With 80% of people reporting back pain at some point in their lives, the popularity of home remedies for back pain is soaring. Many patients want to find relief in the least invasive way possible, avoiding prescription medications and potentially painful surgeries with long recovery times. If you or someone you love is suffering from back pain, here are 17 home remedies for back pain that can help you find relief.
Why does my back hurt?
The anatomy of our backs makes them alternately very strong and incredibly vulnerable. Our spinal column consists of 33 vertebrae in five regions: cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back), lumbar (lower back), sacrum, and coccyx (tailbone). These vertebrae are separated by intervertebral discs that cushion the bones and help them move smoothly.
Weaving in and out of the bones are all of the nerves that control movement and sensation. These nerves weave around muscles large and small, all of which help to keep our bodies stable and upright.
Fascia is wrapped all around the bones and the muscles and even weaves in between muscle fibers and through the joints of the spine. This connective tissue collects in tendons and ligaments that connect bones to bones and muscles to muscles.
Causes of back pain
With so many elements at play, there are plenty of potential reasons why your back might hurt. Some of the most common include:
- Arthritis: There are over 100 types of arthritis, some of which can affect the spine
- Injury: Weekend warriors and professional athletes alike suffer back pain
- Degenerative disc disease: With age, wear and tear on the discs can cause painful degeneration
- Herniated disc: The intervertebral disc can rupture or bulge due to trauma or pressure over time
- Spinal stenosis: This narrowing of the spinal column compresses nerves and can cause excruciating sciatic pain
- Poor posture: Chronic poor posture changes the physiology of your spine and can cause chronic pain
- Pregnancy: The shifting weight of pregnancy puts tremendous pressure on the lower back
- Back spasms: This sharp muscular contraction can take your breath away
There are many more conditions that cause back pain, many of which share some common risk factors. As we age, we experience age-related back pain more frequently. There is some indication that genetics may also play a role in certain types of back pain (e.g., arthritis).
Additionally, people with a high body-mass index (BMI) and those that are inactive are more likely to suffer from back pain.
How is back pain diagnosed?
Even when the cause of back pain is easily uncovered (i.e., a car accident), it is important to get a thorough and proper diagnosis to determine which home remedies for back pain will work the best for you. For example, you’d treat a sprained muscle differently than age-related damage from arthritis.
For a proper diagnosis, your doctor will collect your medical history and perform a physical exam. They may use an MRI to look for soft tissue damage and an X-ray to make sure there are no bone fractures. An MRI can also uncover any issues involving the intervertebral discs.
Once you have a diagnosis, you can get started with home remedies for back pain under your doctor’s supervision. Always make sure to ask them any questions you have and these remedies alongside any other treatments they recommend.
17 home remedies for back pain relief
There are nearly as many home remedies for back pain relief as there are types of back pain! Knowing how to treat back pain naturally can be an empowering experience. They’re especially helpful when you have generally achy back pain that you can’t trace back to a specific injury or other condition.
Here are 17 of our favorite home remedies for back pain:
- Posture correction
- Core exercises
- Whole-body exercises
- Sleep hygiene
- Ergonomic changes
- Hot/cold therapy
- OTC medications
- Partner massage
- Chiropractic care
- Dietary changes
- Essential oils
- Biofeedback therapy
- Back stretchers
- Back braces
1. Posture correction
Although it seems old-fashioned, there is something to that old model of walking around with a book on your head. Poor posture is one of the prime causes of back pain, but it can be corrected with time and practice.
Working from the ground up, take time to understand what good posture looks and feels like, making any necessary changes to protect the natural curve of your spine.
2. Core exercises
If you want a stronger back, you need a stronger front. Core exercise that targets the whole of the abdomen (not just the superficial muscles that form the sought-after six-pack) can help heal your back pain naturally.
Look for low-impact exercise that can be modified for your current fitness level. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise plan for back pain.
3. Whole-body exercise
A first-line prescription for prevention and treatment of back pain is exercise. While above exercises focus on building the core to stabilize the back, whole-body exercise is equally important.
Many doctors recommend yoga for all types of back pain (including lower back pain) as the postures can be modified to a patient’s overall fitness level and goals. Swimming is another great treatment as it is low-impact and exercises every part of the body (including the cardiovascular system).
For patients who are overweight or in very poor physical health, starting a gentle daily walking program can make a huge difference in their back pain and overall health.
Stretching is often recommended as one of the best home remedies for lower back pain, but patients can feel the benefits no matter where their pain is located.
