Medical herbalist Nicola Parker explains ways to ease back pain

If back pain is a regular issue for you, you may want to look at additional avenues to manage the pain rather than always taking over-the-counter pain relief

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 3:45 pm

I’ve recently found myself suffering with a bad back after the dangerous pursuit of sleeping in a slightly different position to normal. It’s not surprising that back pain is common, considering how much we use our spine.

When I think of using my back, I imagine bending over, leaning to the side and twisting to reach things. It’s only when I’m in actual pain that I realise I use those muscles when I yawn, cough, get up from a chair and reach for the kettle. Even leaning back in bed can be uncomfortable.

The complex combination of muscle and joints supports itself in a multitude of ways. If you injure one of the joints, it may become inflamed causing the muscles around it to spasm protectively and possibly irritate nerves that make movement difficult and painful.

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Back pain

Taking over-the-counter pain relief can give some relief for occasional back pain and if needed, your doctor may be able to prescribe something stronger. If back pain is a regular issue for you, you may want to look at additional avenues to manage the pain.

Pain relief through pain killers doesn’t offer any long term protection and it can have a detrimental effect on the liver when taken over long periods of time, so it makes sense to give your back some love in a variety of ways, rather than just popping pills.

First, if your problem keeps cropping up, visit a physiotherapist. A physio will be able to show you some exercise that with strengthen any weaknesses in your back muscles, giving you a stronger structure that will be less prone to damage and pain. Many of my back issues come from sitting hunched over a desk, so exercises that stretch my muscles and spine are really important for maintaining a healthy back.

If you feel like your muscles are spasming, tight or knotted, there are other things you can do to help loosen them. Heat, whether from a hot bath, a hot water bottle, tiger balm rubs or even heat patches can go a long way to easing a muscular spasm.

I often find that sleeping with an eight-hour heat patch can make waking up a much more comfortable experience.

A massage can also help to ease muscular spasm, but these can be expensive if you really need them regularly.

It could be worth asking your masseuse to give you some tips on self massage between sessions, to give you some relief while at home or when you feel the problem worsening.

One very important mineral for muscle function is magnesium. Deficiency of magnesium causes muscle spasms, cramps, twitching muscles, restless legs and sluggish bowel function among other things. Low levels of magnesium are often caused by drinking too musch tea, coffee, cola, alcohol and salt. These things affect how well we absorb magnesium and since it is difficult for the body to store, magnesium can be depleted and restored very quickly.

If you think your magnesium levels might be low, cut down to less that three cups of tea and coffee per day, reduce your salt intake and cut out cola and alcohol while taking a course of magnesium for a few weeks.

I use Magnesium Citrate, a well-absorbed form that tends to work really well. Be wary of cheap magnesium tablets, like magnesium oxide, which are difficult for the body to utilise. Magnesium Citrate is still very inexpensive, at less than ten pounds for a month’s supply, so it’s worth going for quality here.

If the pain is due to inflammation within the spine, due to degeneration or injury of the joints, then taking nutrients to protect the spine might be worth considering. I use a formula called Glucosamine Complete, which blends glucosamine with other reparative nutrients like msm and chondroitin, alongside nti inflammatory herbs, like ginger and rosehip.

Ginger can increase blood supply by improving circulation and can assist with muscle repair, while also having pain relieving properties. By using pain relief like this, you may find that your reliance on heavier pain medications is reduced, leading to a healthier and more comfortable body all round.

For more information or to book an appointment with Nicola, contact her clinic on 01524 413733.