Updated 10/8/23; Originally posted 7/4/21
For many people, chronic back pain is a fact of life. As we age, we are more likely to find ourselves feeling back pain frequently enough to be considered chronic. An important part of feeling better not older is creating a lifestyle for ourselves which prevents back pain, learning to recognize the signs of impending pain, and building an array of wellness tools to minimize back pain when it does arrive.
Wellness Tools for Chronic Back Pain
Pilates Exercises for Back Pain
For many who suffer from chronic back pain, Pilates exercises are a lifesaver. This movement modality, created by Joseph Pilates, is all about your spine, your core, and the bits and pieces that attach your spine to the rest of your body. Pilates exercises can be gentle and therapeutic or bad ass and amazing to watch. Pilates exercises focus on the little stabilizing muscles that are deep within the body; the muscles that keep your joints happy and feeling safe – particularly your spine.
There are two flavors of Pilates – Mat and Equipment. Mat Pilates exercises involve your body and maybe a few small props like a 9″ ball and a flex band. Equipment Pilates utilizes apparatus designed specifically to support your body parts and challenge your core at the same time. Mat Pilates classes are easily found in gyms, Pilates and Yoga studios, senior centers, and many more locations. More often than not, these types of mat Pilates classes are suboptimal for people dealing with chronic low back pain. Equipment Pilates gives a great whole body workout, but can sometimes have the same issue of not addressing the needs of someone with chronic pain.
When you are in pain, you need more in the way of detailed instruction, modifications to make the exercise optimal for you, use of props to assist in using the right muscles, and encouragement to make the movements small enough to work the target muscles. A full Pilates session will involve moving the spine without pain in all possible motions.
With the right instructor, both Mat Pilates and Equipment Pilates can be fabulous tools for helping decrease and avoid back pain. Zoa always recommends new students in chronic pain begin with Equipment Pilates because you can receive support for legs and arms that feel heavy, work in stable body positions which puts your mind at ease, and benefit from many safe movement options to get you strong while getting you out of pain.
Yoga for Back Pain
Many doctors recommend yoga to their patients dealing with stress and chronic back pain because it encourages both movement and breathing. In general, our daily lives involve much less motion that our bodies require to feel good. For natural pain relief, you want a yoga class that encourages gentle whole body movements that your normal daily life does not.
When you practice yoga, you are likely to be guided to move your arms slowly and mindfully while standing, sitting, and laying. Your hips will stretch and release as you move your legs forwards, sideways, and backwards. Your spine will bend gently in one direction than the other. Your whole body will move in new ways with the purpose of feeling good.
Yoga encourages taking full, deep breaths which are, by nature, stress reducing. When you choose to focus on filling your body with breath and releasing it slowly and consistently, your mind releases tension held in the body that often causes pain.
Strength and flexibility must both be present in order to feel capable and to avoid pain. The way Zoa teaches yoga and Pilates is intentionally to let Pilates focus on building needed strength from the inside out while letting yoga focus on whole body movement and stress relieving breathing. They are complimentary and she highly encourages her clients to incorporate both into their personal drug-free pain management plan.
Self Fascial Massage for Back Pain
Many people dealing with chronic back pain head directly to a massage therapist to help them take away the pain. What they often do not realize is that the pain will return unless they address the source of the issue. Massage feels terrific and touch is very important for the human body and brain to receive on a regular basis. When trying to stop chronic back pain, incorporating daily self fascial work at home creates a huge positive effect in your quality of life.
Your fascia system holds tension and stress while also providing sensation and messages for the brain about the state of the body. Too many messages arriving at the brain too quickly create a traffic jam called PAIN. Self fascial massage is all about sending “feel good” messages to the brain and releasing unneeded tension that is likely to be adding to your pain level. It is gentle, safe, and can be done daily. Even 5 minutes helps, but Zoa offers 55 minute fascial release sessions where she guides you through various ways of making the entire body feel good again.
Back Pain Nutrition
Nutrition is a key wellness lifestyle tool to help reduce or eliminate chronic back pain. Three elements of nutrition are important when thinking about pain reduction:
- Magnesium – Most Americans are deficient in this critical mineral. Magnesium is used in over 300 processes within the body, works to relax muscles with no poor side effects, and calms the brain chemicals that are part of the pain perception. Low magnesium in your body will amplify your pain level.
