Dr Libby: Natural Solutions To Combating Back Pain

By Dr Libby Weaver
Learn from Dr Libby Weaver about holistic approaches to managing back pain, including exercise, posture adjustments, and dietary choices. Photo / Getty Images

In this special series, guest writer Dr Libby Weaver shares her health insights. This week she spotlights back pain and how to ease it.

Back pain isn’t just uncomfortable; it’s a widespread issue that significantly impacts your quality of life, affecting everything from simple daily tasks to how well you

What causes back pain?

Dealing with back pain means getting to the core of what’s causing it for you personally. Working with a physiotherapist or an osteopath can be a game changer. They can tailor a treatment plan that identifies and tackles your specific issues, often involving a mix of manual adjustments, targeted exercises, and tips on improving your posture. All of this is crucial for long-term relief. If back pain is a constant battle for you, seeking professional advice and perhaps getting some imaging done to pinpoint specific issues can be a real eye-opener.

Understanding what might be contributing to or causing back pain often starts with looking at your daily routines. What are you doing that might trigger pain? Are there habits or activities that contribute to it? Addressing these can reduce both the frequency and intensity of back pain flare-ups. While your tendency may be to rest a sore back, avoiding movement because of back pain can actually make things worse. Being sedentary tightens muscles and restricts blood flow, ramping up the pain. On the flip side, regular gentle movement can help to lubricate joints and stretch muscles, easing the stiffness and discomfort that come with too much sitting or lying down.

What exercises help with back pain?

Incorporating movement into your daily life doesn’t have to be a chore. Think about taking a walk during your next phone call instead of sitting down while you talk. Opt for the stairs over the elevator. Why not walk or cycle for those short trips instead of driving? Park further away from the shops so you need to walk further. Looking for opportunities to integrate more movement into your day will make a significant difference to your mobility. Setting a timer to remind yourself to stand up and stretch every 30 minutes is another simple but effective strategy. These little breaks can be as brief as walking to the kitchen for a glass of water or doing a quick set of stretches. The goal is to shake up those long periods of sitting that dominate so many lives.

Keeping your body guessing with different types of exercise can keep things interesting and tackle various aspects of fitness. Mixing strength and/or resistance training with some gentle flexibility workouts can really round out your approach to back health. Strength training in particular helps you build muscle mass — which is super important because once you hit 30, if you’re not actively building or maintaining muscle, you’re losing it. And less muscle mass can spell trouble for your back. Simple home exercises like squats and planks, or engaging in yoga or Pilates, can fortify your core and back muscles, crucial for supporting your spine. If you do have an injury, it is best to consult with a physiotherapist to identify the best movement patterns for your body and unique situation — or find a physio-led Pilates class where they can direct you through the class.

How do work habits contribute to back pain?

Back pain isn’t always indicative of an injury, sometimes it’s simply showing you that your daily movement habits — or lifestyle habits in general – are not working for you. Many of us work in settings that are not exactly back-friendly, spending long hours each day in front of a computer. This setup puts a lot of strain on your spine, fostering poor posture and leading to muscle weakness.

An adjustable sit-stand desk can really change the game by allowing you to stand part of the time while you work. This helps engage your core and even out your body weight, which can reduce the strain on your lower back and improve overall posture, making your workday both more comfortable and beneficial to your spinal health. Yet, standing all day isn’t the goal either — balance is key. Switching between sitting and standing throughout the day can help you stay comfortable and pain-free.

Can nutrients and supplements help with back pain?

Pain and stiffness in the body can also be a sign that you are deficient in the essential mineral magnesium. It plays a key role in relaxing muscle tension and easing spasms, which can be a major part of back pain. You can up your magnesium intake by eating foods like green leafy vegetables, tahini, seeds, nuts, nut butter, seaweed and raw cacao. Or, if you need a more direct approach, consider a good quality supplement, or even an Epsom salt bath for targeted relief.

Curcumin is a powerhouse component in turmeric that offers serious anti-inflammatory benefits. This is especially helpful for chronic back pain, which often involves a lot of inflammation. Adding turmeric to your diet isn’t just about tossing some on your food — it’s about making it a regular part of your life, perhaps through a daily turmeric tea, a colourful curry, or added to a chicken broth or soup. You can also take this as a supplement.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in wild-caught oily fish and algae also have potent anti-inflammatory action. Remember too that what we eat literally becomes part of us. We need protein to provide us with the amino acids required to build and repair muscles, fruit and vegetables for the antioxidants and micronutrients to drive the biochemical processes in our body that support overall health, boost immune function, and enhance energy levels. Incorporating a diverse range of these nutrients into your diet helps your body to effectively manage inflammation, heal from injuries, and maintain optimal functionality.

By making nourishing choices with what we consume, we not only fuel our bodies but also lay the foundation for a healthier, more resilient life.

Dr. Libby Weaver
Dr. Libby Weaver

Nutritional biochemist, Dr Libby Weaver PhD, is a 13-times bestselling author and international speaker and founder of the naturally sourced supplement range, Bio Blends. www.drlibby.com

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