A Holistic Approach to Sustainable Back Health

by Eric Bostrom June 17, 2022 5 min read

A Holistic Approach to Sustainable Back Health

For back pain, there is no magic bullet. If you’ve had back pain in your life, you know how debilitating it can be. Eight out of 10 Americans will experience back pain in their lifetime. More than 50million Americans suffering from back pain visit a doctor each year, but only one in 10 patients finds out the cause of their back pain. What’s more disturbing than the figures is the sense of confusion and despair the vast majority of these patients feel having left their doctor visit no closer to a solution than when they arrived. The hopelessness patients feel in this situation often leads to depression. 

The most common recommendation is a somewhat vague guideline for physical therapy, rest, and due time for recovery, which is glossed over by most patients. As a result, the problems often persist, leading some doctors to suggest spinal surgery, which can be both invasive and often debilitating and has a dismal 50% success rate. Yet study after study shows most back pain suffers have a much better success rate and quicker recovery without surgery. 

The medical field is often limited in effectiveness by the people it intends to help. A critical component in this is the patient’s expectation of a magic bullet to treat their ailment. Today’s medicine is very good at treating acute illness, be it a broken bone, asthma, or pneumonia. However, when it comes to chronic issues, patients and doctors are all too often defeated because medicine does not change or correct the patients habits which are the source and aggravation of the ailment. In short, chasing symptoms will only get you deeper in the hole with a reliance on prescription pain medications that can have terrible side-effects, including addiction. Like surgery, pharmaceuticals should be used as a last ditch effort, not a preemptive strike.

Let’s take a quick moment to understand our back. Unlike the rigid bone support of our humerus or femur, the spine is much more like a chain that allows tremendous flexibility. This is a great thing! Tying our shoes would be a ridiculous task if we were built rigid. The challenging side of this system often lies in symmetry from the supporting muscles. For example, if one muscle becomes tense it begins to pull on the opposing muscles adding tension, pain and inflammation to areas of the spine. As the inflammation and tension persist, blood circulation is compromised and nerves can become constricted. By impeding circulation, the body can no longer activate it’s healing mechanism of delivering nutrients to the cells, nor can it eliminate waste from the area. These factors lead toward chronic back pain.

Now, it’s time to fix it. Let’s do a 12 point health check and take a look at your backmate Health Portrait, Examine an image of yourself and ask how each of the following factors are affecting you.

  • Diet
  • Strength/flexibility
  • Stress and muscle tension 
  • Sleep/fatigue
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Injury/inflammation
  • Cardiovascular/Hypertension  
  • Illness/Disease
  • Headaches
  • Back and neck pain
  • BMI (Overweight)
  • Elimination of waste/Constipation

Now let’s evaluate a micro change in a daily routine and let the body’s systems harmoniously go to work. Modify diet to reduce sugars and starches and replace them with a variety of leafy greens and vegetables. Additionally, hydrate well with water and exercise 30 minutes a day, be it a walk or any exercise of choice. Now watch the dominos fall. Lowering sugar levels will reduce fatigue and inflammation. Exercise will stimulate circulation (cardiovascular), rehabilitate injury, increase strength and flexibilitywhile reducing stress, muscle tension, and depression and Anxiety. Combiningthe three will reduce constipation, back and neck pain, headaches, control your BMI,improve sleep habitsand combat illness and disease

As you begin to tally the health strengths and weaknesses in your daily routine, your health portrait comes into focus with greater clarity. With a clear picture you can focus your efforts on your particular ailment. For back pain, maintaining a strong core to augment the lumbar and thoracic spine is paramount along with maintaining a healthy body weight. Making healthy decisions about your diet and keeping hydratedis great medicine in itself. Poor posture can lead to chronic back and neck pain and headaches.  Sleep habits and position can play a critical role in back pain. Remember, bed rest often exacerbates back pain. Placing a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back or a pillow between your knees if a side sleeper can pay huge dividends. The devastating health effects of stress and muscle tension is the x-factor in all our lives because it varies as much as we do. Find your preferred method to decompress—be it massage, meditation, prayer, exercise, yoga, etc. Perhaps the most important single suggestion is to simply Keep it moving! Our bodies were not designed to sit still in one position, as many people with office jobs do for most of the day. Chronic pain is often a result of this alone. Utilizing the above suggestions can help release pain and bring balance to your body if you spend most of your day immobile, or trapped behind a desk at work. Small changes to your routine can pay big dividends, and they are habit forming, so stick with them to give your body the time it requires to heal.

In summary, try these simple changes to reduce or eliminate chronic back and neck pain. Always error on the side of caution and consult your physician if you have any concerns.

  • Diet- Reduce your daily sugar and starch intake down to a reasonable amount, 250 to 300 grams for most. See helpful tips from caloriesecrets.net here. Replace extra carbs with leafy greens and veggies.  
  • Hydration-Drink water. Avoid sweetened electrolyte drinks that can actually rob you of hydration by forcing your body to digest the sugars, not to mention unwanted calories that come with them. Instead, try an electrolyte supplement like traceminerals.com here  
  • Exercise 30 minutes a day. Incorporate core strengthening into your routine. Suggestions from dailyburn.com here   
  • Posture-Am I looking my best? Everyone looks better when they are sitting or standing upright. Repeat this question to yourself throughout the day.  
  • Stress and Anxiety-Find an outlet to set your mind into a state of relaxation. Read tips from everydayhealth.com here 
  • Sleep- Following the recommendations above should help your sleeping habits. Additionally, try sleeping with a pillow under your knees for back sleepers or between your knees for side sleepers. 

Still need a shove? The healthy habits suggested above have been shown to reverse or in some cases even eliminate chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few. The holistic long term solution is inexpensive and will quite possibly enhance your life in a variety of ways. Chronic back pain can be debilitating, leading not only to physical problems but emotional problems such as depression as well. Working on a long-term solution can impact every facet of your life, including love, wealth and happiness. It’s time to invest in your health, your wellness, your longevity, your quality of life. It’s time to invest in you.

Eric Bostrom
Eric Bostrom