Are you like so many other women who find that as you grow older that you have more aches and pains than you used to? After years of lifting kids, groceries, carrying heavy laundry baskets, house cleaning, of standing on your feet or sitting in an uncomfortable chair all day at work, does your back ache more than it used it to?
Do you find it necessary to see a chiropractor or a massage therapist to help you cope with your aching back? Are you taking pain medication or muscle relaxers for your back pain? Treating back pain is a multi-million-dollar industry and growing.
Millions of people suffer from back pain, especially as they get older. There are many causes for back pain. It could be due to aging and damaged discs in your back. I know from experience.
From the base of your skull and down, your spine has 23 intervertebral discs. There are 6 cervical discs in the neck, 12 thoracic discs in the upper and middle back and 5 lumbar discs in the lower back They act as cushions and spacers between the vertebra and are important in allowing space for nerves and blood vessels to radiate out from the spine to the rest of the body.
Personally, 11 of my 23 discs are damaged and yes, I live with constant back pain. One of my lumbar discs has a slight herniation. Three of my cervical discs are herniated and 2 more are bulging. Then there are five thoracic discs right between my shoulder blades that have been compressed nearly flat. As a result, I not only suffer from back pain, but have regular pinched nerves in my neck and muscle spasms in my back and neck/shoulder. It has left me with limited range of motion of my right arm and sometimes tingling and numbness in several of the fingers on my right hand.
Trust me, I am very familiar with back pain. However, pain medications are no help to me as I have a genetic immunity to the majority of pain killers. I’ve visited a chiropractor and have to admit that he’s very good, but as soon as I get home and try to resume normal activities, most of what the chiropractor has fixed becomes unfixed. I’ve tried acupuncture and have to admit I was a huge skeptic at first. However, I found that acupuncture did relieve a lot of my back pain and for the first couple of nights after treatment, I actually came close to getting a good night’s sleep for the first time in years. But the acupuncture is like the chiropractor, once I resume my normal activities, it’s all undone and the back pains return.
Back specialists and surgeons have told me that surgery is not an option due to the fact that so many of my discs, and one of my vertebra, are damaged and that it would take too much surgery and probably reduce my flexibility a great deal.
Consequently, I have learned to live with the pain, although there are many days that it’s difficult to function, but I do the best I can. That’s why this latest study caught my attention and may be something I’ll have to look into.
So, what is the possible natural way to relieve some or all back pain? According to this study, the answer is yoga, tai chi and/or massage therapy:
“Who was in the study? Researchers recruited 320 racially diverse, predominantly low-income participants in the Boston area, all of whom had chronic low back pain. The study lasted one year.”
“What did participants in the study do? Participants were divided into three groups. One group was assigned to a weekly yoga class for 12 weeks. Another group was assigned 15 physical therapy (PT) visits. The third group received an educational book and newsletters. For the remainder of the year — roughly 40 weeks — participants in the yoga group were assigned to either drop-in classes or home practice. The PT group was assigned to either “PT booster sessions” or home practice.”
“The skinny: Researchers assessed changes in pain and function using a 23-point questionnaire. The participants in the yoga and physical therapy groups had about the same amount of improvement in pain and functioning over time.”
“When the study began, about 70 percent of the patients were taking some form of pain medication. At the end of three months, when the yoga classes were wrapping up, the percentage of yoga and PT participants still taking pain medication had dropped to about 50 percent. By comparison, the use of pain medication did not decline among participants in the education group.”
Rob Saper, Author of the study and Director of Integrative Medicine at Boston Medical Center said the reduction in the need for pain medication was significant, but may not be the panacea cure-all everyone hopes for. He recommended that If you do consider yoga classes, to concentrate on the ones that deal largely with poses and relaxation techniques. They are safer and help stretch the muscles in the back which helps reduce muscle inflammation and pain.
As for physical therapy compared to yoga, Saper stated:
“PT is the most common referral that physicians make for patients with back pain. It’s accepted, it’s reimbursed, and it’s offered in most hospitals.”
However, yoga may be longer lasting if practiced on a regular basis, whereas physical therapy can be short lived and sessions limited. Saper recommends that more healthcare insurance companies provide coverage for yoga classes as that they may not only save the insurance company money in the long run, but gives the person something they can use for the rest of their lives to help fight back pain. Yoga can be a win-win natural medical aid for those of you with back pain.