Slipped disc – natural healing

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I am interrupting this food blog to share some useful information: natural healing methods for a slipped disc.

In 2006, I had a slipped disc and although surgery looked on the cards, I recovered naturally. Later, when I was better, I was told by my consultant physiotherapist, that “90% recover naturally”. Wish someone had told me that before.

Tips for natural healing of slipped disc

  • Find a healer who believes nature heals and whom you trust. Try several until you find the one who suits you and your condition.
  • The trick is to break the pain/tension/inflammation cycle by relaxing the tense muscles,  and lessening pressure on the nerves. Breathe as if in labour to relax: out through the mouth, in through the nose. Relaxing also relieves pain.
  • Let gravity be your ally.  Lie down in the Alexander Technique’s semi-supine position (spine flat, knees bent, feet flat and head slightly raised on a pillow) at regular intervals. This position allows the spine to elongate and relax.
  • Stay mobile. Walk, swim or dance. Avoid positions that increase discomfort such as sitting down.
  • Before even considering surgery, look at your footwear. I could write a thesis on the tragedy of women’s shoes which only for care for looks – not comfort. The holy grail is the stylish shoe that also supports. Your shoes should support your arches and ankles.
  • How is your bed? Again, before even contemplating surgery, sort out your resting place. I would rather (and I have done) sleep on the floor than on a too soft or unsupporting mattress.
  • Use heat. My best friend was an electric heat-pad (like a mini-electric blanket) for the small of my back when lying down in the semi-supine position.
  • Drink water regularly to plump up those discs.
  • Eat foods with anti-inflammatory ingredients such as turmeric – add turmeric root or ground turmeric to savoury dishes. Or try the Ayurvedic recipe, Golden Milk, a comforting drink of heated milk with turmeric with black pepper which increases the bio-availability of turmeric‘s active ingredient, curcumin. If using plant milk, instead of cow’s milk, add coconut oil – the fat in oil or milk also boosts the bio-availability of curcumin.
  • Use a ginger compress to soften and relax the traumatised tissues. T’ai chi master and massager, Pete Glenn, insisted I use it daily and he was right. This traditional Chinese remedy sounds so simple – but it works. Try it for back or neck pain and be amazed by its effectiveness!

Ginger poultice

1 oz ground ginger simmered for 20 minutes in 1 pint of water.

Let the sludge cool slightly and immerse a flannel. Squeeze out the flannel and apply to the affected part of your spine. Either repeat at regular intervals OR do lazy version: cover the flannel with a plastic bag to contain the drips and wrap the whole lot with a long scarf or towel to keep it in place.

Ginger is hot to eat and aids digestion because it dilates the blood vessels – applied externally it has a similar, and penetrative, effect.

Long after the flannel has cooled down, you will feel the WARMTH of the ginger, doing its zingy thing.

If you do nothing, make and apply a ginger poultice, put on some calming music and lie down in the semi-supine position – now!

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62 responses to “Slipped disc – natural healing

  1. Helen Aurelius-Haddock
    Helen Aurelius-Haddock
    I am suffering at the moment with my back – the doc thinks it is sciatica, as I can barely walk – I have resorted to using a stick – medication seems useless, but I am having physio and seeing an osteopath – It has been going on for about two months – thing is, it seems worse and not better. I have not had any x rays or scans. I am really fed up with it!
    4 minutes ago · Delete

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    • The same thing happened to me. I ended up seeing a physical therapitst who gave me soft tissue massages twice a week. it helped a bit and the advice he gave me was great but the best thing that helped were epidural injections. I do have to say, I tried drinking REAL ginger tea and it helped with the pain. so I will definately be trying the ginger compress tonight.

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    • Hi
      I am suffering from slip disc ryt nw.
      Search fr bujangasan on youtube, it is yoga exercise fr the back.
      You can do 1sets of ten repetation every 2hrs.
      Let me know if its helps in reducing the pain
      It did help me

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  3. Hi Elisabeth, Thanks for posting that, i was hoping the ginger poultice would appear in writing.. esp seeing as Amy has just had her operation. I’m going to print it out and give it to her. Might try it myself, my back is feeling a little stiff, too much running around! x

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  4. realfoodlover

    Helen, I am so sorry to hear about your back. Pain is so demoralising, I know.

    I paid £200 for an MRI scan from a charity in Cheltenham – and glad I did as the diagnosis of slipped (prolapsed) disc helped me with my treatment.

    Also check hardness of bed (soft is bad for backs), pillows (not too high) and…shoes. A friend rung me from the US to lecture me about correct footwear. He was right. I now swear by MBTs and Fit-Flops.

