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5 Ways to Treat Back Pain Without Surgery

Back pain is one of the most widely reported causes that needs emergency care. With a broad scope of etiologies for both children and adults, back pain causes high disability rates. While medical advice is critical, there may be situations where it becomes difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of back pain. In such cases, you can look at non-surgical methods to manage your back pain in such cases. Keep in mind that this would still mean taking the advice of medical experts such as back pain specialists to understand the best course of action. Some of the options to manage your pain include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Diet
  • Changes in your lifestyle
  • Meditation
  • Ayurvedic treatments

Back Pain Causes

Back pain is a focus for many medical experts due to the profound impact it can have on people’s lives. Chronic back pain could impair daily activities and affect the quality of life. What differentiates back pain from other conditions is its effect on several activities that you would otherwise consider common. These include bending, reaching out, turning, and lifting small weights. In many cases, people find it difficult to walk normally too {1}.

Normal movements and turns during sleep also become very painful in certain situations. As you’re not entirely in control of your movements during sleep, fear of accidentally causing yourself pain could also impact the quality of your sleep {1}.

Back pain is a common complaint in people of all ages. Millions of people are affected by back pain, and it’s one of the leading causes of chronic pain and disability. Treating back pain also leads to high healthcare costs. Research shows roughly 200 billion dollars are spent annually to manage back pain worldwide. Doctors are among the first ones to understand the cause of back pain and suggest possible treatment solutions {1}.

They also give timely suggestions to lower the risk of other conditions that back pain causes and address them before it becomes chronic. The broad range of back pain causes may depend on population and age, but in many cases, it’s due to mechanical or generic reasons {1}.

While heuristics – mental judgments that allow you to arrive at specific conclusions – are helpful in some cases, they could often lead you astray. According to research, around 90% of back pain is mechanical, which means the cause of pain is most likely in your spine, discs, vertebrae, and soft tissues {1} {2}. Another interesting fact is that around 12% to 33% of people report at least one incidence of back pain. In these scenarios, back pain will most probably be the focus of any medical treatment at the cost of finding out any other possible source of the pain {1}.

For example, research indicates around 30% of mechanical back pain incidents are caused by the sacroiliac joint (which links your pelvis and the lower spine and could cause lower back pain). But in most cases, it’s only thought of as one of the possibilities and not treated with the seriousness it deserves. Several causes of ankylosing spondylitis are not diagnosed as doctors attribute the cause of back pain to mechanical reasons {1}.

If you cannot determine the source of the pain, one of the best options would be to work with your doctor and bring it down to manageable levels without surgery. There are many non-surgical methods to manage back pain.


Ayurvedic Therapies

Ayurveda takes a holistic view that attends to the root cause of back pain to achieve long-term relief and avoid recurrence. Ayurveda calls back pain Kati Shoola caused by the imbalance of the Vata dosha (air element) in your body. This imbalance affects your muscles, bones, and nerves.

As per Ayurveda, your pelvis, lower back, and colon are the seat of the Vata dosha. It’s also the cause of pain and limited range of movement {5}. Ayurveda recommends different therapies to treat back pain.


Abhyanga uses warm herbal oils to massage your entire body. It improves blood flow, soothes nerves, and lubricates joints to reduce pain in the back and other body parts.

Kati Basti

Kati basti involves creating a pool of warm herbal oils in the affected area of the back using a well made out of gram flour or wheat flour. The well helps retain the oil for longer to increase absorption into the deep tissues and lubricate the vertebrae. The treatment relieves pain and spasms.

Sneha Basti

In sneha basti (also known as basti or enema in common medical terms), medicated clarified butter or oil is introduced into the colon to remove waste and cleanse it. Basti is one of the most effective treatments for Vata-related conditions, which cause back pain.


Pizhichil is a combination of two classical Ayurvedic treatments, Snehana and Swedana. Snehana involves a full body massage with herbal oils, whereas Swedana is a steam treatment that stimulates sweating. The therapy improves blood circulation and eases stiff muscles.

Churna Pinda Sweda

Churna pinda sweda uses the powdered form of several herbs like fenugreek, mustard, and flaxseed. These herbs are placed in a bolus and gently applied over the affected area to induce sweat (sweda – sweat) {14}.

Jambeera Pinda Sweda

This treatment typically uses lemon in combination with other herbs to prepare the bolus, which is used to treat the affected area in the back {14}.

Patra Pinda Sweda

Patra pinda sweda involves using the leaves of the many medicinal plants like nirgundi (Vitex negundo), Karanja (Pongamia pinnata), and eranda (Ricinus communis) to prepare the bolus {15}.



