by Beth Fowler
By the time we are twenty-one years old, four out
of five of us have suffered back pain. Millions of dollars are wasted
on pharmaceutical and surgical procedures that have low success rates.
Drugs and knives don’t always work because from 60% to 90% of disease
is not the result of structural injury, but rather of the mind-body
response to stress. Stress is any external stimulus - and old forgotten
injury (physical or emotional), sitting in an office chair, too much
“Chronic back pain is not ‘all in the mind’,” says
Dr Andrew Weil. “A lot of pain in the back is in the form of real,
physical distortion of muscle anatomy and physiology.” The respected
master teacher of self-healing goes on to explain that the cause of
the pain is not in the back, it’s in the nervous system connecting
the mind and emotions - the realm in which natural healing methods excel.
Natural Treatments and Self-Healing Methods for Aching Backs
Relief from backaches might be a matter of changing one’s posture.
Bad posture and unnatural movement habits can, over time, bring about
back pain. The way we sit in chairs, stand in lines, bend to tie our
shoelaces, reach for phones, chop carrots, drink tea, walk from here
to there and sleep can strain muscles and put undue pressure on nerves
and joints. Good posture is essential for back health. Check in the
library, at bookstores, on the Internet or with a health practitioner
for information, diagrams and exercises on balancing the body’s
weight in relation to its own centre of gravity.
Effectively reducing or eliminating pain depends on its root cause,
finding the right treatment for the cause, the practitioner’s competence,
the client’s state of mind, and practitioner/client compatibility.
Relief also depends on the client’s willingness to change habits
built up over decades and willingness, in some cases, to attend numerous
therapy sessions over a period of time. Sometimes beneficial change
is dramatic, sometimes gradual. Before deciding on a particular treatment
and practitioner, ask to see the practitioner’s certification or
credentials. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. A consultation
session before opting for one type of treatment over another is your
right. Below is an overview of treatment proven to alleviate back pain.
Acupressure - a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a non-invasive
application of pressure to ‘zones’ using fingers, rollers,
balls, bars and needle-beds (without puncturing the skin). Acupressure
encourages the body’s innate ability for self-regeneration. Clients
can learn to self-administer acupressure to relieve muscular pain and
relax tense muscles, a leading cause of backaches.
Acupuncture - a Chinese medical technique at least 4000 years old, aims
to correct imbalances of energy (physical, emotional and spiritual)
by inserting fine needle into the skin and flesh at specific points
along one’s energy channels. Warming the needles with smouldering
herbs (moxibustion) or stimulating them with weak electrical currents
is also done. Acupuncture helps musculo-skeletal disorders, lower back
pain, and osteoarthritis among other complaints.
Alexander Technique - originated by Frederick Mathias Alexander of Tasmania,
is a process for releasing unnecessary tension in the body and directing
it to useful energy. The importance of the proper relationship of the
head, neck and back is taught in order to achieve muscular harmony.
Students learn how to rest their backs, how to care for their backs
and necks, and ways to increase body awareness as well as ways to move
with natural ease. Habits of body use that cause backaches can be undone.
Ayurveda - with roots in India, means ‘science of life’. By
placing pressure on different parts of the body with their feet and
sometimes their hands, Ayurvedic therapists stimulate or subdue the
body’s organs, whose imbalance lead to disease. Ayurveda practitioners
treat the whole person and will often give advice about diet, exercise
and other lifestyle changes, bringing about relief from pain caused
by nerve, muscle and joint disorders, among other body systems.
Biofeedback - is the treatment system based on monitoring and evaluating
the body’s biological signals with an electronic instrument that
displays the body’s activity. An awareness of otherwise invisible
physiological activities in the body allows the client to change habits
that contribute to chronic stress. Changing the habits can, in turn,
relieve back pain, especially in the neck and shoulder areas.
Chiropractic - is based on the premise that the nervous system coordinates
all the body’s functions. A misaligned spine puts abnormal pressure
on nerves, lowering the body’s resistance to pain. Therefore, chiropractors
manipulate the spine (and major nerve pathway) with their hands to realign
vertebrae. Chiropractors normally take x-rays before commencing with
treatment. Chiropractic treatment can release muscle spasms in the back
Cranial Osteopathy (or ‘Craniosacral Osteopathy’) - tends
to the client’s cranial rhythm which is an involuntary, cyclical
expansion and contraction of all the body’s tissues. This rhythm
is separate from other body rhythms such as pulse and breath rate. Cranial
osteopaths can detect the cranial rhythm, evaluate it and provide treatment
based on the evaluation. Practitioners using this method can help with
many health conditions including back and neck aches.
Reiki - is Japanese for ‘universal life force’. Healers facilitate
the flow of energy (or life force) from the universe, through themselves
and to and within the client. The practitioner does not regulate the
energy flow: the higher intelligence of the universe does the regulating.
The practitioner creates the space and conditions allowing the energy
to flow. After proper training, individuals can treat themselves using
reiki. Reiki can heal many health problems, back pain being one of them.
Rolfing - named after Dr Ida P. Rolf, is a method of manipulating the
client’s myofascial (‘myo’ means ‘muscle’,
‘fascia’ means ‘bundle’) system to achieve improvements
in posture and structure. In other words, the body is ‘reorganised’
and habitual movement patterns (such as hunched shoulders, jutted chin,
swayed back) are changed. Clients achieve relief from pain, including
lower back pain, and chronic stress.
More Back Talk
Major life changes - even falling in love - can make
chronic back pain disappear. If falling in love is not in the stars,
then additional treatment besides the ones listed above are available
for relieving back pain. Some of these other methods include Bowen therapy,
breathing exercises, Feldenkrais Method, a firm mattress, guided imagery,
kinesiology, magnets, maintaining proper body weight, naturopathy, orthopaedic
cushions on chairs and car seats, Pilates machine, physiotherapy, Qi
Gong, shiatsu, tai chi, Trager Approach, yoga and, of course, proper
nutrition and exercise.
The common goal among these myriad methods is stimulating
the body’s natural processes toward wholeness, toward healing.
DeAnn Upton, ‘International Center for Reiki Training,’ Reiki
News, Summer 1998.
Foundation for Traditional Chinese medicine, UK.
Compton’s Interactive Encyclopaedia Deluxe, Copyright 1999, The
Learning Company, Inc.
Lifematters at www.sonic.net
Light Touch Kinesiology, PO Box 260, Bundoora MDC, Melbourne VIC 3083,
Ismat (Dhala) Nathani (Ayurvedic practitioner). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Raff, certified Alexander Technique teacher. Tel: 08 8556 5651.
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