Grounding for Back Pain? What’s the Science...and Does it Work?

by Eric Bostrom October 13, 2020 7 min read

Grounding for Back Pain? What’s the Science...and Does it Work?

Learn how to tap into one of the body’s primary antioxidant defense systems.

Grounding, also known as earthing, is a growing trend. People reconnect with the Earth’s energy to retune their bodies. It’s believed to help remedy a wide range of conditions, both mental and physical. But, can grounding provide any natural relief for back pain?  

Of course, my main goal is to help people deal with their pain relief naturally. And grounding is as natural as possible. 

What is Grounding?

First, let’s start with a definition. Grounding is an obscure term in modern medicine, but it’s a simple practice based on how we interact with the world.

Sharon Whiteley and co-author Ann Marie Chiasson sum it up nicely in their book,Barefoot Wisdom: Better Health Through Grounding.

“Grounding means tapping into the Earth’s freely available, always accessible, and ever-powerful natural energy to rebalance your body and restore your health. Among its many health benefits, grounding reduces inflammation, improves sleep, and restores energy.”

Katie Wells also offers a simple definition in her review of the topic atWellnessMama.com: “In short, earthing or grounding is putting the body in direct and uninterrupted contact with the Earth. This means that skin needs to touch the soil, sand, water, or a conductive surface in contact with the Earth.

“Many people don’t have this contact with the Earth anymore, and some experts wonder if this is a contributor to the (many) rising health problems we face today. As a population, we wear rubber shoes and live indoors. In theory, many of us could go years without directly touching the Earth at all, even if we’re outside.”

The planet has a natural energy field, and it is believed that our bodies have evolved to depend on this for many natural functions. However, as noted by Wells, modern life has placed many barriers between ourselves and the planet. By disconnecting from the energy, we impede many of these processes, which can be detrimental to our physical condition.

What is the Science Behind Grounding?

Before you write it off as being too “hippy” to make sense, you should consider the science behind the concept.

Throughout our day, our bodies build up a positive electrical charge. We know that our bodies can conduct electricity as we’ve all been shocked by static electricity. Well, this build-up of positive electrical energy can be harmful. The Earth has a negative charge to it, and by making contact with it, we can rid our bodies of the excess energy and restabilize our balance.

Connecting the body to the Earth enables free electrons from the Earth’s surface to spread over and into the body, where they can have antioxidant effects. Specifically, many professionals suggest that mobile electrons create an antioxidant microenvironment around the injury repair field, slowing or preventing reactive oxygen species (ROS) delivered by the oxidative burst from causing “collateral damage” to healthy tissue. This prevents or reduces the formation of the so-called “inflammatory barricade.” 

Grounding for Back Pain? What’s the Science...and Does it Work?

Many also hypothesize that electrons from the Earth can prevent or resolve so-called “silent” or “smoldering” inflammation,” according to theJournal of Inflammation Research

In this same Journal, numerous tests are reviewed. All of which shows that grounding has a real effect on the human body’s ability to heal. That includes experiments conducted to treat open wounds, chronic joint pain, and even anxiety and depression. 

“Accumulating experiences and research on earthing, or grounding, point to the emergence of a simple, natural, and accessible health strategy against chronic inflammation, warranting the serious attention of clinicians and researchers. 

The living matrix (or ground regulation or tissue tensegrity-matrix system), the body’s very fabric, appears to serve as one of our primary antioxidant defense systems. As this report explains, it is a system requiring occasional recharging by conductive contact with the Earth’s surface – the “battery” for all planetary life – to be optimally effective,” concludes theJournal of Inflammation Research.

Another intriguing effect of grounding is that it can improve sleep.  “Previous research also has shown that electrical grounding, which reduces the electrical charge to the body, can improve the functioning of the autonomic nervous system and the vagus nerve, producing improved vagal tone,” explainsScience Daily

These scientists refer to a previous test conducted on preterm babies to see how it could mitigate health issues and improve their Vagal Tone. In this test, the babies’ incubators were grounded, so you can rest assured they were still getting the proper care they needed. The results were rather interesting. 

