Lower back pain is among the leading causes of pain in the US, with research showing that at least 25% of US adults reported experiencing lower back pain over three months¹. While the condition is more common among adults, children and adolescents can also develop lower back pain.
Some of the common causes of back pain include muscle strain, accidents, and arthritis, to name a few. Other factors that can increase the risk of developing lower back pain include fitness level, age, gender, weight gain, genetics, and job-related factors.
If you are experiencing back pain, there are several effective home remedies that you can try to manage the pain. These include getting enough sleep, doing enough exercise, using heat and cold therapy, applying pain-relief cream, managing stress levels, avoiding being in the same position for too long, and mindful meditation.
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If left untreated for long, lower back issues can cause chronic pain in the back muscles and spine and even lead to permanent disabilities. Fortunately, several natural and simple home remedies can relieve lower back pain. Below is a deep dive into the various pain-relieving strategies for lower back pain:
Get enough sleep
While pain can make it difficult to sleep, not getting enough sleep can trigger or worsen back pain. Getting adequate sleep helps your body rest and relax. The body also heals and restores damaged areas during sleep.
According to a CDC report, adults need between 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day². If you have sleep problems, you probably need to address those alongside your lower back pain. You can treat sleep issues by changing your lifestyle, practicing good sleep hygiene, and taking medication, among other things.
Get enough exercises
Certain exercises such as tai chi and yoga can help ease lower back pain and strengthen muscles in your legs and core, leading to reduced lower back pain³. Additionally, exercise increases blood flow to parts of the lower back, which reduces stiffness.
There are several simple exercises that can help relieve back pain. These include bridges, knee-to-chest stretches, lower back rotational stretches, draw-in maneuvers, pelvic tilts, and cat stretches.
You have to be selective and only perform exercises that won’t cause further pain and injury to your lower back. You may need to work with a healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist, to determine the right exercise for your back pain, depending on the cause and severity.
Use heat and cold therapy
Heat and cold therapy effectively relieve back pain, both on its own or with other treatments. You can apply ice packs immediately after an injury to reduce tissue damage, inflammation, and pain. The numbing effect relieves intense pain. Ice therapy increases blood flow to the painful area, which speeds up the healing process. Applying heat along your back may also help relax stiff or achy muscles.
Use pain-relief cream
There is a wide variety of pain-relief creams available in stores and pharmacies. Many pain-relief creams have capsaicin as an ingredient. This compound is found in hot pepper and is a good back pain reliever. Other types of pain-relief creams have menthol, which helps soothe the affected area and blocks pain receptors in the body. You need to use menthol in recommended quantities as too much of it can increase your pain sensitivity, a condition that can affect your nervous system.
Manage stress levels
During stressful moments, cortisol and adrenaline are released and cause tightening of the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and down the spine⁴. Over time, tightening or tension in these areas can lead to lower back pain. Strategies to manage stress include mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and yoga.
Practice good posture
One of the major triggers of lower back pain is poor posture⁵. Poor posture can weaken the tissues in your lower back, which results in the discs and joints being pushed beyond their limits and causing pain.
Maintaining good sitting, sleeping, and standing posture can spread weight evenly across your spine and reduce pressure on the spinal discs. To strengthen your back muscles and joints, you can practice exercises like bridges, cat stretches, and pelvic tilts.
Practice mindful meditation
Meditation helps the body release endorphins or feel-good hormones. Endorphins act as natural pain relievers and help stabilize your pain levels. Meditate for at least 5 to 10 minutes every day in a quiet, dark room. Try meditating in the morning before you leave your bed or in the evening before you fall asleep.
Engage your brain
How the brain interprets pain signals has a big impact on how you feel pain. You can train your brain to ignore or reduce some pain signals with techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy.
You can also practice mindful pain management through controlled meditation, healthy eating, and avoiding stressful situations. Focus your mind on things that destruct you from negativity and stress, and practice slow and steady breathing to minimize the pain.
Initially, lower back pain may be mild and go away on its own. However, if the pain becomes severe or does not go away, you need to see a doctor.
At first, you can try treating back pain using home remedies or over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. If you don’t address the symptoms, back pain can affect your normal daily activities. If you experience back pain for more than two weeks, it could be a sign that you need to see a doctor.
Signs that you need to see a doctor include:
Pain in the back after trauma (such as a car accident)
When back pain is associated with fever (especially in people who are immunocompromised)
Loss of control over your bladder and bowel
Loss of strength and sensation in your arms and legs
Night back pains
Pains associated with certain medical conditions, e.g., osteoporosis
You may want to see your primary care doctor for diagnosis and treatment. They might refer you to a specialist if your diagnosis is unclear or further treatment is required.
You can help to relieve lower back pain by maintaining proper posture, avoiding stress, doing back-strengthening exercises, and seeking medical attention when needed. Many work-related activities increase the risk of developing back pain, including lifting heavy objects, repetitive motion, vibrations, and sitting down at your desk for long periods.
You can treat lower back pain with home remedies such as stretching, heat and cold therapies, and over-the-counter medications. However, you should see your primary care doctor if your lower back pain does not resolve with simple measures or if there are accompanying red flag symptoms, such as fever or numbness.
Acute low back pain | Centers for disease control and prevention
How much sleep do I need? - Sleep and sleep disorders | Centers for disease control and prevention
How you can ease your aches and pain with meditation | Cleveland clinic