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Backache or Lumbago You can reduce the pain and stiffness

Updated on January 7, 2017
Backache or lumber pain
Backache or lumber pain
Heat pad on lumber area
Heat pad on lumber area
Epsom salt bath
Epsom salt bath
Aromatherapy massage
Aromatherapy massage
Osteopathic massage
Osteopathic massage


What we think of as backache is also known as Lumbago, which is an old Latin word dating from 1685–95 period meaning lumber pain. It affects over three quarters of the population and the pain is primarily concentrated in the mid to lower back and may extend to the buttocks, thighs and legs. When the lower limbs are involved the symptom is more correctly termed sciatica rather than lumbago.

Symptoms of backache or lumbago

Backache or Lumbago may also cause loss of sensation in the sole of the foot and posterior and motor function (usually loss of flexion of the foot and toes as well as a diminished ankle jerk reflex). Certain areas of the back may suffer stiffness and pain together with rigidity upon movement of the lumbosacral part of the spine. Other symptoms can include a reduced ability to walk, without a limp or raise the foot once straightened. A slipped disc is recognised as one of the most common causes of lumbago normally being a herniated intervertebral disk between the L5/S1 vertebrae affecting the S1 root of the sciatic nerve. Weak muscles in the back and/or stomach can also cause back pain, particularly if you are overweight. Severe pain and spasm may cause the back to tilt to one side causing a change in posture or a limp.

It is vitally important to contact your doctor or Accident and Emergency unit if you suddenly find out that you are unable to control your bladder or bowel movements or if the area of the lower back or legs suddenly turns numb or weak. These warning signs indicate that there may be damage to the spine which could be causing compression of the spinal cord or its associated nerves requiring quick treatment if permanent damage is to be avoided.

Pregnancy will put extra pressure on the spine and the muscles of the back causing a significant change in posture. This is perfectly normal but your GP can help with pain relief.

The onset of backache or lumbago is no respecter of age and can affect young people with strenuous jobs right through to those who are now retired especially if they were particularly active.

How to reduce pain and improve mobility

Pain can be divided up into acute or chronic. Acute pain is sudden and severe or becomes chronic pain is if it has lasted for more than three months.

Acute low back pain

Use proprietary painkillers such as aspirin and codeine or ibuprofen. If the pain is severe your doctor may prescribe stronger painkillers and perhaps a muscle relaxant such as 2mg Diazepam. Painkillers should be taken regularly throughout the day, for a couple of days, not just when pain becomes unbearable.

It is beneficial to stay as active as possible as this helps to keep the muscles that support the spine strong and supple also preventing scar tissue from forming and causing stiffness.

Warm packs such as wheat bags, hot water bottles or heat creams will help ease pain and stiffness. Try to rest and sleep lying on a firm, flat supportive surface and avoid stooping, bending, lifting and sitting on low chairs.

Chronic low back pain

By now you should have consulted your GP. It is unlikely they would want an X-ray as backache or lumbago is fairly easy to diagnose. Often rather than prescribe stronger and stronger painkillers they may suggest you try treatment by a physiotherapist, osteopath, yoga, reiki or chiropractor (including spinal manipulation). This can often provide some relief of symptoms, but may require frequent possibly expensive sessions. Despite much research there is no evidence that use of antidepressants, traction, facet joint injections and EMG (electromyography) feedback offer any long term solution..

Bear in mind that backaches are rarely caused by a serious illness and usually go away in a couple of days.

Management of lumbago includes the use of NSAIDs, physiotherapy and bed rest. In severe cases where there may be permanent loss of function of the limb(s) involved, surgical options may be considered.

Mostly it is as a result of heavy exercise or lifting and rest and dose of painkillers is sufficient to remove the pain and stiffness.

Natural remedies

Massage therapy, together with essential oils, can effect excellent relief from back pain. The oils penetrate deeply into the muscles, encouraging blood flow and allowing repair of the fibrous tissues.

When mixing the carrier oil/essential oil blend, bear in mind if it is not to be completely used in a short period of time, then there is a risk that the vegetable oil can turn rancid. If mixing oils to last a while, always add 5/10% of wheat-germ oil, which contains a natural anti-oxidant – vitamin E. To ensure your blend retains its scent, it needs to be “fixed”. For this purpose Sandalwood is the best all-round, although you can use Patchouli, Myrrh or Cedarwood.

There is much of a physiological nature in ill health and consequently because we want the massage oil to smell appealing, there is nothing wrong with altering the relative percentage of each essential oil in the blend until they smell right. Some will blend and harmonised better than others – experiment and try some different ratios.