    Chloe, do try the ginger poultice, and tell me what you think. Love to Amy x

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  5. I am a Birkenstock girl, so no worries on the shoe front – I will probably need an MRI scan as it is getting worse and not better – as France is the land of fabujlous healthcare, an MRI scan is a bit like buying paracetamol form the local chemist (only you don’t have to buy it – it is free on prescription here)
    I have arthritis of the spine, and recently fell “flat on my back” and bruised the base of my spine, so perhaps that has made things worse – I was in pain before that though so who knows?
    As I have recently been diagnosed with Hemochromatosis, I have been concerned that arthritis and osteoarthritis are a side effect of the disease. The medieval treatment (blood letting – yes honestly) is not much fun either. At least the physio is very relaxing – I have a fabulous massage at the end of each session – no charge of course!
    I think I will have to go and see the doctor again.

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  6. Wow my best friend has just been diagnosed with Hemochromatosis! Luckily she’s caught it early (31 years old) so please god she’ll miss out on most of the horrible side effects.
    Ginger poultices are FREAKIN AMAZING. I see no need to squeeze out the flannel, I found the above recipe is enough for 4 applications – just simmer so its a good pastey sludge, then smear a quarter or so of the sludge on to a flannel, which is itself on a folded plastic bag, then tie up with a towel or summat. Each time I let the paste cool down a bit too much and thought ‘o bugger, I’ve wasted the heat’ but each time it magically goes from lukewarm to hotter….hotter…hotter…until its just SERIOUSLY HOT, and it seems never to cool down. Its crazy amazing how something can get and stay so hot without any electricity.
    Thanks for that recipe- I loves it.

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  7. sarah scarlett

    thanks for the ginger poultice recipe Elisabeth. am printing it off and taking to my pain management group to share. also to Helen the previous poster, sorry to hear of yr pain. i had sciatica for yrs (amongst other back problems) but switched to a cranial sacral osteopath a couple of yrs ago who has completely cured it. i reccommend the chando clinic in redland if you ever feel like trying that. hope it helps. Scarlett

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  8. Thank you so much for these tips.
    Anel
    India
    God bless you.

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  9. A person seeks for help, sometimes due to pain. This the one reason patients come to a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation specialist. Now, I’m running my own private clinic, using low level laser as the major equipment.

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  10. Ginger did an amazing job for me on my battle with back pain. Don’t just read this… DO IT NOW!

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  11. Elisabeth,
    thank you for your post. How much time it will take to see the results?? How many days it takes for your to cure?

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    • Hi Venkat

      This method took about two weeks before I experienced a lessening of pain. The method I describe is intended to support the body to come back to health, to alleviate pain and to provide an alternative idea to surgery.

      I hope that helps, Elisabeth

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      • elisabeth..i am suffering from a slip disc for 3 months and want to try out the ginger treatment..can you pls tell me

        1. for how long should one apply the ginger ie roughly how many minutes/times a day?
        2. also a bit confused about the method of application..pls elaborate for me
        3. when one has the application on…should be lying down on my stomach or back?

        sorry to bother you will silly questions

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      • Ankur – not silly questions at all. I apologise for instructions not being clear.

        1. Apply the ginger compress at least once daily. Otherwise twice a day.
        I kept on the ginger compress overnight and during the day, for an hour or two.

        2. Make the ginger paste. Let it cool. Soak a folded flannel or absorbent cloth in the ginger paste. Apply the soaked cloth externally to the area needing treatment.

        I kept it in place with a plastic bag to prevent drips, and a big sash keeping the soaked cloth and plastic bag in place.

        3. I used the compress either walking around or lying down on my back in the semi-supine position described.

        Good luck and good wishes for your recovery

        Elisabeth

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  12. Do you mean1 oz of dry powdered ginger? I ground up 1 oz of fresh ginger root with 1 pint of water and after simmering for 40 minutes, it’s still not a paste.

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  13. Hi Connie

    Yes, I do mean dry, powdered, ground ginger – 1 oz of ground ginger in 1 pint of water definitely cooks into a paste.

    I tried using fresh ginger root once but it did not seem any more effective, was a huge effort and as you say (and I had forgotten) did not go into a paste.

    Ground ginger is what I used, and what worked for me.

    Hope it works! Elisabeth

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  15. I am a regular college student and i am having back and neck pain for last 6 months. On visiting neurophysician he told me that i have a slip disc and its 2 months still no improvement.
    Please help me 😦

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    • Dear Anurag

      I wish I could help you!

      But I am not a physician or healer.

      This was about my personal experience.

