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10 Easy Ways To Get Back Pain Relief

Last updated on : October 28 2018

woman with back pain at work

Introduction

Back pain affects many of us at least a few times during our lives, and some of us suffer from chronic (long-term) back pain. Most of us accept the pain and learn to live with it. But it doesn't have to be that way.

According to research, back pain is a leading reason why people go to the doctor or miss work worldwide. And a significant contributor to the cause of disability.

In this article, we cover the more common causes of back pain and what you can do to self-help or prevent it from going forward.

We've filled it with links to supporting and authoritative texts on the subject for further reading. And at the end of the article, we've quoted Mayo Clinic on when you need to see a doctor.   

Fortunately, most back pain is preventable. Often through remedies you can take at home.

Causes Of Back Pain

Backache word cloud with hand writing

Acute Back Pain

A fall, heavy lifting, or a cause that is hard to identify, even by a doctor, are the most common causes of back pain. This acute type of back pain comes on suddenly and usually lasts up to six weeks. 

You are at risk if you are older, particularly above 30 or 40. Or you don't often exercise and have weaker back muscles. Additionally carrying excess body weight can put a strain on your back muscles increasing your risk.

Smoking contributes because it reduces blood flow to the spine and nutrient flow to the disks in your back. It also slows up the healing process.

Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain, lasting more than three months is far less common. Complications arising out of acute back pain or diseases affecting the back generally cause it.

Diseases & Depression

Some diseases can cause back pain, including cancer and infections. A bone fracture or break will also cause severe pain. 

With chronic back pain, depression often follows as the pain becomes unbearable and hope for a cure dissipates. Some studies suggest that depression may make the pain worse through a chemical loss of proteins and other factors.

However, these incidences are uncommon, with acute back pain, above, being the most likely cause of the pain. 

Back Pain Remedies

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent or at least relieve most bouts of back and neck pain. If prevention fails, then home treatment and improvements in body mechanics can significantly reduce the pain and keep you functional.

Here are ten steps you can start today to take control of your back pain, and your life again.

1. Prioritize Sleep

girl waking up refreshed after good nights sleep

The muscles and joints in our body require a proper amount of daily sleep to function well. And doing so with the right alignment of your body helps significantly. 

Get Enough Sleep

Ensure you enjoy a decent night's sleep for at least 7-8 hours a day. A good nights sleep goes far in preventing the growth of stress in your back and replenishes the cells in the body. It also gives a boost to your immune system and your general well being. 

Align Your Body In The Correct Positions

The position you take when you sleep also has an impact. Some can ease the pain

If you sleep on your side, then put a pillow between your knees and draw them up a little toward your chest. If you sleep on your back, then put one under your knees. Or place one under the lower part of your back.

Try not to sleep on your stomach because it forces your back into the bed, putting a strain on it. If you can't relax any other way, place a pillow under you to relieve some of the pressure. 

Focus on aligning your spine whatever position you take. An excellent way to do this is to keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned. Proper spine alignment while sleeping reduces pressure and eases the pain. 

Lastly, be careful when you turn in bed to avoid twisting your back and spine. Move your entire body in alignment keeping your core as rigid as you can. If more comfortable, bring your knees towards your chest when you roll over.

2. Get Exercise

girl exercising and stretching

Your initial reaction to back pain will be to rest, however moving is right for your back

A regular exercise routine goes a long way in the treatment of back pain, relieving years of built up stress and adding strength for the future. Exercise also improves blood circulation and allows nutrients to flow easier.

Getting out and about on your daily routine is the first step, taking up a specific set of exercises to add strength to your back is the second.

But be careful what exercises you adopt as some exercises may be harmful, and for the first few days, particularly if painful, prioritize rest.

Exercises For Back Pain

If you're unsure, ask your healthcare professional before doing any training for back pain.

Body weight exercises -  Including partial crunches, hamstring stretches, wall sits, press up back extensions, bird dog, knee to chest, pelvic tilts and bridging are all good exercises for back pain. Ensure you do these with the proper form for maximum benefit and to avoid injury.   

Aerobic exercises - Aerobic exercise build strength in your lungs, heart, and blood vessels. They also help you lose weight. Try walking, swimming, and biking as good ways to start. Begin with more comfortable sessions and build up over time. When swimming, avoid strokes that twist your body.

Pilates - Amongst other things, pilates stretches and strengthens your core abdominal muscles. And done with the right instruction may help you with back pain. Tell your pilates instructor about your back pain, because you might need to skip some moves.

Lifting weights or using similar gym related lower back pain relief products won't hurt your back if done correctly. Importantly avoid putting extra stress on back muscles and ligaments when doing these exercises as they could raise the risk of further injury. If necessary ask your doctor whether you should lift weights, and what exercise equipment to use.  

