According to Georgetown University back pain in some form affects 65 million Americans. Among those eight percent, some 16 million people, experience persistent or chronic back pain.  It is a leading cause of discomfort, missed work, and medical expenses. Natural remedies for back pain and inflammation may help to relieve the pain while saving on some of the cost of medical treatment.

In the following excerpt from Secret Food Cures authors Joan and Lydia Wilen provide exercises and other natural remedies for back pain and sciatica.


It is estimated that eight out of 10 people have, at some point in their lives, back pain that disables them. Also estimated is the money spent for diagnosis and treatment of back pain—more than $5 billion annually.

WARNING: It’s extremely important that any back pain be evaluated by a medical professional to rule out serious illness or injury. If your back pain is chronic, persistent, or severe, see a doctor.

We have come across some remedies that are worth trying to relieve minor backaches. At best, they’ll help—at least, they’ll give you something to talk about the next time someone tells you his/her back went out.

Healing Position

• Thanks to the wise guidance of our cousin Linda, a physical therapist, many people who felt that their backs were on the verge of going out avoided the problem. If you’ve had back trouble, you know the feeling we’re referring to.

When you get that feeling, carefully lie down on the floor, close enough to a sofa or easy chair so that you can bend your knees and rest your legs (knees to feet) on the seat of the sofa or chair. Your thighs should be leaning against the front of the sofa and your tush should be as close as possible, directly in front of it, with the rest of your body flat on the floor.

In position, you’re like the start of a staircase. Your body is the lowest step, your thighs are the distance between the steps, and your knees-to-feet are the second step.

Stay in that position for 15 to 30 minutes. It’s a restful and healing treatment for the back.

The best and safest way to get up is to lower your legs, roll over on your side, then slowly lift yourself up, letting your arms and shoulders do most of the work.

For Men Only

Do you have back or hip pain when you sit for any length of time? Is it something you and your doctor(s) can’t quite figure out and so you label it “back trouble”?

According to doctors, you may need a “wallet-ectomy.”

If you carry around a thick wallet in your hip pocket, it may be putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. Keep your wallet in your jacket pocket instead, and you’ll find that sitting can be a pleasurable experience again.

Natural Remedies

• An Asian remedy for the prevention or relief of lower back problems is black beans (also called frijoles negros—although not in Asia!), which are available at supermarkets and health food stores.

Soak a cupful of black beans overnight. This softens the beans and is said to remove the gas-producing compounds. Then put them in a pot with 31 ⁄2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for a half-hour over low heat. During that half-hour, keep removing the grayish foam that forms on top. After a half hour, cover the pot and let it cook for another two hours. If, by the end of that time, there’s still water in the pot, spill it out.

Eat two to three tablespoons of the black beans each day for one month, then every other day for one month.

Fresh beans should be prepared at least every three or four days.

Get a Friend

• You need to employ the buddy system for this remedy. Put 20 drops of eucalyptus oil in a cup and warm it in the microwave for a few seconds. Then have your buddy gently massage the warm oil on your painful area. The “hands on” are as healing as the oil.


Sciatica is a painful condition affecting the sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body. It extends from the lower spine through the pelvis, thighs, down into the legs and ends at the heels. When this nerve gets pinched or pulled (usually because of over-exertion), the resulting back pain can be excruciating.

The home remedies we describe may not cure the condition entirely, but they may help ease the pain.

Pain-Relieving Juices

• The juice from potatoes has been said to help sciatica sufferers. So has celery juice. If you don’t have a juicer, a health food store with a juice bar might be willing to accommodate you. Have them juice a 10-ounce combination of potato and celery juice. Add carrots and/or beets to improve the taste.

In addition to the juice, drink a couple of cups of celery tea throughout the day.

• Stimulate the sciatic nerve by applying a fresh minced horseradish poultice to the painful area. Keep it on for one hour at a time.

Add Some Garlic

• Vitamin B1 and garlic may be very beneficial. Eat garlic raw in salads and use it in cooking. Also, take garlic supplements daily, plus 10 mg of vitamin B1 along with a good B-complex vitamin.

CAUTION: Do not eat garlic or take garlic supplements if you have a bleeding disorder or ulcers or are taking anticoagulants. If you are taking any kind of medication, check with your health professional before taking garlic supplements.

• A hot water bag on the painful area may help you make it through the night with less pain and more sleep.

• Drink elderberry juice and elderberry tea throughout the day.

• Before bedtime, heat olive oil and use it to massage the painful areas.

• Eat lots of watercress and parsley every day. (See recipe below.)

■ Recipe ■

Emerald Sauce

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 ⁄4 cup chopped parsley

3 ⁄4 cup lightly packed, rinsed and drained watercress sprigs

1 Tbsp chopped tarragon

1 cup sour cream (or half sour cream and half plain yogurt)

Salt to taste

 In a blender or food processor, combine lemon juice, parsley, watercress, tarragon and sour cream. Whirl until mixture is smoothly puréed, scraping container sides as required. Add salt to taste. Serve over potatoes, fish or chicken.


• According to many Germans, eating raw sauerkraut every day prevents sciatica.

Be Well-Red

• Polish folk healers tell their patients who suffer from sciatica to wear woolen long underwear—red only—and carry a raw beet in their hip pocket.

• We heard about a man who went from doctor to doctor seeking help. Nothing worked. As a last resort, the man followed the advice of an alternative medicine practitioner who recommended garlic milk.

The man minced two cloves of garlic, put them in 1 ⁄2 cup of milk and drank it down (without chewing the pieces of garlic). He had the garlic milk each morning and each evening. Within a few days, he felt some relief. Within two weeks, all the pain had completely disappeared.

• Water has tremendous therapeutic value for a sciatic condition. It can reduce the pain and improve circulation. Take a long, hot bath or shower and follow it with a short cold shower. If you can’t stand the thought of a cold shower, then follow up the hot bath with ice-cold compresses on the painful areas.

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