Like me, if you have lower back pain, you are not alone. Studies have shown that about 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes.
I have to admit, when I was younger, when an adult complained about their “bad back” I would roll my eyes and snicker. Yeah right – a “bad back.” Fast forward many years and I now completely understand the “bad back” and I feel bad for being so dismissive that such a condition actually was legit.
I was a multi-sport athlete in high school and college. After college I stayed active by working out at the gym and participating in various types of fitness classes. By my early 30’s, I had been bitten by the Crossfit bug (I’m even a Crossfit certified trainer) and I “wodded” daily. (For those of you not familiar with Crossfit, WOD means Workout Of the Day.) I was very active in outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, disc golf, golfing– the list went on and my friends and family were also doing some adventurous activity. During all these years I had my fair share of bumps, bruises, strains, sprains and even underwent 2 knee surgeries and 2 shoulder surgeries, but I never had any issues with my back. But then, one day, it all changed.
In March 2013, my husband got a new job about 1.5 hours from our home at the time. We decided to wait until school was out to move, but as the the job market wasn’t very good at the time, I started looking for a new job about three months before we were set to move. Within two weeks of staring my job search, I had an interview with a national law firm and received a job offer I couldn’t pass up. That meant I would be driving 3+ hours a day round trip in addition to sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day. About two months into this new arrangement is when my back problems began. You see, I didn’t have time for exercise during the week and on the weekends, while I still tried to worked out and be active, the weekend was the only time I had to decompress, pack for the move and spend time with my friends and family.
After several weeks of non-stop pain, I sought an evaluation with a well respected spine orthopedist in the area, who, after an MRI, discovered that I had three herniated disc (L3-L4, L4-L5 and L5-S1) along with DDD (degenerative disc disease). The doctor informed me that most low back pain was acute, or short term, and lasted a few days to a few weeks. He also said it usually resolved on its own with self-care and there should be no residual loss of function. With that information, I treated conservatively for several months with bi-weekly physical therapy sessions, several different pain medications and even underwent epidural steroid injections. If the injections didn’t work, the doc said the next step was surgery – which was NOT an option! However, shortly after the injections, the pain started subsiding and within a few weeks I was pain free! I underwent a repeat MRI in October 2013 and it revealed that my discs had begun healing themselves. The human body is amazing!
Now it’s 2017 and for the past several years, I have had occasional bouts of back pain that can last for a day up to a week, but I am able to manage these spells and eventually, the pain subsides.
But what causes lower back pain?
Most back pain can begin abruptly as a result of an accident or by lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time due to age-related changes of the spine. Sedentary lifestyles also can set the stage for low back pain. The later is what happened to me.
The majority of acute low back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning that there is a disruption in the way the components of the back (the spine, muscle, intervertebral discs, and nerves) fit together and move. In many cases, low back pain is associated with spondylosis, a term that refers to the general degeneration of the spine associated with normal wear and tear that occurs in the joints, discs, and bones of the spine as people get older. Some examples of mechanical causes of low back pain include:
- Sprains and strains
- Intervertebral disc degeneration
- Herniated or ruptured discs
- A traumatic injury
- Spinal stenosis
- Skeletal irregularities
Additional common causes of back pain include:
- Muscle strains or tight hamstrings
- Poor posture
- Non-supportive shoes
- Emotional stress
- Sleeping on a poorly made mattress
Low back pain is rarely related to serious underlying conditions, but when these conditions do occur, they require immediate medical attention. For more on these types of serious underlying conditions go here for more information.
Like I said, my back pain stemmed from a long commute in the car and sitting at my desk for hours on end. Below are some great tips for preventing back pain at work.
Preventing back pain at work
You can take steps to avoid and prevent back pain and injuries at work. For example:
- Pay attention to posture
- Lift properly
- Modify repetitive tasks
- Listen to your body
For more in depth tips on preventing back pain at work, go here.
Treatment for back pain
Today, the most common treatments for back pain are NSAIDS like aspirin and tylenol along with more potent conventional pain medications. These drugs have adverse side effects and have been linked to liver damage and intestinal bleeding.
However, after my initial back pain episode, and after learning more about the adverse effects of common Western medicines, I have chosen to use alternative methods to treat my back pain. Some of the more popular methods, and methods that I use are: acupuncture, yoga, massage, exercise (walking and swimming) and essential oils.
Essential Oils for back pain
Essential oils have many therapeutic benefits and combined with a healthy diet and some, if not all, of the above mentioned alternate methods for treating back pain, can make for a very effective pain regimen.
- Marjoram is a great oil for back pain because it is warming, soothing and eases the joints and muscles. It’s also emotionally calming, stress easing and generally soothing. It reduces inflammation as well (great for arthritis).
- Basil is an ideal oil for tight muscles. It helps relax and loosen up any muscular tension wherever applied. Basil is also a great oil for the nerves / mental fatigue. In cases of neuritis it’s a highly recommended oil to rub into the spine, lower back and up into the neck area.
- Eucalyptus is a warming, soothing oil that contains some strong anti-inflammatory qualities. These anti-inflammatory properties, paired with its strong analgesic effect make it effective at relieving aches, pains and stiffness.
- Another warming oil, ginger essential oil is perfectly fit for application on sore, tired, and painful back muscles. It’s quite effective for tightness, rheumatism and arthritic conditions. If you experience discomfort and/or any spasms make sure to have ginger on hand.
- Lavender is a wonderful all-around oil. This oil is particularly indicated for use in cases of stress, restlessness, hyperactivity, fatigue and anxiety. While not as warming or hot as some of the other oils listed above, lavender still contains some powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities that are great for backaches.
- Peppermint is a refreshing and uplifting oil that contains analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties (notice a theme here?). You’re probably familiar with peppermint oil and have some on hand. It’s great stuff!
- Rosemary, like lavender, is another great all around oil. It’s effective for aches, pains, arthritis, among many other things. It’s analgesic and tonic qualities make it a top rated oil for backaches.
Below are your some simple blends that you could make up for regular back pain treatment. Most of the oils in these blends are common and there’s a good chance that you will already have them in your essential oil collection.
General Back Pain Formula 1
- 10 drops peppermint
- 10 drops rosemary
- 10 drops basil
General Back Pain Formula 2
- 10 drops Lavender
- 10 drops eucalyptus
- 10 drops ginger
General Back Pin Formula 3
- 10 drops rosemary
- 10 drops sage
- 10 drops marjoram
For each formula combine your essential oils with 2 tablespoons of carrier oil.
The best way to apply essential oils for back aches and pains is via massage. It’s best if you can get a massage from a friend or done professionally, but if not you could still do a good job of self massaging your lower back.
Finally, one of my go-to, MUST haves for my back pain is my dōTERRA Deep Blue® Rub. If you don’t know about this, you need to! This rub is a rich, topical cream infused with the popular dōTERRA Deep Blue Soothing Blend which consist of Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Blue Tansy, German Chamomile, Helichrysum, and Osmanthus and other powerful ingredients. Deep Blue Rub provides a comforting sensation that is both cooling and warm. I always have a tube of this for not only my back pain, but for any other aches and pains I may get. It’s great if you have an athlete (or 2) in the family. My son loves rubbing on dōTERRA Deep Blue Rub after a long weekend of baseball or a tough basketball game to relieve his sore muscles.
What are some ways you treat your back pain? What essential oils work for your aches and pain? I’d love to hear from you!