Back pain is one of the most wide-spread pain conditions in the U.S, with approximately 80-90% of the population experiencing it at some point in their life, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Fortunately, if you suffer from lower back pain, there are many different treatments for lower back pain. These may include exercise, massage, physical therapy, or interventional treatments like epidural steroid injections. Here are 25 of our favorite ways to find lower back pain relief, fast.
25 ways to find lower back pain relief, fast
Before trying any of these options, make sure you’re approved to do so by your doctor. In some cases, certain exercises or therapies may exacerbate your pain, depending on its source.
1. Get a proper diagnosis
With X-rays and MRIs abounding these days, it would seem that a proper diagnosis is easy, but in many cases, patients are over- or under-diagnosed for their condition. A new scan called single photon emission computed tomography, combined with computed tomography (SPECT/CT) is able to look for causes of low back pain that are not structural in nature, offering more accurate diagnoses. Patients who underwent this type of scan in addition to more traditional bone scans achieved 50% greater pain relief than those who did not, indicating that their treatments were more accurate due to a more accurate initial diagnosis.
Likewise, working with a dedicated back pain doctor can help you more accurately diagnose your condition. And, with a better diagnosis, can come better treatments.
2. Avoid too much bed rest
While many people think that bed rest is necessary during severe lower back pain episodes, the opposite is typically true. WebMD notes that: “Studies show that people with short-term low-back pain who rest feel more pain and have a harder time with daily tasks than those who stay active.”
3. Use ice to reduce inflammation after an injury
If your lower back pain was caused by an injury (we’re looking at you, weekend warriors!), try icing it. E. Anne Reicherter, an associate of physical therapy at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, writes on WebMD that:
“Ice is best in the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury because it reduces inflammation. Even though the warmth feels good because it helps cover up the pain and it does help relax the muscles, the heat actually inflames the inflammatory processes.”
4. Exercise exercise exercise!
In many cases, low back pain is caused by inadequate use of the muscles in the body, and the key way to reduce lower back pain fast is to start with exercise. Low impact exercise like walking is a great place to start, and swimming, a low impact exercise that utilizes the whole body, is even better. Talk to your pain doctor, then start your new exercise plan slowly, adding length to the workout or intensity as you build strength. Our post, “Exercise Is Really THAT Important For Lower Back Pain” goes over much of the research related to this.
5. Get in your “oms” with yoga for lower back pain
Yoga–when done safely–can be one of the most effective therapies for finding lower back pain relief fast. BreakingMuscle.com showcases five of their favorite yoga poses for lower back pain, including:
- Supine hamstring stretch
- Two-knee twist
- Pigeon, or thread-the-needle
- Legs up the wall
Head on over to their page to watch videos that show how to do each pose correctly.
6. Create a low-inflammation diet
For lower back pain with its roots in inflammation, eliminating inflammatory foods from the diet can be a great way to help control pain. Gluten, dairy, and sugar are common inflammatory foods. The good news is that there are all kinds of options to make these changes easier. There are also many delicious inflammation-fighting foods to substitute, such as salmon (or other fish with omega-3s), tart cherries, ginger, almonds, and turmeric.
7. Consider herbal remedies for your lower back pain
Healthline.com gives a few examples of herbal supplements that can also help you reduce lower back pain. They note:
“Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. It may help reduce inflammation associated with back pain, especially helpful after strenuous activities. Consider simmering fresh ginger root slices in hot water for about 30 minutes to prepare a spicy but soothing cup of tea. Capsaicin has also shown some promise for reducing pain. It’s the active ingredient in chili peppers. You can find it in both topical cream and oral supplement forms.”
8. Focus on your sleep
As Spine-Health.com writes:
“Pain is a leading cause of insomnia—difficulty with falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Approximately two-thirds of people with chronic back pain suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Paradoxically, inadequate sleep can make your back pain worse. This vicious cycle makes it ineffective to treat just the pain. If you have sleep problems, you need to get the sleep problems addressed too.”
Find all of our tips for improving your sleep quality, including finding a better mattress and pillow, here.