Like calcium and potassium, magnesium is needed in larger quantities on a daily basis. Take a look at your diet and see how many of these naturally magnesium rich foods you eat on a daily basis: pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, cashews, avocado, almonds, banana, and salmon. You can up your intake of these and other magnesium rich foods or you can supplement. Taking an epsom salts foot bath or full body bath is a great way to get some warmth and relaxation time with your magnesium (from the epsom salts).
- Anti-inflammatory foods – Foods naturally cause a bit of inflammation in the body. Food is after all a foreign invader – even though we purposely invited the food into our bellies. Some foods generate a stronger reaction from your immune system therefore causing greater inflammation. Inflammation fixes injuries, but when it becomes chronic, pain is often not far behind. Reduce your inflammation and you will reduce your pain.
How do you eat an anti-inflammatory diet every day? Lots of tips can be found – including lots of fresh in season vegetables and fruits, eat a small level of animal products from happy, healthy, properly fed animals. Talk to Zoa more if you want help with eating more local food produce or an anti-inflammatory diet.
- Hydration – The human body needs water and the minerals (electrolytes) required to keep the water in and around our cells. It needs more water to keep our bowels moving regularly in order to prevent toxin buildup (which causes fatigue and pain!). Yet more water is needed to keep our fascial system properly hydrated so your joints and muscles are pliable and glide easily. Even more water keeps the disks of your spine at the proper gel consistency.
The “magic” amount of water that you need is the amount that makes you feel fabulous. Without the proper intake of electrolytes, you pee the water out too quickly for it to be used! Often times processed and restaurant food contains only some of the electrolytes we need – sodium in particular. High sodium means high water retention in the blood and the cells becoming dehydrated. This is particularly bad for brain cells. Be sure to balance your sodium, potassium, and water for happy cells and a happy pain free brain! I recommend Beam Fulvic and Humic Mineral Complexes and LMNT Electrolytes.
4 Easy Natural Remedies for Back Pain
Lifestyle impacts the existence of chronic pain in a myriad of ways. When seeking non-pharmaceutical ways of dealing with chronic back pain, small changes to your lifestyle are often simple to incorporate.
- Spend less time in shoes and more time working your feet – foot strength and ankle mobility affect hip strength and mobility which affects the tension around your spine and the activation of your core to support you. When the arch of your foot works well, so does your core and your back hurts less!
- Sit less and move more often – Sitting for long periods of time sends the wrong message to your hips, core, spine, and shoulders. Your body is designed to move and have muscles all around the body participate in holding you up. When we sit, stand, or otherwise stay in one position for too long, certain muscles overwork, others underwork, and we end up hurting.
You can not offset 9 hours of sitting 5 days a week with an hour or two of weekly exercise. Movement needs to be sprinkled into your day as often as possible! Get up – take the long way to the bathroom, opt into stairs when you can, reach up to the high shelf on purpose, create reasons to move your body and it is likely to thank you by reducing your pain level.
Need help getting movement in? The Zen Anytime online membership offers 10 minute videos that rotate monthly so you can move your entire body as often as you want with Zoa’s expert instruction.
- Catch sunshine or an infrared sauna session – Infrared light from sunshine or a far infrared sauna turns plain water in your body into the 4th phase of water – Exclusion Zone Water. EZ water is thick like a liquid crystal and is required by your fascia system and every cell in your body in order to make energy and feel good.
- Ground Yourself – Touch your feet to the actual Earth in order to bring free negative charges (electrons) into your body which then serve as antioxidants, help heal inflammation, and reduce pain. Earthing is as simple as walking or sitting outside – bare feet touching the grass or the beach or wearing a pair of grounding sandals. If you can not easily be in physical connection with the Earth, use a Grounding Mat under your feet while you sit, under your bottom sheet while you sleep, or behind your back while you eat.
Work with Zoa to Heal Your Chronic Back Pain
If you would like to receive personalized advice and guidance about how to improve your own wellness lifestyle with a focus on reducing and stopping your chronic back pain, I would love to meet you. During your Free New Client Wellness Consultation, you will get to tell me your story and hear how I can help you. We all need help at times in our lives. Is now the time for you to focus on leveling up your wellness practices?