Back Problems

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Finding a good herbalist

Used wisely, a holistic approach that includes herbal medicines can be exceptionally helpful for back pain. Herbs have been humankind's only medicine for virtually our entire evolution so of course we found allies in the natural world to help us with back-pain; also something that has been with us since our collective journey began!

Most of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here


Constitutional health notes

To help know which herb or herbs are best likely to help it may be very helpful to learn which constitution you are. To give some examples of how this knowledge can help us know which herbs to use for back pain, if you are an:

Eagle: you are more likely to suffer from specific areas of impinged nerves with subsequent neurological symptoms in your spine or neck. Herbs most likely to help include St John's wort, Feverfew and Arnica.

Tiger: you may suffer from sudden and intense back pain that will respond best to herbs that clear excess heat and damp such as Willow bark (the origin of aspirin), Celery seed or Wormwood.

Bear: you may be prone to chronic back pain, especially lower, of a deep, dull, aching nature. Potent remedies such as Devil's Claw, Turmeric and Ginger may give the best help to a Bear with chronic pain

Elephant/Butterfly: you may have back troubles from injuries that have not healed well and herbs that can be especially helpful include Black Cohosh, Cinnamon and Cramp Bark.

Constitutional medicine is introduced here and how to work out which constitution you are is here


Movement & exercise

Fact: Not moving a bad back makes it worse in the long run
Fact: Moving a bad back too much makes it worse in the long run

If you have a bad back, then you already know these facts to be true. You do have to move your back to get better, but how much?

Too much of anything can be harmful and is how many people got a bad back in the first place. You have to be open to trying things out to see if they help but, above all, you must listen to your body.

The way to not do harm when you exercise is
1) Don't start with an expectation of what you 'should' do.
2) Keep your attention focused within and let your body be your guide.

If you practice this you will find that your body reliably tells you when you are doing a movement wrong or when you are doing something that will bring you harm. This approach will likely mean you do less rather than more. Don't worry about that, you will get better much faster when you don't do harm but do keep moving.


Hands-on treatments

Safe, regular exercise is vital to getting well. If you can also get some hands-on treatment then this should also help a great deal. If you don't already know an excellent 'hands-on' practitioner then some of the advice linked in the beginning about how to find a good herbalist will equally apply to this area, that link again is here.

As always it is your own body that will tell you if something is helping you or not. It is okay to feel a little sore the day after strong massage or any kind of manipulation but you should soon start to feel that everything is getting better overall to know that you are on the right track.


Drug therapies

At some point, nearly everyone with a bad back takes pain killers or anti-inflammatory drugs, many people end up taking a lot of them for a long time. These drugs are, of course, powerful chemicals with significant potential to cause toxicity and side effects but in some ways an even greater problem can happen when the drugs are tolerated ok and the person can keep taking them day after day.

Not being able to feel the signals your body is telling you when you move, lift, stand or sit in certain ways means you can easily damage your back a lot further. Nearly everyone who ends up with back problems was getting warning signs before things got really bad. The same drugs that can make those signs go away can create a recipe for disaster.

Our backs are capable of giving us so much grief because they carry the spinal nerves -- which means we get to feel everything that is going on! Of course, that can be overwhelming when pain and spasm are happening, hence the universal recommendation to take drugs to reduce these intense sensations, but this feedback mechanism is also an essential guide for how to get better. You have to be able to feel what is going on to know when you need to move, and when you need to stop.

Many people who suffer from chronic back pain work have worked this out for themselves. Drugs may have been necessary at some point but they can easily end up hampering rather than helping the healing process.


Body & mind

We are neither a body or a mind, we are both. Everything we feel in our body we experience in our brain; at least at some level, everything that happens to us mentally and emotionally we likewise experience in our body in some way.

It is just as wrong to say that something is purely physical as it is to say it is purely psychological, the truth is that it is always both. This is very important to grasp because, even in the most clearly physical back condition, you simply must be emotional involved with what's going on. If it hurts, then you are being affected emotionally, and being affected emotionally invariably makes the pain feel worse.

Do not pick a side but rather take care to nourish and heal your mind as well as your body. This may mean that as well as things like movement, massage and herbs, that you take steps to look after your mental health. Do things that relax you and make you happy. As much as you can, avoid things that make you stressed, worried or sad.

There is an audio commentary on this site called 'relaxation with pain' that may be of help, it's here. There is also a detailed article on strategies that have been seen to most reliably help people in bad conditions of tension and tension here

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd