For some people, the greatest back health benefits come from combining medical treatments (such as back pain medications, injections, spine surgery, etc.) along with alternative health care options like yoga or Pilates.
Here are just a few alternative options that you might want to consider:
Pilates helps support the spine
Pilates is an exercise program that focuses on the core postural muscles that are essential to providing support for the spine and helping alleviate back pain. Learning awareness of neutral alignment of the spine and strengthening the deep postural muscles that support this alignment are important skills for the back pain patient.
Patients with pain stemming from excessive movement and degeneration of the intervertebral discs and joints (e.g. degenerative disc disease) are particularly likely to benefit from a Pilates exercise program.
Yoga promotes flexibility
Most people know that yoga involves a lot of stretching. But what they may not know is how important regular stretching is to alleviate many forms of lower back pain. For example, stretching the hamstring muscles (in the back of the thigh) helps expand the motion in the pelvis, which decreases stress across the lower back.
Stretching with yoga also increases blood flow, allowing nutrients to flow in, toxins to flow out, and providing overall nourishment of the muscles and soft tissues in the lower back.
- See also Healing Benefits of Yoga
Tai Chi is a gentle form of exercise
Unlike other forms of exercise such as yoga, Tai Chi involves a greater degree of movement. And unlike many types of aerobic exercise (such as running) Tai Chi does not involve any jarring motions that create impact on the spine. It is a slow, deliberate, and gentle flowing movement of the body. Importantly, because Tai Chi is gentle on the spine, many people with back pain find it easier to tolerate than many other forms of exercise.
- See also Tai Chi for Posture and Back Pain
Massage therapy is relaxing and promotes healing
Research shows that massage therapy provides several important health benefits for people with back pain, including: helping sore back muscles heal by improving blood circulation, relaxing the muscles and improving range of motion, and helping manage chronic pain by increasing the level of endorphins in the body.
Neuromuscular therapy is recognized by The American Academy of Pain Management as an effective treatment for back pain caused by soft tissue injury (such as muscle strain).
- See also Massage Therapy for Lower Back Pain
- Watch our new Lower Back Strain Video
Acupuncture relieves pain for some people
In 1998, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a statement that said there is enough evidence to demonstrate that acupuncture had beneficial pain-relieving qualities that might be useful as a treatment for lower back pain and for a number of other painful conditions.
The mechanisms of acupuncture, though not solidly proven, seem to stimulate the central nervous system - the brain and spinal cord - and it is thought that acupuncture causes specific chemicals to be released into the body that physically and psychologically affect pain.
We hope these ideas will help motivate you to take an active role in taking care of your spine. What did we leave out? What non-medical treatments help you the most?