Exercises To Avoid

Avoid standing toe touches as they put greater stress on the disks and ligaments in your spine. They can also overstretch lower back muscles and hamstrings. Similarly, don't do sit-ups or leg-lifts as they can put a lot of pressure on the discs in your spine. 

3. Eat Pain-Relieving Foods

Anti inflammatory diet concept 

Many foods can reduce (or increase) inflammation, a known cause for back pain. So when you have back pain, changing what you eat may help. 

"If left unchecked, inflammation will run rampant through your body, causing all kinds of problems, including low-back pain," says Michael Perry, MD, chief medical director and co-founder of Laser Spine Institute

That’s why creating an anti-inflammatory diet with foods that help you maintain proper nutrition is vital to managing back pain.

Add These Foods To Your Diet

Include in your diet anti-inflammatory foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like olive oil, certain fish and walnuts. 

Add cocoa in moderation to increase flavonols in your body. These help to eliminate toxins in your body. Dark chocolate is an excellent source of cocoa. 

Enjoy a glass of red wine to add resveratrol to your system, another natural anti-inflammatory. But remember, only small quantities.

Additionally, foods like salmon, beets, watermelons, nuts, and spices including cinnamon and turmeric can efficiently reduce swelling in the back given their anti-inflammatory properties. 

These foods are delicious yet suitable for the back at the same time. They play a vital role in maintaining a healthy spine and should remain a regular part of your diet.

Avoid These Foods

You want to avoid all processed foods, fast foods, and saturated fats because they drive inflammation.

These include white bread, pasta, rice, sugary drinks, and snacks. Stay away from fried foods and anything with partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients. And try not to drink too much coffee or eat unnecessary amounts of chocolate. 

Get Enough Calcium And Vitamins

Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for bone strength and density. As you age, bone mass tends to decrease, leading to weaker vertebrae and conditions like osteoporosis. So it's vital that you get enough of the right nutrients to combat.   

It is better to get calcium from natural sources, instead of from supplements. Foods like yogurt, milk, and cheese, as well as leafy green vegetables, contain good levels, add them to your diet.

Vitamin C, D, K and minerals ranging from calcium, iron and magnesium help get rid of the back soreness. Look to incorporate foods like broccoli, kale, and spinach with higher levels of these nutrients in your daily meals.  

Lastly, always talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian when making changes to your diet.

4. Stretch Your Body

Stretching my back and arms

Stretching might sound simple, yet it has a profound impact on discharging stress from the back.

Regularly stretching the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the spine can bring tremendous benefit. These include reducing tension and pain, improving your range of motion and giving you greater overall mobility.

Speak to a physical therapist or your doctor about the best exercises for your particular condition. Many will include the body weight exercises outlined in point 2 above.

5. Get A Regular Massage

Sport massage. Therapist massaging back

Massage is a significant contributor to the reduction of back pain, both acute and chronic.

It is also an accessible treatment, available to all at minimum expense, and indeed a viable therapy before considering surgery.  

The key benefits of massage include increased blood flow to the injured muscles and an overall improvement in vascular function. A relaxation of overly tensed up muscles, resulting in pain reduction and better mobility and an increase in endorphins, our feel-good chemicals.

Heat & Essential Oils

Massage combined with a heat application or essential oils has added benefits.

Superficial heat, with warm stones, hot towels or heat packs improve the blood flow around the injured area and relieves soreness.

Essential oils introduce the benefits of aromatherapy, with the oils absorbed through the skin or olfactory system. They include chamomile, ginger, eucalyptus, wintergreen, and lavender oils. Studies suggest the use of these oils is useful in the treatment of pain.  

So try a regular massage with or without heat or oil to improve the flexibility of your back, treat your pain, and reduce the extent of swelling. The feel-good factor is worth it alone.

6. Try Cold And Hot Therapy

herbal hot pack for back

Use a water bottle filled with cold water; a pad cooled in the freezer or cold water for cold therapy or cryotherapy. It reduces inflammation by decreasing blood flow to the impacted area and is usually applied before heat treatment.

Cold therapy is more effective on recent injuries, best applied within 48 hours of the injury, and so might not be that effective for ongoing back pain treatment

Essential heat therapy or thermotherapy involves the use of a hot water bottle, pads heated in a microwave, or a warm bath. It promotes blood flow and helps muscles relax. Use it mostly for chronic pain. 

Alternating cold and heat therapy can provide effective relief of back pain, although heat alone might be the best option.  

Allow a gap of around 2 hours after the cold therapy and follow it up by the application of hot packs. The warmness fastens the process of blood circulation in the area and relieves soreness naturally. 

