An aching back is no fun. It really limits what you can do. But there are quite a few things you can do to relax the muscle, heal it, and ease the pain.
Originally published 2016
A backache isn’t fun. It hurts like hell, and it’s a problem that affects a heck of a lot of people. For long-term healing, there is a miracle potion called MSM — but there are also a few quick fixes that spell r-e-l-i-e-f.
MSM + Muscle Relaxation = RELIEF
When your back hurts really badly, you can’t find a position to sit or even lie down that isn’t painful after a minute or two. Because you can’t get comfortable, you can’t relax. Because you can’t relax, the back stays tense. Because it’s tense, it hurts. It’s a vicious circle.
I was on the golf course recently, when I was reminded of the solution for long-term healing. I had been practicing golf a fair amount in recent weeks, and playing billiards — both of which involve a lot of bending over. And my back had been hurting for awhile. It was hurting enough that I was having trouble bending down to pick up my ball.
One of my playing partners told me to give MSM a try. He had, and it had fixed him up right quick. “Give it couple of weeks”, he said, “You’ll feel like a new man”. So I did. I also recalled the other techniques I’ve learned over the years for relaxing a muscle spasm in the back. I’m sharing them all in this article.
MSM for Long-Term Healing
I knew about MSM, of course. Even had an article on it at my site (Why You Want MSM). It’s the only bio-available form of sulfur there is (so that’s the only form we can ingest), and it is needed to make flexible, healthy tissue. (Otherwise, the body heals itself with scar tissue — like the scab on a surface wound. It feels fine until you move, then it tears and you feel pain again.) As detailed in the article, I’ve even used to heal carpal tunnel! But somehow, I had never thought to use it as a specific remedy for my back.
MSM is a naturally occurring substance that is in most foods. But the problem is that it’s a highly volatile compound (like Vitamin C) that degrades quickly, so it is pretty much totally absent in any food that has been stored, packaged, transported, or prepared in anyway. In other words, it is all but totally absent in our modern, industrial diet! Unless you are eating straight off the vine, you can figure that your daily intake is somewhere in the neighborhood of zero.
The best way I’ve found to take it is to buy MSM “crystals”, which dissolve nicely in water. (MSM powder is 100% pure MSM, as compared to like 99% pure for the crystals. But the powder doesn’t mix anywhere near as well.) I take a “highball” glass of water, add half a tablespoon (1 teaspoon) of MSM, half a tablespoon (1 teaspoon) of Vitamin C powder, and add 1 full tablespoon of Agave Nectar, which also mixes easily with water. Boom! One healthy “juice”. (Options: Add one or two 5 mg. scoops of glutamine, to build muscle and promote fat burning. Add one teaspoon (1 capsule) of PGX powder to promote weight loss.)
Make sure the Vitamin C powder is “acscorbic acid”. It’s acidic, like orange juice. And it tastes good. Do not get the “non-acidic” variety. It tastes like chalk, because it is chalk. To make it “non-acidic”, they combine it with a buffering agent — calcium. Mmmm. Calcium Ascorbate, or some such name. Sounds like chalk to me!
The body expels any MSM it hasn’t used every 12 hours, so taking that mixture twice a day means that there is always MSM in your bloodstream that your body can use for healing. It can be used to heal minor wounds, to heal muscles after they have been torn down by exercise, or to heal your aching back!
Chagrined that I hadn’t even thought of MSM, I went home and started using it that day. (Yeah. I had it at home. I have a cupboard full of supplements. I’m just no so religious that I take them all the time. And I’ve come up with some dietary strategies (like eating seaweed) that make supplements mostly unnecessary. But clearly, those strategies did not make all supplements totally unnecessary.)
I was expecting to improvement in a couple of weeks, but I felt slight better after a single day! After two, the pain was even more noticeably lessen. After a week, I was starting to forget what the pain felt like. I had only a small twinge to remind me.
After two weeks…
Well, I can’t wait to tell you about that. After one week I was feeling good enough to write this article!
In the end, it took about 3 weeks for the pain to go away completely. But I was active during that time, practicing golf and playing billiards. Each day, there was less aching after the activity, and the recovery was faster. After three weeks, I had all but completely forgotten that there was ever a problem!
“Quick Fixes” to Relax the Muscle
As good as MSM is, and as quickly as it helps, sometimes you need a “quick fix” to get you over the rough spots.
Here are some things you can do:
A Muscle Relaxant
I don’t know which of the over-counter pain killers are muscle relaxants, and which aren’t. I avoid them all, except in extreme situations.So I can’t tell you which ones to use. But it’s something to consider for immediate relief of serious pain.The downside of painkillers is that they don’t let you feel how you’re doing. So if you rely on them, you can re-injure yourself or keep from finding a long-term fix like MSM that solves the real problem, instead of just making you feel better. But if it helps you get through the first couple of days (and you combine it with a long term fix) then the benefits may outweigh the drawbacks — especially if it lets you get a good night’s sleep.