      All I know is:

      – my slipped disc got better without surgery
      – skilled massage helped break the cycle of spasm/tension/pain
      – ginger compresses helped relax the muscles in spasm
      – relaxing in the Alexander technique semi-supine position helped, and so did gentle walking and keeping mobile
      – I am very careful now about what shoes I wear (I recommend Fit-Flops) and having a good mattress
      – I do yoga regularly to keep supple.

      I hope this helps and much good luck for your healing

      Elisabeth

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  16. Another thing you can do is get therapy or do exercises to help
    strengthen the muscles within the torso and back.
    Regular x-ray follow-ups is going to be necessary for several years.

    Spinal injuries may be particularly troublesome simply because they can lead to long-term pain and impose limitations on movement long term.

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  17. Thank you so much for this natural tip Elizabeth, I’m up for all the natural help I can get.
    I’m in the third month of living with a protruding disc at L5/S1.
    In the early days I had crazy amounts of pain in my left leg also numbness all the way to my left piggy toe and loss of power in my left ankle/foot (reflex dead )
    Unfortunately I was on a lot of groggy painkillers; anti inflammatory drugs and narcotics as you can imagine they just made me spaced out. I wanted to get off them ASAP!
    I had 5 sessions of physio in the first month.
    Kept mobile by walking (very slowly!)
    Every day I exercised; standing back bends and other yoga exercises suitable for herniated discs, especially my hamstrings and leg muscles which were majorly tight.
    My gorgeous husband gently massaged my leg every night before bed with a massage oil I made using Lavender, Chamomile and Rosemary oils.
    I never bend forward, keeping my back straight all the time.
    I used an ice pack on my back every hour for 15 to 20 minutes(leaving it off for a full hour before reapplying)
    I used a Tens machine/ElectroStim.
    I drink several litres of water every day to keep things well lubricated.
    All these things have together helped so far but I still have numbness and a paralyzed toe, also I get pain in my heel if I’m on my feet for more than 2-3 hours. But generally I’m pain free taking only 50mg of Amitriptyline at bedtime. 2 weeks ago I went back to work part time.
    I’m starting to do some gentle Qi Gong exercises and now I’m going to try your ginger compress. I hope you don’t mind me telling some of my story, I’m hoping it might help some other sufferers.
    Nice to see also that you have lots of local links (I live in Bath)
    Many thanks again
    Yours naturally
    Sarah

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sarah, to help others!

      Thanks for the yoga exercises and non-invasive pain relief such as TENS.

      Gentle Qi Gong exercises, and yes, do try the ginger compress: it works!

      Slipped discs heal naturally, they do, they do.

      Gentle mobility is great. I found I could walk. And dance. I had trouble sitting down though.

      Do check out this Me Design portable seat. I still use it…

      I am now seven years later fitter than ever because I take care of my back.

      I still drink plenty of water to keep the discs hydrated. And lie down every day for 15 minutes in the Alexander semi-supine position.

      And do yoga. But perhaps even more importantly Pilates-type exercises to strengthen the core muscles.

      I did the rounds of conventional and complementary therapists until I found the ones I could jive with.

      With all best wishes for your healing and hello to husband for leg massage – a prince among men, indeed!

      Elisabeth

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  18. Hey, I’m nadia’s friend! Thanks so much for this. I have a couple of questions – did you find the pain getting worse? It just seems to be getting more and more unbearable. I’m wondering if you experienced this?! Also, were you exhausted with it? That’s most of the reason why I’m mainly lying down is because when I’m upright for more than five minutes I’m too weak and exhausted to continue being upright! Did you find this? Thanks! X

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    • I totally sympathise! It was extreme pain. I felt I was being whipped! G-d I sympathise.

      But it is OK – it DOES get better.

      The main thing is to manage the pain, and try to relax (easier said than done, I know).

      For instance, I chanted a Buddhist mantra (Nyam Myoho Renge Kyo) to help me cope (it really does help).
      Warmth helped. The sauna. An electric heat pad became my BEST friend.
      It turns itself off after 3 hours. I strongly recommend! http://bit.ly/18V1sqD

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      • Thank you! Y’know when you were lying in the Alexander technique position, did you find it stressful to keep your legs up like that? When I’m lying in bed I use duvets so I don’t use my muscles but I just tried it on the floor as it feels more supportive to my back but it feels too much effort from my leg muscles to keep them upright and support the back! X

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      • I know what you mean…pillows under upright knees?

        I will ask an Alexander Teacher friend to reply to this one, Amani!

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  19. Hi, me again! I’m just wondering what painkillers you took and worked for you? I’m just trying to navigate through all that’s on offer from the doc. Thanks! X

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  20. Hi again! Glad to hear from you!

    I was prescribed various painkillers. Everyone reacts in their unique way so try each drug in turn until you find one that suits you.