5. Sleep hygiene
If you wake up every morning with an aching back, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at your sleep hygiene.
Normally prescribed for patients with insomnia, sleep hygiene in this case refers to all of the factors that go into getting a back-healthy night’s sleep. Maybe it’s time to look at your pillows and mattress to see if they are supportive enough. Perhaps your sleeping position could use some work.
Whatever the case may be, research has shown that a poor night’s sleep makes pain worse. Take the time to investigate how good sleep can help as one of your home remedies for back pain.
6. Ergonomic changes
Our environment has a lot to do with our back health. If you have a desk chair that collapses in your lower back, add a firm pillow for lumbar support.
Better yet, find an ergonomically supportive chair that is the proper height and comes with built-in support!
7. Hot/cold therapy
A first-line treatment for back pain of all types is hot and cold therapy.
In general, cold therapy eases inflammation and hot therapy releases clenched or spasming muscles. You can use hot and cold therapy separately or together, as directed by your doctor.
8. OTC medications
While overuse of over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause dangerous side effects, these medications can provide tremendous back pain relief when used properly.
Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium ease pain while controlling inflammation, both of which allow you to perform other therapies (e.g., exercise) when the time is right.
Using tennis balls and twisted towels, self-massage can be a remarkably effective home remedy for back pain.
In addition to releasing sore and clenched muscles, pressing into myofascial trigger points can actually encourage healing in the area being massaged. A quick massage of the neck, shoulders, and lower back can make a world of difference in your pain level.
10. Partner massage
Chronic pain can have a deleterious effect on a patient’s relationships. One way to heal both an aching back and a sore relationship is through partner massage.
Following simple massage rules to ensure everyone’s comfort, giving and receiving massage can be a great way to connect with each other while healing back pain.
Acupuncture as a medical practice is over 3,000 years old. Focusing on meridians (energy lines) that run through the body, hair-thin needles are inserted and left for a period of time. The theory is that pain and dysfunction occur where energy is blocked. Inserting needles unblocks the energy and allows healing to occur.
There is research to back up the claim that acupuncture provides measurable and sustained relief for chronic lower back pain.
12. Chiropractic care
The goal of chiropractic care is to bring a full, pain-free range of motion back to a properly aligned spine. The best part? Chiropractic is one of the best remedies for back pain that comes with no side effects. It’s done in a clinic so it’s not a true home remedy, but in a short space of time, you can have great results.
A chiropractor can use manual adjustments or special instruments to adjust the spine, releasing pressure on the discs and nerves that may be causing pain.
13. Dietary changes
In many cases, back pain is accompanied by inflammation. In response to an injury, inflammation is protective and can help prevent further damage. Chronic inflammation, such as that caused by a diet high in fats, sugar, and processed foods, can cause damage to the tissues, bones, and organs.
Making dietary changes to support back health includes adding plenty of fruits, vegetables, and anti-inflammatory foods for healing into your diet while simultaneously restricting added sugars and processed foods.
14. Essential oils
Dilute them in a carrier oil and then massage in to the affected area during a self or partner massage.
15. Biofeedback therapy
Biofeedback therapy uses the power of your mind to reframe the way you experience back pain. While this will not repair your herniated disc or heal a fractured vertebra, biofeedback therapy can help you to better process the pain to make the negative experience less traumatic.
A therapist uses psychological and physiological techniques to help you retrain your mind’s reaction to involuntary stimulation (in this case, back pain). While not technically available at home, the techniques you learn during a session can be applied anywhere.
16. Back stretchers
Especially for compression in the spine that causes back pain, back stretchers can provide pain relief. These machines provide a break from gravity, making space between the vertebra.
When used in the acute phases of back pain, this therapeutic traction can give patients the relief they need to incorporate other home remedies for back pain. Since these can be powerful movements, always check first with your doctor to make sure they won’t exacerbate your pain.
17. Back braces
Back braces provide stability and support in the spine during regular activity and prescribed exercise.
These are also excellent for preventing back injury, especially for people in occupations that require heavy lifting and repetitive motions that use their back (e.g., twisting).
Even as you get started with home remedies for back pain, there really is no substitute for working with a doctor. Getting a proper diagnosis is key to choosing the best home remedies. For example, deep massage on or near disc issues can only exacerbate the problem.
Approaching back pain holistically and from multiple angles can help restore your healthy back. Many people find relief from a combination of approaches that include home remedies for back pain along with traditional treatment methods.
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