A heating pad that can withstand a bit of moisture lets the heat soak into the muscles, so they relax. You can add a little water, but I generally don’t. I use secure in the knowledge that it when it gets hot enough, any sweating I do isn’t going to cause a problem.
Driving can be really painful, because you’re sitting for long periods, and you can’t just stand up for a second or two to move around. With the backrest, I’m no longer slumped into my bucket seats. Instead, I have small arch in the my lower back, so my upper shoulders are lightly touching the back of the seat — or even hovering in the air. (I keep it there all the time, actually, ever since the first time I experienced back pain.)
Same thing applies when I’m sitting at the computer to work. A good lumbar-support cushion lets me put my lower back up against the cushion, and sit upright with a slight arch in my back. (There is a tendency to slump forward at the computer, though. I have to remind myself to keep my upper back positioned towards the back of the chair.)
Jiggle Your Torso while Sitting
Sitting still is the worst. The pain just keeps increasing. But once you find out that any little movement helps, you can hold onto the steering wheel and move your upper torso around — back and forth, side to side, in little circles — whatever. Works wonders. Do it in the car, or in an office chair.
If you can, find something that lets you move slightly as you sit. A large exercise ball works, or you can buy an expensive stool that is sitting on a large spring. The problem with those is that you need to have developed your upper back muscles so you can sit upright for extended periods without fatigue. (That’s one of the benefits of meditation, actually — and of doing the kinds of exercises that strengthen your upper back for that practice.)
But these days, there are small “partial balls” for exercise — half of an air-filled exercise ball with a flat, hard-plastic bottom. Put that on a variable-height office chair, and lower the chair until the seat is at the right height.That should help you wiggle around when you’re sitting, and let you lean against the backrest when you need to.
I learned this technique during a Raja Yoga session at my local Ananda center. It worked like magic, so I had to share it.
Several weeks ago, I was out playing golf and was swinging too hard. Hurt my back. A lot. Didn’t feel it all that much while I was playing. I just new I was very tired. Afterward was I really began to feel it.
Basically, I had a muscle spasm. It lasted for weeks. I played no golf during that time, and could sit only for short periods before it began to tense up and get painful. So after a couple of hours, I was forced to lie down until the pain go away.
Needless to say, that situation made it pretty hard to get any real work done! And like I say, the situation kept going on for weeks.
Finally, it was feeling well, not great, but less painful. So I scheduled a round on a nearby “executive” course with a friend. I had a good 5 days before we were to play. I was hoping for a miracle, but of course as it got to the day before it really wasn’t feeling that much better. It would be fine if I was lying down, but after a couple of hours sitting, it just got more and more tense until finally it was too painful to go.
I didn’t cancel, though. I figure if I really focused on a loose, relaxed swing, I could probably get through the round. (And that kind of swing helps my game enormously, in any case — when I can bring myself to do it.) Besides, light activity tends to be good for back problems like that, so if I didn’t re-injure it, perhaps the short game would do it some good. I decided to buck up, and play!
That night, I went to the first Raja Yoga session. (It’s a 16-week series.) The last thing we did that night was an “energy breath”. Here’s how it works:
- You inhale, bringing in energy from the universe. (Or in my case, you imagine yourself doing so.)
- You exhale, focusing on directing the energy to the place that needs healing. (Or imagining it…)
- As you exhale into that spot, you alternately tense and relax the muscle (several times, for the duration of the exhalation).
The effect was magical, to say the least. The back muscle fully relaxed for the first time in weeks! I felt good! Went out and played with no problems.
Of course, it would continue tensing up over the next few days, but now I had a magical remedy!
Between you and me, I think it is the alternate tensing and relaxing that does the trick. But what do I know? Maybe there is some actual energy flow at work. In any case, the visualization doesn’t hurt. Try it!
(Anything equivalent is just as good. I just happen to know about these, and like them.
Follow the links to read customer recommendations, and check your local store.)
- MRM MSM Crystals
Happy Body Pure Organic Sulfer (MSM) crystals
I’m not sure which of these I like best, as yet. Both mix great with water.
The Happy Body crystals come in a resealable package — but I find it easier to dip my spoon into
a wide-mouth jar. So at the moment I’m planning to refill the MRM jar when I’ve emptied it.
- Solaray Vitamin C Crystalline powder
All vitamin C powders are created equal, so more expensive is not necessarily better.
But the quality of this brand is good, and they paid attention to the packaging — so it is
both secure and easily opened. In a word, I like it.
- Organic Agave Nectar
Basically like honey (which I use for tea and coffee), but Agave mixes nicely in room-temperature water.
A small, circular “seating disc”–a partial ball designed to be placed on a chair, so you can move around a bit while sitting.
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