Back pain is a common problem that many people suffer from. It's important to get the right treatment for back pain, so you can keep your body functioning properly. In this article, we'll discuss how Ayurveda treats back pain in detail. We'll also explain how it can help you prevent future back pain.
Back health is one of the supporting systems of the human body that helps to sit, stand, walk, bend forwards, backward, and sideward. Thus, it plays a vital role to carry out the routine activities of an individual.
Back pain is one such ailment where the majority of the population gets relieved either by rest or simple home remedies. Physical exercise also helps back pain subside. But, in a few conditions, those suffering from a backache may seek a doctor’s advice and further treatment.
Ayurveda being science for ages has focused on health and disease with its traditional system of preventive measures and treatment of diseases. The pioneers of Ayurveda have explained various treatment modalities for back pain in vast scriptures.
These modalities consist of external therapies, internal medications, dietary regimens, lifestyle modifications, and so on. Indian system of Medicine has always been both preventive and curative remedy.
Back pain is a common symptom that affects 60-80% of people at some time in their lives.1 men and women are equally affected.2 It is the most common cause affecting the day-to-day activities of an individual. Globally, low back pain is thought to affect 9% of the population.1 It can be prevented or relieved by simple home remedies or physical exercise. Surgery is a rare line of treatment.
Signs and symptoms of back pain1,3
- Back pain can range from a muscle aching to a shooting, burning, or stabbing sensation
- Pain may limit to the back or upper back or even radiate to the leg
- Worsen with bending, twisting, lifting, standing, or walking
- Restrict the range of movements partially or completely
- Numbness or weakness affecting one or both legs
Back pain Types4
Back pain can be classified based on duration such as acute (pain lasting less than four weeks), sub-chronic (pain lasting from four to twelve weeks), and chronic (pain lasting for more than twelve weeks)
What Causes Back pain?
- Muscle or ligament strain caused due to repeated lifting of heavy weights or any strenuous movements1,3
- Herniated disc or bulging disc: Discs act cushion-like material between the two bones of the spine which when injured can cause pain. There can be nerve root involvement causing compression1,3
- Degenerative disc disease is a common cause of chronic low back pain in middle-aged adults1,3
- Fracture: Spinal vertebrae fractures can cause severe back pain which can be due to osteoporosis1,3
- Osteoarthritis can cause narrowing of space between spines called spinal stenosis and hence affecting the mobility of joints1,3
- Age: Back pain is very common as you get older starting from age 30 till 40 years of age1,3
- Lack of physical exercise might lead to back pain1,3
- Excess body weight puts pressure on your back causing back pain
- Psychological conditions viz. depression and anxiety can also contribute to back pain1,3
- Smoking: Smokers have increased rates of back pain which may occur because smoking prompts more coughing which can lead to herniated disks1,3.
- Post LSCS patients also develop back pain due to spinal anesthesia
Tests advised in Back pain3
- X-RAY images help to know conditions such as fractures, arthritis
- CT or MRI SCANS reveal herniated disks or problems with bones, muscles, tissues, blood vessels, nerves, tendons, and ligaments.
- BLOOD TESTS can be helpful to rule out any infective pathology in cases like tuberculosis etc,
- BONE SCAN shows any tumors in the bone causing back pain
Back Pain Treatment in Ayurveda
Back pain is termed as KATISHULA in Ayurveda. Kati means back or lower back and Shula means pain. Katishula is not explained as an independent disease in Ayurveda classics. It is mentioned as one of the symptoms of various diseases such as ajeerna (indigestion)5 , vrukka vidradhi (renal abscess)5, vataja arshas (hemorrhoids caused due to vata dosha)5, and many such references.
In our day-to-day practice, we come across patients with low back pain which is due to a sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical exercise, psychological stress, improper food habits, and body postures.
Ayurvedic treatment for back pain
Back Pain Treatment in Ayurveda is done with internal medications and purificatory measures. Correcting the imbalance of doshas responsible for back pain will give relief from back pain.
Purificatory measures known as Panchakarma treatment can be administered based on the predominant dosha involved and assessment of an individual’s body constitution. Other ayurvedic treatments for back pain includes
- Snehana (oleation) therapy such as abhyanga (massage), Kati basti (localized treatment for the back with medicated oil)
- Swedana (sudation) therapy such as Nadi swedana (where perspiration is induced by passing steam over the body parts by using a special instrument), avagaha swedana (inducing perspiration by keeping the body parts into medicated decoction), Patra pinda swedana (inducing perspiration by using a heated pack of herbal leaves), valuka swedana (inducing perspiration by using a heated pack of sand) and many more
- Mrudu Virechana (mild purgation) therapy also helps to treat back pain
- Basti (medicated enema) therapy is beneficial in reducing back pain
Common Ayurvedic medicines for back pain
Various ayurvedic medicines are used in treating back pain. Medicines include various decoctions, tablets, herbal psates, oils, medicated ghee etc…Below are the common ayurvedic medicines used in treating back pain.
- Trayodashanga guggulu
- Rasnasaptaka kashayam
- Rasnadi Guggulu
- Rasna Panckaka Kashayam
- Triphala Guggulu
- Narayana Thaila
- Bala Thaila
- Dhanwantharam Thaila
- Dashamoola kshayam
Diet and Lifestyle to be followed in back pain
- Nuts and seeds are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids and their consumption strengthens the bones in the long term and helps reduce any inflammation or injury to bones, muscles, joints, and tissues.6
- Green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, etc. help reduce inflammation and pain6
- Pulses such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc. provide strength to bones and reduce the pain6
- Juicy fruits such as pineapple, grapes, and citrus fruits (orange, lemon) reduce pain and inflammation6
- Regular inclusion of whole grains in the diet such as wheat, millets like ragi, and barley help in reducing the pain6
- Milk and its byproducts are a rich source of calcium which is very essential to strengthen bones and help reduce back pain
- Apart from calcium, Vitamin D is also necessary to keep bones healthy and this could be achieved through the consumption of fish or supplements of fish6 and also milk, egg
- A brisk walk in the early morning, physical exercise include yoga specially meant for back health
- Regular food intake at the proper time and following the diet described above
- Adequate hydration with water or fruit juices
- Avoid lifting heavy weights, long-standing or sitting, and bad postures
- Reduce excess body weight
- Pranayama and meditation practices help to relieve psychological stress and anxiety and in turn help to relieve the back pain
When to see a doctor 3
- When the pain persists for more weeks
- If the pain does not subside on rest and is severe
- If the pain radiates to one or both legs below the knee
- If it causes weakness, numbness, tingling, or pricking sensation affecting one or both the legs
- Symptoms such as weight loss, persistent fever
- Prolonged morning stiffness
- Spine rigidity
- Bladder or bowel complaints such as urinary incontinence, constipation
Hence, back pain is the most common complaint seen in medical practice. In Ayurveda, it is not explained as a separate disease but rather a symptom in various diseased conditions. Acute mechanical back pain can be relieved by rest or some physical exercise. Diet and lifestyle modifications are necessary to cure the ailment. Ayurveda remedies such as snehana, swedana, and basti will be beneficial to treat the condition.
Back pain can be a major nuisance. Back pain is not just uncomfortable, but also dangerous and even debilitating. You can struggle with back pain for years before you find the root cause of your condition in Ayurveda. A good home remedy or a massage may help temporarily, but the underlying cause will remain untreated until you seek professional treatment in Ayurveda.
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References and citations
- Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine, 23rd edition, Ralston SH, Penman ID, Strachan MWJ, Hobson RP, pg.no 1017.