People spend almost $50 billion a year trying to relieve back pain with medication, chiropractic work, acupuncture, and other remedies. Thankfully, though, there are a number of things you can do right at home to bring immediate relief and fight off future back pain.
Get On Your Feet
Most people spend a good chunk of each day sitting behind a desk, not to mention the hours relaxing on the couch or using the computer. Sitting or bending over for long periods puts unnecessary strain on the back, and over time it can even affect the curvature of the spine or lead to underdeveloped lower back muscles.
Take time out of your day to get up and move around, stretch, or lie down. To relieve existing lower back pain, most experts suggest at least a minute or two on your feet for every 20 minutes that you spend sitting down.
Alternate Hot and Cold
When lower back pain strikes, it’s time to break out the ice packs and heating pads. Applying both cold and heat to the sore area works for a few different reasons: the cold reduces inflammation and slows down nerve impulses, which prevents muscle twitches and spasms. Then, heat helps by stimulating blood flow to the affected area, which accelerates the body’s natural healing process, while simultaneously reducing pain signals being sent to the brain.
If you have recurring back pain, keep an ice pack or two in the freezer, and follow it up with a heated water bottle, heating pad, or a nice, warm bath.
Stretch Your Hamstrings
When your back hurts, the obvious solution may be to stretch the sore areas directly. However, many people don’t realize that one of the most common culprits behind lower back pain is stiff or underdeveloped hamstrings. For people who are inactive or spend most of their day sitting down, the hamstrings are rarely put under tension, which can eventually impact your posture and put strain on the pelvic and lower back muscles. In extreme cases, tight hamstrings can even contribute to pelvic tilt.
Devote a few minutes each day to simple at-home exercises that target the hamstrings, such as lunges, body weight squats, hip raises, and leg lifts. Strengthening your hamstrings can correct posture over time, and the increased blood flow from exercising will also provide some immediate pain relief.
Focus on Good Posture
Better posture won’t happen overnight, but if you make a deliberate effort to improve, you might be surprised by how quickly your lower back pain symptoms begin to fade. Any time you pass a mirror, pay attention to the way you are standing. Try to maintain a straight neck and back, while keeping your chest high and slightly forward.
Once you start focusing on your posture, you will be able to catch yourself slouching and take steps to correct it. If you work in an office setting, consider investing in a posture-correcting seat pad. Some people who work from home even choose to use a standing desk to reduce lower back stress.
Find Your Trigger Points
“Trigger points” work under the assumption that your lower back pain has a particular point of origin within a specific muscle or group of muscles. Often, the place where you feel back pain is not necessarily the spot that’s causing it. Feel around the affected area for the spot that is most tender or painful. Apply firm pressure to this point with your thumb, knuckle, or something like a tennis ball. Massage the area in a single direction, as if you were ironing the pain out.
Once you have discovered your trigger points, you can massage them multiple times throughout the day to provide temporary relief.
Get Better Sleep
Better-quality sleep can make a big difference when it comes to reducing lower back pain. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially if that back pain is making it harder to get a good night’s rest. In cases of chronic, recurring back pain, it may be worthwhile to invest in a firmer, more supportive mattress. If that isn’t an option, some experts recommend placing a pillow underneath your knees or using a rolled towel under your lower back to reduce stress on the spine while sleeping.
Sleeping flat on your back usually is the most beneficial position for reducing back pain, while sleeping on your stomach is the most harmful, as it puts pressure on your muscles and leaves the spine unsupported. However, some people have reported that sleeping on their side with a pillow between their knees provided the most relief, so don’t be afraid to try out new sleeping positions to find the one that works best for you.
Even mild back pain can make everyday tasks difficult, and sometimes it seems as though nothing helps. Try these remedies, and see a professional chiropractor, doctor or other health professional if the problem doesn’t go away.
Written by Peter Vossman