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Back pain is a common and often chronic problem, which can wear your entire body out. This condition tends to be recurrent in nearly half the cases, which is why you must exercise caution even after the pain has resolved.
The pain can stem from any part of the back, be it the muscles, nerves, or skeletal frame. Its management usually entails medication, posture correction, and proper home care coupled with back-strengthening exercises approved by the doctor.
Ways to Relieve Back Pain at Home
The following home remedies and self-care measures can help prevent and treat your back pain:
1. Exercise regularly
Certain exercises promote proper posture and increase muscular support for the spine. (1)
Some exercises that can help reduce the risk of injury by strengthening your back include:
- Low-impact aerobics, such as cycling, pilates, swimming, and tai chi, can help improve blood flow and nutrient delivery to the soft tissues in your back, which will loosen your stiff muscles and promote quicker recovery. It is suggested to perform 30 minutes of such moderate physical activities every day. (2)
- Core-strengthening exercises, such as climbing the stairs, weightlifting, hiking, partial abdominal crunches, planks, squats, and bridges, help strengthen your muscles, improve functionality, and provide joint stability.
- Stretching exercises, such as yoga and pilates, can open up your stiff back muscles and improve your overall flexibility. Limber muscles are less prone to injuries.
Also Read: 17 Home Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain
2. Apply a warm or cold compress
Applying a cold compress to the affected area can numb the pain temporarily by desensitizing the underlying nerves.
Heat application through a heating pad, warm bath, or hot water bottle can stimulate blood circulation in the area and loosen the tight muscles.
You may use each of these therapies for 15 minutes every hour, alternating between cold and warm compresses for best results.
Thermotherapy and cryotherapy can help alleviate acute lower back pain, but mostly when used as an adjunct to standard medical treatment. (3)
3. Consume a healthy diet
Avoid high-inflammatory foods such as sugars, trans fats, and processed foods to prevent back pain.
4. Avoid smoking
Nicotine is known to inhibit blood flow to your back. Additionally, it is seen that smokers often experience back pain and recover slower than non-smokers. Therefore, it is best to abstain from smoking.
5. Maintain a healthy body weight
As a heavy body contributes to increased pressure on the spine, maintaining a healthy body weight can help reduce your back pain.
6. Check your posture
It is vital to maintain correct posture at all times to prevent undue strain on the spinal joints and muscles. Here’s what you can do:
- While standing, keep your feet at shoulder-length apart, and knees slightly bent, and shift your weight mainly to the balls of your feet. Allow your arms to hang loosely on your sides, pull your shoulders back, and tuck your stomach in. When standing for a long time, alternate your weight between toes and heels or between one leg and the other.
- While sitting, support your arms with the chair arms. Sit with a straight back and the sole of your feet parallel to the ground. The knees should be bent at roughly a perpendicular angle. Also, avoid keeping a thick wallet or papers in your back pocket.
- When lifting things, take the support of your legs rather than your back. Keep you back straight and avoid bending or stooping forward. Use your feet while turning as well, rather than twisting your back. Moreover, refrain from lifting and twisting at the same time, such as while shoveling snow. It is also advised to avoid frequent twisting and bending.
7. Stay in motion
It is necessary to avoid long periods of inactivity. Take a short walk during your break, especially if you have a desk job. Additionally, move around and avoid eating your lunch at your desk.
You may also use gadgets to improve your posture or set reminders for movement after an extended period of tablet or mobile use.
8. Avoid wearing heels
High-heeled sandals such as stilettos and pumps, can alter the alignment of the spine, hips, and lower back. This often results in fatigue of the back muscles and pain.
9. Manage your stress
Stress management can have a short-term effect on physical functioning and severity of pain. (5)
10. Strike a balance between rest and activity
People with severe back pain are recommended bed rest for a couple of days, after which they must slowly resume their regular activities.
Exerting your back while it is already in pain will only aggravate the pain. So, it is important that you gradually ease your body into the normal routine.