9. Work on weight loss
Think about the structure of the lower back. One thin column of vertebrae is the only body structure that connects the upper body with the lower. This spiny column is surrounded by muscles, tissues and organs. Supporting all of this is a lot to ask, especially if extra weight is present in that area. For those who have gained weight and are carrying it mostly in their belly, the lumbar curve can become overly pronounced (referred to as lordosis), placing extra strain on the lumbar vertebrae that results in low back pain. Losing weight and adding muscle to the core can decrease this strain and help support the spine.
10. Check your bags
In many cases, our bags or purses are causing a lot of strain on back muscles. Finding a better alternative is a way to help relieve lower back pain, fast. Health.com notes:
“If your purse or briefcase tips the scales at more than 10% of your weight, it’s too heavy. And you need to carry it right. Your best bet is a model with a long strap that lets you position it across your chest like a messenger bag.”
11. Meditate your way to relief
Meditation can be a wonderful tool for reducing lower back pain. Can you believe sitting and focusing on your breathing can actually improve your life? It’s true. Studies show a clear connection. In a 2011 Journal of Neuroscience study, researchers found a group of volunteers sharply reduced their pain perceptions after engaging in 20-minute meditation sessions for four days. The volunteers received mild burns during this, but meditating reduced the pain intensity ratings by 40%.
However, sitting in a meditation posture—legs crossed and on the floor—can exacerbate back pain. Pain during meditation is more than uncomfortable. It can distract you from your practice. If you feel pain, don’t be afraid to try new positions to find one that works better for you. And, any workarounds are available for this issue, including:
- Sitting on a pillow or cushion to prop up your hips
- Sitting in a chair
- Lying down
12. Try biofeedback
Biofeedback training is the process whereby a patient learns to recognize the physical signs of stress in the body brought on by pain. They then learn techniques to help control the stress response, easing the pain and working through it. While this does not necessarily eliminate the physical cause of pain, research has shown that biofeedback training can greatly decrease the sensation of pain in the body. There are no side effects to practicing biofeedback responses.
13. Splurge for the massage
Massage is a great way to encourage tight muscles to relax. In the beginning of treatment, patients may only be able to tolerate the lightest of touches. By the end, the massage therapist may be leaning into crunchy places with an elbow, working the kinks out of the deepest tissues in the body. You might also consider adding in some aromatherapy. Dr. Axe advises that some in particular, such as peppermint, are great at reducing inflammation.
14. Stretch it out
Find 18 great lower back pain stretches at:
- Our site in the post, “6 Lower Back Pain Exercises For Stretching” or three more at the video below
- An ebook produced by Advanced Pain Management that showcases six more stretches for lower back pain
- HealDove, which also showcases photos for how to do the three recommended stretches safely
15. Hold some static poses with the Egoscue method
While this method of stretching is fairly new with less empirical research behind it, it encourages healing by creating movement and activity in areas of the body that are typically static. (Think sitting on that chair all day.) The ModernHealthMonk gives a great overview of this therapy, with some stretches to try. It’s not one of the fastest ways to find lower back pain relief, but it may be one of the more simple ways.
16. Try applying acupressure to pain acupoints
Acupressure practitioners claim that by pressing certain points on the body, you can help reduce tension and lower back pain. It’s an easy practice to try out from the comfort of your own chair.
17. Use tennis balls to reduce muscle tension
Similar to acupressure, many rave about how using tennis balls to target these pain points have helped them find lower back pain relief fast. The BackPainAdvisor has a longer explanation for how to use tennis balls to relieve pain.
18. Work on your posture
Healthline.com notes that:
“Most of us spend a good amount of time sitting down, whether it’s at work or during the commute to and from work. Sitting down for long periods of time may be more harmful than you realize. But you can minimize the impact by sitting properly. Correct posture in a chair means having all the bones in your spine lined up neatly, like a stack of perfectly aligned blocks. This means keeping your feet flat on the floor and your computer keyboard within easy reach so you’re not leaning forward. This is one part of proper office ergonomics.”
Find more information about how to work on your posture in our post “How To Improve Posture For Less Back Pain.”