    And, as we know, most pharmaceuticals have side-effects too, which also affect people differently.

    I was prescribed Diclofenac to reduce inflammation: ZERO pain-relief for me, (although helped another friend who was prescribed it – like I say we are all different.).

    Turmeric is also an anti-inflammatory! Use liberally in food! No side effects!

    I was prescribed Ibuprofan and Paracetomol. The Ibuprofan had weird pink coating and I think it made me nauseous!

    The painkiller that worked BEST for me was Tramadol. It sort of distanced me from the pain (in a similar way that gas and air works). I used it sparingly as it gave me a headache if I took too many. So, I took one a day max, and never on consecutive days. I also drank water, to detoxify!

    I was also prescribed Diazepam, a tranquilliser which can be addictive. So again I used it sparingly. I found it useful to take one before retiring for bed early in order to give myself a long, deep, healing sleep.

    YES, SLEEP IS THE BEST HEALER OF ALL!

    Drink plenty of water – fluid hydrates the cartilage and discs.

    I can dig out dosages on above meds if that helps. Good luck!

    Thinking of you!

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  21. Dear friend,

    In haste, as I am away shortly. I taught Elisabeth some of her Alexander Technique. She has made it her very own, is an expert in her own right, and was invaluable in helping us to launch our recent STAT study at the BRI Pain Clinic that showed that 6 lessons of AT cut pain medication in half. I would be more than happy to talk you through the semi-supine and anything else you might benefit from–just give me a call any time after 7 this evening or after 7 tomorrow morning! Peace and love,
    Anita Bennett 077797860765. I was horrified to hear that our Prime Minister had been suffering from a very bad back on holiday in Scotland, and made the decision to go to war in such an altered state of consciousness. Alexander is all about inhibition, no matter what your political persuasion. XX

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  22. Dear Metaphorical friend,

    It is best for you to lie on a carpeted floor, or fleecy, and, of course to use pillows under the knees while in Semi-Supine. Another name for the Semi-Supine is the active rest position, or procedure. So as much as possible you want to THINK energetically while you are lying: saying to yourself the classic three Alexander directions/orders, and adding to these mental mantras the words “knees to the ceiling”. This way even if you feel you lack the strength to maintain the knees in that way without support from pillows, your INTENTION is an active one. It’s hard to explain fully without putting hands on you….!

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  23. hi there! i’ve been suffering from spondolysis of the neck and extra bone growth n my vertibrae cage for 8 yrs now which is very painful as my extra bone has no place to grow n is compressed . Am n India n cannot afford much medication n test prescribed to me as am unemployed due to the acute pain regularly . Can you help me with any of your remedies . Am 34yrs old . Hoping to hear from you soon .

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    • I was diagnosed with sponsolysis twenty years ago (late 30s) and I remember my dad saying: “It is all downhill from now on.”
      Wrong, wrong, wrong!

      I took up weekly yoga and I am MORE fit than ever.

      Dear Benita, you are in the birthplace of that wonderful practice, yoga. It is something you can do for free, in your own home. I do five sun salutations a day and I swear they keep me fit. I do also do try to get to a weekly class.

      Please, Benita, do not give up. Here in the west, many of us are turning away from western medicine because although it is brilliant in some cases, it also has its limits especially with chronic conditions. Please consult the ancient wisdoms, which are proven effective over millenia.

      Like

  24. Can you do ginger poultice while taking medication (arcoxia )?

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  25. can I consume ginger in tablet form,will it work

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    • Hi Manimaran

      Please use the ginger externally as a poultice to help relieve muscle/tissue pain.

      Ginger dilates (widen/open) the blood vessels. When eaten, the ginger helps digestion.

      But when applied externally to the actual area of pain, the ginger will help restore flexibility to tight muscles.

      Like

  26. What is a flannel

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  27. I am 20 years old,i got slip disc for 5 years now so i tried many type of medication but it doesnt help me at all.Day by day its getting worse.
    So any suggestion from your side.?
    Thank you

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  28. Santhosh Thota

    Hi mam iam suffering from disc problem that is L5 / s1. and recently affected to L4/L5 also.iam using homeopathy medicines.plz give me your suggestions
    thank you Elizabeth

    Like

    • Hi Santhosh

      I wish I could help more. I am not a health practitioner. All I know is that I had a slipped disc – and it got better by itself. My post is about the things which helped me get better.

      Anything that helps the spine relax is good, because this breaks the cycle of tension/pain and allows the body to re-allign itself.

      Small things can make big changes, too:
      Drinking water to hydrate the discs
      A firm mattress to sleep on (I prefer the floor to a saggy mattress)
      Shoes that support ankles.

      I hope this helps.

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