Summer is a big time for tackling heavy-duty home projects and lugging outdoor gear all over the place, which can sometimes be more than your back bargained for. Your lower back especially is a very vulnerable area prone to injury, particularly as we age. The wear and tear of living eventually weakens the skeletal structure, causing bone loss and disintegrated or displaced discs. And you’re not alone: eight out of 10 Americans experience back pain at some time, making it the fifth most common reason to visit the doctor.
The Traditional Chinese Medical Perspective
According to Chinese medicine, bones, the skeletal structure and the lower back in particular are all a part of the kidney bladder network. As we age, kidney energy tends to diminish, especially with an unhealthy diet, excessive mental or physical strain, smoking and overindulgence in drugs, alcohol and sex. Weakness of the kidney bladder network can result in lower back pain, as well as other age-related ailments. Replenishing the kidney network is essential for kidney energy. Qi gong exercises, herbs and a proper diet can go a long way in slowing down kidney depletion—even regenerating certain aspects of kidney energy.
1. Bring Back Healthy Basics in Your Diet
As you know, overall health starts with a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and organic animal protein. But because bones are made of calcium and other minerals, the skeletal structure has additional requirements. So be sure to include foods high in calcium and vitamin D, such as broccoli, chestnuts, clams, dark green vegetables, saltwater fish (flounder, salmon, sardines), shrimp, mussels and soybeans, as well as nuts and seeds, which are beneficial to bones. Cut out carbonated soft drinks, alcohol and smoking. Yeast and sugars, especially processed bleached sugars, should be eliminated.
2. Tame the Pain with An Anti-Inflammatory Mocktail
Kick back with a tasty anti-inflammatory mocktail. Simply mix equal parts unsweetened black cherry juice with dark grape juice and two fruits that have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, such as berries. Drink three to six glasses daily until the pain subsides.
3. Eat Pineapple to Ease Pain
It’s not hard to picture lying back with a stack of pineapple slices next to you to beat the summer heat. But did you know pineapple helps alleviate pain? The enzyme bromelain found in pineapple is a natural anti-inflammatory and can help ease muscle and joint pain. Vitamin B complex and folate can also help ease back pain symptoms.
You can support healthy bones and joints with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and MSM. Calcium combined with magnesium citrate, vitamin D and boron can also help strengthen bones.
4. Try Herbal Therapy
Mother nature has a wide array of herbs to help alleviate discomfort. Turmeric contains an anti-inflammatory active component called curcumin. And the traditional Chinese remedy for back and joint pain is the herb eucommia, which strengthens bones, tendons and ligaments. Other herbs to help you out of pain include ginger, valerian and white willow bark.
5. Keep Your Back Strong with Regular Exercise
It’s imperative to maintain a healthy weight and keep the muscles surrounding bones and ligaments strong. Research shows that regular exercise as we age can slow the progress of degenerative bone disorders. I recommend a combination of weight-bearing exercises in the form of daily 30-minute walks, moderate weight training and tai chi or qi gong to build endurance and flexibility.