“When we looked at the signal on the skin, it was an oscillating signal going out at 60 hertz, which is exactly the frequency of our electrical power. When we connected the baby to the ground, the skin voltage dropped by about 95 percent and vagal tone increased by 67 percent… What we can conclude is that a baby's autonomic nervous system can sense the electrical environment, and it seems as though a baby is more relaxed when grounded,” saysPennstate Health News

In my experience, grounding has made noticeable improvements to vagal tone and HRV while sleeping grounded. Many others have undoubtedly experienced these changes, and there is a real science to explain why this can happen. 

Why You Experience Back Pain

With all of that said, can back pain be treated with grounding? Well, we first need to discuss why we experience it in the first place.

There are many causes of back pain; the most (widely recognized “problem” is)common areconsidered mechanical. This is when excessive or repetitive strain is put on the back.Slipped Herniated discs andsprains strained muscles are two examples of this.

Another common kind of back pain is inflammatory and is typically the result of arthritis known as Ankylosing Spondylitis.

What’s important to understand is that inflammation is a side-effect of any back injury, not just what is considered “inflammatory.” The body responds to any damage, and the pain in your back is likely a result of spinal nerve inflammation. 

Consider that back pain is also the result of many environmental and psychological aspects, and an injury does not need to trigger it. Because grounding is proven to help with inflammation and improve your mental state, there’s no reason not to use it to treat back pain. 

But My Doctor Says…

Spinal injuries and back pain in general can be severe, and you should always take medical advice from a trusted doctor. But if you can go outside, you can ground your body. There are no adverse side effects, and it does not have to be strenuous. It can be very relaxing.

It also shouldn’t replace any necessary treatments you are currently undergoing. Earthing can be a great tool to adopt the biopsychosocial model into your recovery routine in addition to the things that you do to recover physically. 

Best Grounding Practices

gardening is very good technique for grouding

Now that we know what grounding is and why it works, let’s talk about how you can start doing it. It’s simple. All you are doing is working to increase your skin contact with the Earth’s surface. That’s it.

It’s important to remember that it takes time for your body to discharge, so you should at least ground yourself for 30 minutes. Some folks report immediate changes in their condition, but doing so daily will heed the best results. But how do you do that? Well, here are some things you can try:

 

  • Walking Barefoot
  • Lying on the Ground
  • Going for a Swim 
  • Gardening with your bare hands (get the knees in there also!)
  •  

    One of the most popular methods is taking your shoes off and walking around in the grass. Yes, you do need to go barefoot because your shoes prevent you from coming in contact with those electrons in the Earth.

    One of the most popular methods is taking your shoes off and walking around in the grass. Yes, you do need to go barefoot because your shoes prevent you from coming in contact with those electrons in the Earth.

    As an alternative, you can simply lie down on the ground to attain the same benefits; you don’t have to be completely naked, by the more skin-to-ground contact, the better.

    One of my favorites is going for a swim. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise and is something you can be doing to alleviate back pain anyway. If you can safely do it in a natural body of water, grounding will have a complementary effect on your efforts.

    Grounding Equipment  

    If you’re dealing with a back injury, getting outside can be a real problem. Or maybe you have a busy lifestyle and don’t have the time to go walk around outside for a prolonged period.

    That’s why grounding equipment exists. They are nothing more than simple devices you can easily incorporate into your daily routine and will give you all the benefits of natural grounding techniques, only from the comfort of your own home.  

    Some earthing equipment to consider is grounding pads to stand on while you work and grounding bedsheets. A few of our customers actually get their grounding on while using their Backmate!

    Today, grounding patches for pain are also available, and you can attach them to the area of concern.

    Concluding Thoughts

    Back pain is something that can significantly limit the quality of living. It often prevents you from being able to partake in life itself. And that’s one of the things I like the most about grounding. 

    It not only helps you alleviate pain but almost forces you to get out and enjoy the world around you. In doing so, you will also be taking a proactive biopsychosocial approach to pain management and recovery.  As I said earlier, there are no side effects or complicated steps. So, if you’re able to step outside, why not give it a go?

    Eric Bostrom
    Eric Bostrom


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