improve flexibility to reduce nerve pain.

Hot and cold therapy

Apply heat or ice packs to the affected area to reduce or improve blood flow. Your doctor can help you determine which method is best based on your diagnosis.

Check your mattress

If your mattress is old or unsupportive, then it might be time to invest in one that best supports your spine.

Massage or chiropractic care

Consider seeking massage or chiropractic treatment to reduce pain. A 2021 study found that spinal manipulative therapy may be recommended as a frontline intervention for low back pain.

Reduce inflammatory foods

Eating a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, unprocessed plant foods, healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, and fish, and lean protein may help reduce inflammation levels and promote healing from within.

Foods to stay away from including refined sugar, processed grains, gluten, dairy, and sweets.

As you’ve identified the probable cause of your pain, you can start minimizing the triggers. A good posture, a healthy diet, and proper exercise practices can help you be free from sore muscles. Lastly, if the pain persists, make an appointment with your doctor or TCM physician.

References

  1. SPINE-health. 2017. Stretching for Back Pain Relief
  2. Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Lower Back Pain.
  3. Science Direct. 2021. Pain Care Essentials and Innovations – Muscle Relaxants.
  4. Harvard Health Publishing. 2019. Should you see a chiropractor for low back pain?
  5. US National Library of Medicine. 2017. Cupping therapy versus acupuncture for pain-related conditions: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials and trial sequential analysis. 
  6. Frontiers. 2021. Clinical Effectiveness and Efficacy of Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation for Spine Pain.
  7. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/11086-non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-medicines-nsaids

 

 

 

 

 

 

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