19. Stop smoking
We’ll say it over and over again, smoking can have some of the most deleterious effects on your body. Simply stopping smoking is one of the best ways to find lower back pain relief fast. As The Arthritis Foundation writes:
“Smoking decreases oxygen to the various tissues that have difficulty getting oxygen in the first place, such as the discs in your spine. Research has shown a high prevalence of spinal stenosis (a condition where the spinal canal is not large enough for the spinal cord) among smokers. Smoking also is a risk factor for osteoporosis, which can lead to painful vertebral fractures.”
20. Head in for physical therapy
Often used in conjunction with other methods of pain relief, physical therapy can be one of the best ways to learn proper and appropriate rehabilitation techniques for lower back pain. Exercise is great, but many people with good intentions hit the gym and use equipment improperly, causing further injury. A physical therapist works with a patient’s doctor to help design a specific program and then teaches proper form to get the most benefit. They can also map out an exercise plan for further strengthening and injury prevention.
21. Visit a chiropractor
According to a Consumer Reports survey of over 14,000 people with back pain, chiropractic care was rated number one for back pain relief, even above prescription pain medication and other traditional methods of care. Learn more about this option in our post “You Should See A Chiropractor For Back Pain — Here’s Why.”
22. Try out acupuncture for back pain
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that focuses on opening up the energy channels in the body by inserting hair-like needles into specific points in the body. Reliable research studies of acupuncture’s effectiveness are mixed, but many people report lower back pain relief fast with few or no side effects. Some insurance companies now cover this outpatient treatment for the cost of a co-pay, so it may be worth a try!
23. Use over-the-counter medicines as needed
Sometimes all your low back needs is the anti-inflammatory boost of an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen. As a long-term solution and taken in high doses, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been shown to have serious side effects like gastrointestinal bleeding, but for an acute injury or in the case of a minor back strain, NSAIDs can be a safe, effective treatment.
24. Consider if prescription medications could work for you
While not recommended for long-term, chronic pain, some prescription medications can be very effective in treating short-term, acute back pain. Opioids have a controversial history that includes an increase in the rates of dependence and a decrease in effectiveness, as we covered in our post “Sorry, Opioids Probably Aren’t Helping Your Lower Back Pain.” For specific types of back pain, however, other types of medications may help, such as muscle relaxants or antidepressants.
25. Try out back pain injections
Facet joint injections and medial branch blocks are two minimally-invasive surgical techniques that can be used both as a diagnostic tool and as a way to relieve low back pain. In this outpatient treatment, doctors inject a numbing agent either directly into the joint (facet) or into the affected nerve (medial branch). If pain relief is achieved, the treatment is successful and can be repeated up to three times per year. If it is not effective, then the doctor has eliminated a possible cause of pain. Side effects are minimal and usually eliminated by proper placement of the needle.
Other back pain injections include:
- Lumbar facet nerve block: These injections are administered in the same manner as facet joint injections along the sides of the spine. There may be one or more injections, depending on the severity of the pain. These blocks can be therapeutic, blocking pain, or diagnostic to see if the back is where the issue lies. If a patient has a cold or the flu or is on blood thinners, the doctor will not be able to perform this intervention.
- Sacroiliac injections: Sacroiliac injections are given directly into the sacroiliac joint. These injections can offer lower back pain relief fast, with results that lasts from 24-48 hours with a steroid medication, or just a couple hours with a local anesthetic. These can also be used as diagnostic tools.
- Epidural steroid injections: The goal of these injections is to reduce inflammation and pain in the nerve roots as they exit the spine. A local anesthetic and a steroid are injected into the epidural space, the area right outside the membrane that covers the spinal cord and its nerves. Patients can experience a significant reduction in pain due to these injections, but more than one is generally needed.
Finding back pain relief
If these 25 options for finding back pain relief fast didn’t work for you, there are more intensive options. Surgical options such as spinal fusion and discography are at the extreme end of treatment options. They are more invasive than other treatments listed, but in the hands of an experienced pain management and spine specialist, they can be effective at relieving certain types of severe low back pain.
When tackling lower back pain, your best bet is to work closely with a back pain doctor who can first diagnose the exact cause of your pain and then work diligently to find options that work best for your pain. Click the button below to find a doctor in your area.