By Shona Curley
Most of us have suffered an acute bout of lower back pain at some point in our lives, whether from overdoing it in the garden or cleaning out the storage shed. Even these short periods of lower back pain can be debilitating – making the physical movements required by daily life uncomfortable at best.
For others, lower back pain can be an ongoing, chronic condition. Chronic low back pain has many possible root causes, including arthritic changes in the spine and pelvic joints, previous injuries, and poor postural alignment. In some cases, chronic lower back pain can be severe enough to limit one’s ability to stand or walk for long periods of time, or to perform basic tasks that require leaning forward, such as doing the dishes, vacuuming, or lifting objects off the floor.
Because so many people experience back pain at one point or another, it’s worth having a few tricks in your tool bag to help, should the need arise. Here are three ways to relax painful muscles and support a healthy lower back. They can benefit both acute and chronic cases of lower back pain. If they work for you, they’re easy to integrate into ongoing self-care routines and may keep you lifting groceries with ease, well into older age.
1. CBD for Lower Back Pain
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a botanical compound derived from the hemp plant. CBD is non-psychoactive and is legal all over the United States.
Studies have shown CBD to have anti-inflammatory components and to help alleviate pain. For example, a 2020 study looked at the effect of CBD on chronic and acute back pain and found it both anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory – meaning CBD decreased inflammation and lessened subjective pain.
Two ways you can use CBD to help relieve back pain:
Topically in a Cream or Salve
Topical CBD can be rubbed directly on tight or sore muscles, where the effects can be felt within minutes.
Orally in a Tincture or Capsule
Oral CBD takes a little longer to absorb and take effect, and the results are systemic – meaning the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of CBD can be felt system-wide.
Both topical CBD creams and oral preparations are readily available online. It may take a little experimentation to find what works best for you – your healthcare provider can help. Discuss dosages with your provider, and make sure you choose organic products certified for purity.
2. Epsom Salt Baths for Pain Relief
Many people swear that a long soak in an Epsom salt bath relieves tight and sore muscles. Epsom salt is a naturally-occurring mineral salt, named for a saline spring found outside Surrey, England. The salts are composed of magnesium sulfate. When dissolved in a warm bath, the magnesium in Epsom salts may be absorbed through the skin – combining with warm water to aid in muscle relaxation and pain relief.
A 2019 trial looked at whether daily hikes combined with Epsom salt baths could relieve low back pain. Participants who both hiked and soaked significantly improved their pain and their quality of life over the course of just six days. More study is needed, however, to understand whether the magnesium found in Epsom salts is actually absorbed trans-dermally.
To see whether Epsom salt soaks work for you, add at least one cup of it to a bath and soak for at least 20 minutes.
3. Strong Core Muscles
It’s important to keep your deep, core muscles strong in order to support your pelvis and spine in correct, dynamic alignment. The core muscles include the deep muscles of the hips and pelvic floor, the deep abdominal muscles, and the smaller muscles between spinal vertebrae that support length and flexibility.
You don’t have to “feel the burn” to build strength and resilience in your core muscles. Gentle exercises done intelligently are enough. Find a good Pilates or yoga teacher who understands lower back pain and ask them to help you create a targeted, daily home workout. Even just ten minutes of exercise each day can work wonders for strength and alignment.
If Pilates and yoga aren’t for you, swimming is another great way to build core strength, as long as you’re able to focus on using your abdominals and pelvic muscles while you move through the water, not just your limbs and back. Again, a good instructor can be invaluable.
Low back pain will visit most of us at some point in our lives, whether acute or chronic. Support a healthy lower back by integrating topical or oral CBD, Epsom salt baths, and intelligent core strengthening routines into your daily life. Then, when you accidentally twist and bend over at the waist to pick up a bag of groceries, you’ll be able to get yourself back in shape in no time.
- Eskander JP, Spall J, Spall A, Shah RV, Kaye AD. Cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment of acute and chronic back pain: A case series and literature review. J Opioid Manag. 2020 May/Jun;16(3):215-218. doi: 10.5055/jom.2020.0570
- Huber D, Grafetstätter C, Proßegger J, Pichler C, Wöll E, Fischer M, Dürl M, Geiersperger K, Höcketstaller M, Frischhut S, Ritter M, Hartl A. Green exercise and mg-ca-SO4 thermal balneotherapy for the treatment of non-specific chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled clinical trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2019 May 17;20(1):221. doi: 10.1186/s12891-019-2582-4