Although not noticeable right away, back pain puts a constant strain on you physically and emotionally. The continuous struggle to move and do tasks that you were earlier able to do very easily taxes you mentally and emotionally. This could lead to bouts of frustration and sudden emotional outbursts. Sometimes the psychological effect of dealing with such debilitating pain could even lead to depression. In such cases, techniques such as meditation help you physically and mentally by making it easier to manage your pain and improving your coping mechanisms respectively {3}.

Although meditation can’t reduce pain, it can help you relax more and observe your body’s sensations, including pain. This, in turn, may help you accept the discomfort caused by back pain and also increase your tolerance to pain. One reason for this is that meditation releases endorphins, also known as “feel-good” hormones.

You can start by sitting comfortably and meditating for five minutes. You can gradually increase your meditation sessions to 15 to 20 minutes. While you meditate, you may notice your mind wandering off. When this happens, bring your attention back to the breath {9}.

Research has shown the effectiveness of meditation on back pain. A 2015 study found that meditation lowers pain severity and improves the physical and mental quality of life in women. The study involved 88 female participants and was carried out over three weeks {7}.

A recent review was done in 2022 and used meditation to help people cope with back pain. The review included 12 trials and 1,153 participants and found that meditation reduced the intensity of chronic back pain compared to non-meditation therapies. It also indicated that meditation lowered the bothersomeness in people with back pain and improved their quality of life considerably {8}.

A separate study found that meditation helps improve functional limitations caused by back pain and reduces the botheration caused by the condition. The study divided 342 participants between the ages of 20 and 70 into three groups, of which one group was taught meditation. The participants in this group showed consistent improvements over one, six, and 12-month periods {10}.



Physiotherapy focuses on exercises to improve the strength of your back muscles and other muscle systems that support critical back movements. But it’s vital to do it under the watchful eyes of an expert. These exercises may not work for everyone but are designed to act on your specific symptoms and condition. A critical part of the success is continuing the exercises at home for the specified duration as advised by the expert {3}.

Your physical therapist designs the exercises based on factors such as the type of back pain you have, its cause, and whether it’s chronic.

Increasing the Range of Motion

If your back pain causes spine stiffness, your therapist will most likely focus on improving your spine’s mobility and range of movements. Stiffness could be due to many reasons, and your therapist uses techniques such as manipulation (which involves using short and quick thrusts) and mobilization (using slower and gentler movements) to reduce the stiffness {4} {6}.

Repetitive Movements

If the cause of your back pain is the pinching of a nerve due to a disc bulging, a regimen that involves repetitive movements could be very effective. In many such cases, the pain radiates from the hips down to one or both the legs, which may be accompanied by numbness or tingling sensations.

A bulging disc typically occurs when one of the gel-like pads between your vertebrae slips out of its position, presses on the surrounding nerves, and causes pain. If forward movements cause pain, you’ll be asked to do repeated backward bends to lower the stress on the nerve. A specific set of exercises called McKenzie exercises involves a gradual progression to increase your range of movements and reduce the pain {4} {6}.

Consolidating and Improving Balance

This type of treatment typically involves a series of stabilization exercises. These exercises aim to correct the posture of individuals whose back pain has caused deviations from regular spine movements. It also helps those who get pain with specific movements such as turning during sleep or getting up from a sitting position.

This usually occurs when the muscles in the deep abdomen that stabilize the spine become weak. When this happens, other muscles around them tighten up to carry out the function of the deep muscles, which could cause pain or stiffness. Stabilization exercises rehabilitate these deep muscles and help you use the right abdominal and spinal muscles to support a range of spinal movements {4}.

In some cases, a combination of two or more of these exercises may be recommended to:

  • Stretch your muscles and improve flexibility
  • Improve core strength
  • Extend the limits of your pain tolerance through regular minute increments
  • Get your posture back to normal over time {3}



Your diet depends on several factors, such as location, climate, and other socio-cultural factors. Certain diets, like those containing high amounts of trans fats and refined sugars, cause inflammation {3}. Research has found that different diets have varying levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Diets high in nutrients with these properties may help lower chronic pain and improve the quality of life {11}.

Keeping your weight in check could also lower the risk of back pain by reducing the stress on your spine {3}. The typical Western diet is high in processed meat, refined grains, and sugars. It has a very low percentage of fruits and vegetables. While this may not directly cause inflammation, it considerably impacts your body’s defense against anti-inflammatory causes. Such an unhealthy diet, coupled with other rampant modern practices such as smoking and stress, majorly impacts chronic pain management, which occurs due to prolonged inflammatory conditions {11}.