7. Look Into Herbs & Supplements

Arnica plant, flower and herbal herbal capsules

Some natural supplements and herbal therapies can bring about an improvement in the health of your back and offer alternatives to conventional medicines. 

Glucosamine

Glucosamine sulfate is a supplement that is especially popular in the treatment of arthritis. It is a chemical found in the human body involved in building tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and the thick fluid that surrounds joints.

The fluid and cartilage that surrounds joints cushion them. In some people with osteoarthritis, the cartilage breaks down and becomes thin. The thinness results in more joint friction, pain, and stiffness.

Researchers think that taking glucosamine supplements may either increase the cartilage and surrounding fluid in joints or help prevent a breakdown of these substances, or maybe both.

Calcium & Magnesium

Calcium and magnesium are two minerals that increase the agility of the spine and lessen the intensity of the pain in the back. They also combat osteoporosis and therefore could provide some future protection to a weaker back.   

Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the body, and most of it is in our bones. It is one of the most important minerals involved in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. 

Magnesium is a mineral that plays an essential role in maintaining healthy bones. It contributes to increased bone density and helps prevent the onset of osteoporosis.

Herbs

Though research on herbal remedies is still in its early phases, many herbs are thought to provide pain management and decrease inflammation. However, it’s important to exercise caution because of unwanted side effects and reactions to other medicines and substances.

When it comes to herbals, Bryonia and arnica can prevent your back from getting sore even when you perform regular tasks.

Other popular herbal pain remedies include capsaicin, ginger, feverfew, turmeric, and devils claw. Less famous and perhaps to proceed with caution include ginseng, kava kava, St John's Wort and Valerian Root.  

Topical treatment with the use of gels and creams is also an effective way to mitigate your back ordeals.

8. Do Yoga

Yoga sun salute. Young woman doing yoga by the lake

This ancient practice, which emphasizes stretching, strength, and flexibility, can relieve back soreness and improve function for those with occasional pain or chronic aches.

And according to research published in July 2017 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, yoga may help reduce the need for pain medication.

Certain postures can help lengthen your spine, stretch and strengthen your muscles, and return your back to its proper alignment. 

It's always a good idea to ask your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen, especially if you're prone to pain. Once you get the green light, try these seven soothing poses for back pain.

They include the downward and upward facing dog, the upward facing bend and the child, pigeon, triangle, and cat and cow pose.

9. Keep Moving

Tall fit man running along the sea shore in morning

54 percent of Americans who have low back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. Sedentary lifestyles can and do initiate chronic back pain.

Desk jobs and working on the computer make the back stiff over time. As you age, this develops into chronic pain and can permanently bend the natural position of the spine. 

The antidote - move your body whenever you can. Prefer to walk to nearby places, take stairs and indulge in sports. Keep free time for cycling, swimming and jogging to ensure you move about and strengthen your back. 

Take regular breaks. Make sure you stand up and walk about at least once in an hour to facilitate the circulation of blood in your body.

Lastly, note this scary fact - research has linked sitting for long periods of time with some health concerns. They include obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Too much sitting overall, especially for long periods also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Yes, sitting is the new smoking.

10. Quit Smoking

male hand destroying cigarettes - stop smoking

The nicotine found in cigarettes limits the blood flow to the disks of the spine. Smoking reduces the levels of oxygen in the blood, which deprives the muscles and the joints in the back from its healthy nutrients. 

According to a study, regular smokers are also likely to have a higher chance of developing osteoporosis. 

Additionally, “When we think of multiple medical conditions associated with smoking, we don’t really think of musculoskeletal issues, but they are strongly associated with smoking,” explains Dr. White, an interventional physiatrist with the Bassett Healthcare Network in Cooperstown, N.Y.

So, make it a point to kick your smoking habit. Your back needs you to quit, as does the rest of your health.

When To See A Doctor

From The Mayo Clinic

In rare cases, back pain can signal a serious medical problem. Seek immediate care if your back pain:

  • Causes new bowel or bladder problems
  • Is accompanied by fever
  • Follows a fall, blow to your back or other injuries

Contact a doctor if your back pain:

  • Is severe and doesn't improve with rest
  • Spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below the knee
  • Causes weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs
  • Is accompanied by unexplained weight loss

Also, see your doctor if you start having back pain for the first time after age 50, or if you have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, steroid use, or excessive drug or alcohol use.

Summary

Daily activities and continuous stress in our lives put excessive pressure on our backs. The pressure leads to wear and tear of the muscles and joints. Pain results.

The problem compounds with the onset of anxiety disorders and depression.

However, there are solutions, and you can make your back stronger and fitter by adopting new and healthy practices. Back pain can be relieved without dramatic intervention like surgery. And often simple exercises like stretching yield enormous benefits.  

Beating the pain and taking control of your life is a strong possibility, the choice is in your hands.

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