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  • Scripps Health

Natural ways to alleviate back pain

Take an integrative approach to having a healthy back

If you’ve ever slouched in your desk chair at work, lifted heavy objects without using your knees for support or clinched your shoulders when life got stressful, these movements may have come back to haunt you in the form of back pain.

Back pain can resolve on its own. Or it can persist despite treatment.

“Fortunately, for most people, the pain will resolve itself with appropriate treatment. But for others, pain relief can be hard to find. All options must be considered,” says Marni Hillinger, MD, a physiatrist at Scripps Clinic. She specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.

Dr. Hillinger says complementary and integrative therapies can help people who are struggling with back pain. “These therapies can provide a framework for making positive health behavior changes, help promote self-efficacy and give you greater hope for recovery.”

Mind-body approaches to stopping back pain Integrative medicine takes a holistic or whole-body approach to health care and wellness. Providers examine both physical and psychosocial elements of health, such as emotional, spiritual and behavioral well-being.

In 2017, the American College of Physicians (ACP) recommended several integrative health approaches to alleviate back pain.

ACP defined pain as:

  • Acute, (lasting less than four weeks)

  • Subacute (four to 12 weeks)

  • Chronic (more than 12 weeks).

Patients with acute and subacute back pain may use heat, massage, acupuncture or spinal manipulation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or skeletal muscle relaxants may also help alleviate back pain. These apply to people who are not at risk for a serious underlying condition.

Patients with chronic back pain may use exercise, rehabilitation, acupuncture, stress reduction, tai chi, yoga and biofeedback. All are first line of therapies.

Here is additional information for some of these therapies.

Diet and exercise Excess weight can contribute to back pain. Consider introducing low-impact exercise and a proper diet into your daily routine. This can help reduce fear of movement and improve your fitness level and body weight.

Yoga Gentle stretching into various yoga poses can increase strength and flexibility. Breathing exercises and meditation can help ease stress. Yoga can help improve muscle tone, reduce fear of movement and help you relax.</