An NCBI article mentions that the WHO estimates that around 60%–70% of adults globally experience low back pain at least once in their lifetime. In fact, around 10% of people may develop chronic low back pain.
While traditional methods like medication and exercise are widely used, there’s a growing interest in unconventional approaches to alleviate back pain.
Cryotherapy for cold comfort
While heat therapy is a common practice for relaxing muscles, cryotherapy, or cold therapy, is gaining popularity. Cryotherapy involves exposing the body to extremely cold temperatures for a short period of time. This process can reduce inflammation and numb nerve endings, relieving chronic back pain.
Whole-body cryotherapy chambers and localised cryo packs are innovative options for those willing to embrace the chill. The efficacy of whole-body cryotherapy has been proven in the treatment and rehabilitation of multiple sclerosis, chronic back pain, arthrosis, and fibromyalgia. According to a study from the BMC Journal, it is also widely used in sports medicine and can give quick relief.
Chiropractic back adjustment
Chiropractic back adjustment is a common therapeutic approach to alleviate back pain. It involves the skilled manipulation of the spine by chiropractors, who are trained professionals specialising in the treatment of neuromuscular disorders.
The primary goal of chiropractic adjustments is to restore proper alignment, mobility, and function to the spine. Thus, it relieves pressure on nerves and surrounding tissues.
During a chiropractic back adjustment session, the chiropractor evaluates the patient’s spine for misalignments, known as subluxations. The chiropractor applies controlled force to specific spine areas using manual techniques or specialised tools. This gently coaxes the vertebrae back into their proper position. This process is often accompanied by audible popping or cracking sounds resulting from the release of trapped gases within the joints.
The adjustment process is typically quick and may occur while the patient lies or sits on a chiropractic table. While some individuals experience immediate relief following an adjustment, others may require multiple sessions to achieve the desired results. The frequency and duration of treatment depend on factors such as the severity of the condition and the patient’s overall health.
Adding spinal decompression therapy to chiropractic adjustments is highly recommended by chiropractor Dr. Michael Baremboym. Spinal decompression therapy aims to alleviate pressure on the spinal discs and nerves. Compression therapy creates negative pressure within the discs by gently stretching the spine. This promotes the retraction of bulging or herniated material and facilitates nutrient-rich fluids to flow back into the affected areas.
Hydrotherapy and watsu massage
Hydrotherapy and Watsu massage offer promising avenues for alleviating back pain through their unique relaxation and therapeutic intervention approaches. Hydrotherapy involves using water in various forms, temperatures, and pressures to promote healing and relieve discomfort.
It can encompass techniques such as hot baths, cold compresses, or aquatic exercises tailored to target specific areas of pain. By immersing oneself in water, buoyancy reduces the pressure on joints and muscles, facilitating greater freedom of movement and alleviating strain.
Watsu massage further benefits water therapy by incorporating elements of Shiatsu massage and passive stretching within a warm pool environment. During a Watsu session, a therapist cradles and supports the recipient while guiding them through fluid movements and stretches in the water.
The weightlessness and warmth of the water, combined with the therapist’s skilled touch, create a profoundly relaxing experience. This experience can promote deep relaxation, improved circulation, and enhanced flexibility. These factors contribute to relieving muscle tension and releasing endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving hormones.
Acupuncture and energy flow
Acupuncture, rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the body’s vital energy, or Qi, flows along meridian pathways. When these meridians are blocked or imbalanced, pain and illness may occur. Acupuncture aims to restore balance and promote healing by stimulating specific points along these meridians.
Acupuncturists typically target points along the meridians associated with the back and related organs for back pain relief. These points may include those along the bladder, gallbladder, kidney, and governing vessel meridians. By inserting thin needles into these points, practitioners aim to unblock Qi, promote circulation, and alleviate tension and inflammation in the affected area.
A number of theories have been put forth, but the precise mechanisms underlying acupuncture’s ability to effectively relieve back pain are still being investigated. According to some research, acupuncture triggers the body’s natural painkilling substances, endorphins, to be released. Acupuncture may also alter the activity of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that are involved in pain perception.
Acupuncture is one of the safest unconventional methods to relieve back pain. However, like any other treatment, even acupuncture has some side effects. As stated in a ScienceDirect study, 1–5 out of 100 patients taking acupuncture may have some bleeding due to needling. On the other hand, long-term nerve pain or infection is very rare, say around 1–3 in a million treatments.
TENS units for electrifying relief
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units deliver low-voltage electrical impulses through electrodes placed on the skin. This electrical stimulation may disrupt pain signals and promote the release of endorphins.
The electrical impulses generated by the TENS unit can help disrupt or block pain signals from reaching the brain, thereby reducing pain perception. One of the key benefits of TENS units is their ease of use and portability. Users can apply the electrodes directly to the affected back area and adjust the settings to their comfort level. TENS units typically offer a range of intensity levels and pulse frequencies, allowing individuals to customise their treatment.
It activates the delta-opioid receptors when applied to the peripheral nerves at high frequencies of 50 to 150 Hz. According to the Elsevier Journal, these receptors block the perception of pain. Low frequencies of 1 to 10 Hz activate the mu-opioid receptors, which make the brain release endorphins that reduce the sensations.
Music therapy for sonic soothing
Music therapy has been recognised as a valuable tool in managing various physical and psychological ailments, including back pain. Music’s soothing and relaxing effects can help alleviate discomfort and promote healing. When using music for back pain relief, the focus is often on selecting pieces with calming melodies, gentle rhythms, and harmonious tones.
Classical music is commonly recommended for its therapeutic properties, particularly compositions by artists such as Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. The intricate patterns and structured arrangements in classical pieces can engage the mind and distract from pain sensations. Additionally, the rhythmic elements of classical music can help induce a state of relaxation, easing tension in the back muscles.
Ambient and natural sounds are another popular choice for sonic soothing in back pain relief. The gentle sounds of flowing water, chirping birds, or rustling leaves can create a serene auditory environment that promotes relaxation and diminishes pain perception. Nature-inspired music often incorporates natural soundscape elements, creating a tranquil atmosphere conducive to healing and comfort.
In the quest for back pain relief, exploring unconventional methods can open new doors to improved well-being. Some of these approaches may seem out of the ordinary. However, the key is finding what works best for individual needs. Before embarking on any unconventional treatment, it’s essential to consult with healthcare professionals to ensure that these methods align with your overall health goals. With an open mind and a willingness to explore, individuals may discover unique and effective ways to manage and alleviate back pain.
Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.