A basic starter blend would be:

2 tablespoons of carrier oil (try sweet almond oil or if the skin is dry use avocado, rosehip or Argan oil)

10 drops Marjoram

10 drops Eucalyptus

10 drops Sage

8 drops Pine

10 drops Lavender

10 drops Ginger

You will notice that the ratio of essential oil to carrier oil is much higher than in some of the other blends shown elsewhere. This is because deep muscular pain requires the oils to penetrate and some oils do this more slowly than others resulting in a greater long-term relief. To the above you can add all or some of the following, but try to retain the ratio of 60 drops to 2 tablespoons of oil. Try: Thyme, Peru Balsam, Camphor, German or Roman Chamomile, Vetiver, Benzoin, Cypress, Peppermint, Rosemary, Juniper, Angelica, Oregano or Basil. (As a personal note, if you are including this massage oil as part of your bedtime routine, leave out the Camphor and Marjoram as it acts as an aphrodisiac )

Aching and tense muscles can be helped by dietary and herbal remedies, for suggestions look at my hub http://petergeekie.hubpages.com/hub/Sciatica-relief-using-essential-oils

Cramp Bark and Black Haw An American Indian medicine used for the treatment of spasmodic pain, both cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) and black haw (Viburnum prunifolium).. They also used cramp bark to treat both menstrual pain and muscle spasm. The plants contain the antispasmodic and muscle-relaxing compounds esouletin and scopoletin which are extracted with alcohol. They are best taken as tinctures rather than teas. To make mix equal parts of cramp bark and black haw tinctures and take between 1 and 4 droppers every two or three hours for up to three days.

Lemon juice mixed with salt and consumed twice daily has been found to treat backaches successfully.

Epsom Salt Baths Native or Folk medication has used Epsom salt baths to relieve pain for centuries and the Epsom salt used was reputed to have almost magical healing properties. Chemically Epsom salt is primarily magnesium sulphate and the heat of the salt bath can improve circulation and reduce the swelling of arthritis with the important magnesium being absorbed through the skin. Magnesium has both anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties. Directions: Fill a bath with water as hot as can be tolerated. Add 2 cups of Epsom salts. Bathe for thirty minutes, adding hot water if necessary to maintain the heat.

Magnesium This is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. Involved in over 300 biochemical reactions. It is used in the maintenance of normal muscle and nerve function, keeping heart rhythm steady, supporting a healthy immune system, and preserving bones strength. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. Published in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, a 2001 clinical trial of 82 patients with chronic low back pain found that use of mineral supplements resulted in a reduction in pain symptoms in 76 participants.

Native remedies for back pain include the use of a massage oil made with three or four cloves of garlic fried in coconut or mustard seed oil and when cooled rubbed on the back or the soles of the feet. This is claimed to provide instant relief from the pain. Leave the oil on your back for a few hours before washing off. Take care walking with oil on the soles of your feet.

Much underrated vitamin C supplements can boost the immune system, improving healing and strengthen the back.

Another herb used over the centuries in the treatment of back pain is devil's claw. Devil's claw contains harpagosides, which are chemical compounds found to possess anti-inflammatory properties.

Another unlikely home remedy with anecdotal evidence for back pain relief, involves applying raw potato onto the affected area. This is especially helpful for lower back pain.

Vitamin B12 - Often given as an injection B12 can be taken in capsule form and has a good success rate in dealing with back pain.

Diet for Backache

It is particularly recommended that people suffering from backaches or lumbago should have a balanced diet that consists of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Raw salads, lightly steamed vegetables, fresh juices, and milk all help to improve your overall health. Low fat, high protein meats such as pork and venison served grilled with a jacket potato will build healthy strong muscle. A healthy diet will also typically be low in foods that contain empty calories, which are high in fat and sugars, thus helping reduce weight and reducing pressure on the spine. Proteins, vitamin C, and foods high in vitamin D and calcium all help strengthen bones and muscles. Avoid all fatty, heavily spiced, over-processed foods as well as too much tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco, although quality red wine is positively beneficial.

Future prospects

The prognosis is usually very good, provided the person remains active and receives early and correct treatment.

Your footwear is also extremely important, men should wear well-fitting comfortable shoes and ladies, save those killer heels for special occasions and for normal use try somewhat lower or stylish, flats.

Do you suffer from backache or lumbago ? How do you deal with it.

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© 2012 Peter Geekie

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