Exercise to get muscles moving
It can be challenging to get up and move when back pain strikes. However, a short walk, yoga, water exercise, or another low-impact activity can often help alleviate back pain. Exercise may loosen tense muscles and release endorphins, which are the brain’s natural painkillers. A person can also consider starting a daily exercise program, including strength training and stretching, to help keep muscles flexible and strong. Regular exercise may prevent future episodes of back pain that are due to tight muscles.
Use heat and cold
Studies show that heat and cold are effective ways to get relief from back pain. Ice packs are most beneficial when a person uses them directly after an injury, such as a strain. Applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel directly to the back can reduce inflammation. Cold may also provide a numbing effect for sudden, intense back pain. A person can use cold packs designed for pain relief, or in a pinch, use a bag of ice or frozen vegetables covered with a cloth to protect the skin from frostbite. It is best not to apply ice for more than 20 minutes at a time.
A heating pad can also relieve stiff or achy muscles. People should be sure to read and follow the instructions on any heating pad and test the temperature carefully to ensure it is not too hot. If a heating pad is unavailable, a person can use a hot water bottle or heat a cloth bag of uncooked rice in the microwave.
The following stretches may help relieve back pain. People should hold each stretch for 30 seconds or as long as it feels comfortable.
Touching the toes: In addition to stretching the hamstrings, bending forward to reach your toes will help loosen the muscles in the lower back.
Cobra Pose: Lying on your stomach, with your hands face down beside the shoulders, gently lift your chest up so that the top of your head points toward the ceiling.
Cat-Cow Pose: Beginning on your hands and knees, slowly alternate between arching your back toward the ceiling and dipping it toward the floor.
Child’s Pose: Sitting on the heels with your knees hip-width apart, lean forward to place your head on the floor, stretching your arms out in front of your head.
Get enough sleep
Research shows that sleep disturbances could make pain worse. Lack of sleep can also affect how much pain a person can tolerate, according to another study. An uncomfortable mattress, pillows that are the wrong size, or simply not getting adequate sleep could trigger back pain. Most adults should be getting 7–9 hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Proper comfort and alignment of the back is essential for sleep quality and avoiding back pain in the morning. Makes sure the pillow is supportive enough to keep the back and neck in a straight line. People who sleep on their side should place an extra pillow between their knees. A person should speak to a doctor if lack of sleep continues to be a problem. Sleep disorders are often treatable. Getting enough rest may help relieve pain and can improve a person’s overall health.
Massage therapy for back pain
Studies have shown that massage treatments can help relieve chronic low back pain. Massage treatment can restore people to their usual activities of daily living and lessen pain. Massage therapy is limited, and would not be the most effective solution for patients with spinal complications, injuries, or disk problems since massage focuses on the release of muscle tension and not on the structure of the spine itself.
Manage or reduce stress
Stress can trigger muscle tension and painful spasms, including in the back. If long-term stress or a traumatic event seems to have caused back pain, a person can try stress-relief techniques, such as:
- Mindfulness meditation. One study showed that mindfulness-based stress reduction improved back pain. Mindfulness involves being aware of what the body is doing and using meditation techniques to assist with the pain.
- Deep breathing. Taking deep breaths in and out for several minutes can calm the body’s stress response.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. This involves tensing and relaxing muscles in the body, focusing on one muscle group at a time. Lying on their back, a person can start with their feet and gradually move up to the shoulders.
- Guided imagery. This involves focusing on specific mental images to bring about a feeling of relaxation. One study found guided imagery and music helps with work-related chronic stress.
- Yoga. Yoga focuses on particular poses and breathing and can help with relaxation, especially when practiced regularly. One review found yoga to be an effective stress management tool.
- Massage therapy. can provide substantial healing and pain relief for people suffering from back pain caused by muscle tension and strain, if the correct muscles are targeted.
When to see a doctor
People can often treat back pain with home remedies and some patience. However, a person should speak to a doctor about chronic or severe back pain.
A doctor may recommend physical therapy, massage therapy , medication, or other treatments. People who have existing health conditions or who take regular medications should speak to a doctor before trying any herbs or supplements.