Research indicates chronic pain can be reduced by lowering the intake of inflammatory foods and eating more fruits, vegetables (including green vegetables), and whole grains. Diets rich in specific micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc, and vitamins like B1, B3, B6, B12, and D are also linked to lower chronic pain. Other factors that have an impact include your gut microbiome. The bacteria in your gut play a vital role in increasing the absorption of nutrients and optimal immune function. On the other hand, an imbalance in the gut microbiome could cause pain {11}.

Following a personalized weight loss regimen under the supervision of a medical expert could help you become leaner. It also gives you essential insights into the types of foods that suit your body.


Changes in Your Lifestyle

Chronic pain may force you to bring about some changes to your lifestyle by identifying specific causes that trigger your pain. One of the most important changes you may need to make to reduce back pain is to give up smoking. Research shows nicotine amplifies your pain and hampers your body’s healing mechanism {3}.

Ayurveda’s holistic approach also includes lifestyle changes such as improving sleep quality and avoiding processed, cold foods, while increasing your intake of warm food. It also suggests identifying and changing specific routines, such as sitting for long hours during work hours and including yoga in your daily routine to reduce stiffness and strengthen specific muscle groups. Other practices that could help reduce chronic pain include:

  • An Epsom salt bath
  • Adding anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like ginger and turmeric to your diet
  • Drinking turmeric milk {5}

You can book a slot with an expert to understand what lifestyle changes can help you reduce back pain. You can also consider enrolling in specific programs that lay a foundation to good health.


Treating Back Pain Without Surgery

Back pain affects millions of people and leads to higher healthcare costs. The primary assessment of back pain is usually done by the individual’s primary care provider. They play a vital role in evaluating the cause of back pain and recommending possible treatments. If you prefer non-surgical treatment options, you can choose:

  1. Ayurvedic therapies
  2. Meditation
  3. Physiotherapy
  4. Diet
  5. Lifestyle changes

Several therapeutic treatments prescribed by Ayurveda help reduce chronic back pain and manage it in the long run. Research has shown meditation has a positive impact when it comes to managing back pain.

Techniques such as Yoga Nidra or body scan meditation can help manage pain. This technique involves consciously taking your attention to different parts of the body {12} {13}.

Physical therapy techniques such as the McKenzie method, spinal manipulation, and muscle rehabilitation can effectively treat back pain in adults and children. Your doctor will recommend the best approach depending on several factors {1}.

A nutritionist can help you lose weight, a method often recommended for primary and secondary prevention of back pain. While primary prevention focuses on averting a condition before it occurs, secondary prevention focuses on early detection and intervention of a condition.

Certain lifestyle modifications help you cut out practices that cause back pain and prevent the recurrence of such incidences. In many cases, back pain is your body’s way of telling you to change certain aspects of your life. It’s essential to listen to your body and dedicate time and effort to inculcate good habits and cut out the not-so-good ones.


Venkat - AuthorAbout the Author:

Venkat is a freelance writer and an SEO buff. He writes about health & wellness, technology, and finance. He’s also a certified yoga and meditation instructor.




Casiano, V. E., Sarwan, G., Dydyk, A. M., Varacallo, M. StatPearls, “Back Pain,” StatPearls Publishing, 2022.

Cleveland Clinic: “Acute Mechanical Back Pain,” “How You Can Ease Your Aches and Pain With Meditation,” “What is Yoga Nidra?” “When (and How) Physical Therapy Can Provide Relief for Your Low Back Pain.”

Harvard Medical School: “Mindfulness meditation to control pain.”

International Ayurvedic Medical Journal: “Clinical study on the efficacy of the karpasa beeja churna pinda sweda and patra pinda sweda in sandhigata vata.”

International Journal of Current Research and Review: “An Ayurvedic Approach of Pinda Sweda and its Different Modalities.”

International Journal of Yoga: “Effectiveness of mindfulness meditation on pain and quality of life of patients with chronic low back pain.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “7 Ways to Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery.”

Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute: “Mindfulness meditation eases chronic low back pain.”

McGill University: “Management of Low Back Pain in Physiotherapy.”

Nutrients: “Dietary Patterns and Interventions to Alleviate Chronic Pain.”

Pain Medicine: “Meditation-Based Therapy for Chronic Low Back Pain Management: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.”

The Art of Living: “Ayurveda and Lower Back Pain.”