11. Select a comfortable mattress
A medium to firm mattress, which supports your shoulders and hips without giving in and keeps your spine straight, can help prevent back pain.
Extremely soft or hard surfaces can aggravate the pain. Moreover, it is advised to refrain from sleeping on your stomach.
12. Avoid sudden movements
Avoid jerky and sudden movements, especially when getting out of your bed in the morning. Try to roll to your side and push yourself up with the help of your hands while shifting your legs to the bedside, instead of bending from your waist while getting up.
- 17 Home Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain
- 6 Yoga Poses to Relieve Back Pain Caused by Sitting for Long Periods
- Yoga Poses for Relieving Sore Muscles
Alternative Treatment Options
Several alternative therapies may help reduce back pain.
A study conducted in 2018 demonstrated that acupuncture is one of the most commonly used non-pharmacological techniques for lower back pain relief, chiefly due to its cost-effectiveness and lack of side effects. (6)
Massage therapy could provide short-term relief from acute, subacute, and chronic back pain. (7)
Frequent massages may be costly, but getting a massage once a month can be effective and affordable as well. It is important to select the massage best suited to your problem.
3. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
Also known as psychoeducation, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help relieve chronic back pain and also can lead to improvements in functional status and behavioral outcomes.
Each factor that contributes to the pain can be treated using focused CBT. It is also recommended to start CBT therapy early to help prevent and treat chronic pain. (8)
4. Chiropractic treatment
Chiropractic treatment is performed by a chiropractor and focuses on your joints and surrounding soft tissues. The chiropractor utilizes hands-on techniques to provide relief from joint pain and therefore restore normal functioning.
5. Physical therapy
Physical therapy involves educating a patient on various strengthening and stretching exercises to help relieve the pain.
Manual therapies and modalities such as ultrasound, ice and heat applications, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may also be used.
Physiotherapy utilizes various exercises that help improve your strength and flexibility and consequently reduce your back pain. It is recommended that you perform the exercises under the supervision of a physiotherapist.
Capsaicin Helps Reduce Back Pain
Cream formulations containing capsaicin have been commonly used to help alleviate different types of back pain, including muscle pain and some forms of spinal osteoarthritis. Such creams have minimal side effects and can be easily used at home. (9)
A 2016 meta-analysis demonstrated that capsaicin, the active ingredient of chili peppers, has ethnopharmacological potential. Therefore, it can be used as an adjunct treatment for neuropathic pain. (10)
Most-Asked Questions About Back Pain
Can kidney pain be confused with back pain?
Due to the location of kidneys at the rear of your body, pain in the kidneys can be mistaken for back pain. It is recommended to seek medical help to identify the real source of pain and for a proper diagnosis.
Can lower back pain indicate a serious condition?
Lower back pain is one of the first symptoms to occur when prostate cancer metastasizes and forms lesions.
In rare cases, the pain can stem from infections in the area, especially those that occur in the wake of recent surgery or tuberculosis.
Can back pain result from a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection causes redness and irritation in the lining of the urethra and bladder. The infection can further cause pain in the lower abdomen, pelvic area, and even lower back, often increasing your need to urinate.
Therefore, pain in the lower back and sides may indicate a urinary tract infection.
Does abdominal bloating cause back pain?
The buildup of air or gas in the abdomen can make the area heavy, rigid, and tensed. This kind of bloating often causes discomfort and pain, which might radiate to the back.
Moreover, due to the supportive function of the lower back, a bloated stomach may cause increased pressure in the area, resulting in pain.
Back pain can range from mild to severe and acute to chronic, and it is managed through a whole range of traditional and alternative interventions. The choice of treatment primarily depends on the underlying cause, which can be mild or serious and should be addressed accordingly.
Excessive reliance on painkillers to cope with persistent or recurrent back pain can have negative health outcomes in the long run. So, it is best to diversify your treatment plan by including multiple therapies, exercises, and self-care measures under the guidance of your doctor.
If you fail to register any relief despite the prescribed treatment and care, consult your doctor to rule out any serious underlying condition.