Many people who experience back pain try to address their condition with at-home remedies before seeking medical treatment; in fact, some people are able to fully control their pain using these low-level interventions. While it is advisable to seek treatment for pain lasting more than a week or two, there is nothing wrong with trying to resolve back pain on your own. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of some easy treatment options you can try when your back pain first arises.
1. Temperature Therapy
Temperature therapy involves harnessing the natural healing properties of hot and cold temperatures to control musculoskeletal pain. Both extremes in temperatures can be used to treat back pain, but the order in which you use the two extremes is critically important. When you first experience back pain, you should ice it, then use heat; apply ice during the first 24 to 48 hours and then follow up with heat after that initial time period has passed. To ice your back, place an ice pack wrapped in cloth over the site of pain for no more than ten minutes at a time, repeating as needed throughout the day. After two days of cold therapy, you can begin to apply heat—any sooner and you run the risk of drawing more inflammatory compounds to the site of injury. Refrain from applying the heat source directly to your skin, but rather wrap the heat source in cloth so there is a barrier between it and your skin. Never sleep with a heating pad since you can easily burn yourself if the protective cloth slips away.
2. Over-the-Counter Medications
One of the most common sources of back pain is the inflammation that surrounds sites of damage in the spine. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, could help relieve this type of acute back pain. Be sure to take these medications only as directed by your doctor, as they can be harmful to people with certain conditions or in combination with other medications. Furthermore, overuse can cause serious side effects, so do not rely on NSAIDs for long-term pain relief. If over-the-counter pain medications don’t relieve your pain or the relief stops after a few days, there are stronger NSAIDs that can be prescribed by a healthcare provider.
3. Pilates, Yoga, and Stretching
One of the most important things you can do to relieve or prevent back pain is ensuring the muscles of your core and back are strong and flexible enough to keep your spine stable in motion and at rest. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, namely regular practice in pilates, yoga, and stretching. There is strong evidence to suggest that workout regimens like yoga, which require slow, controlled, full-body movements, can have a very real impact on back pain. However, before picking up any kind of new workout, make sure you confirm with your primary care physician that you are healthy enough to safely participate.
If your back pain is the result of strained soft tissues—think muscles, ligaments, and tendons—you could benefit from bodywork treatments like massage. During a massage, your masseuse will work to isolate and manually release tension in the back muscles that are causing you pain. The two primary muscles that are typically targeted during a therapeutic back massage are the quadratus lumborum and the gluteus medius because focusing on these muscles can help release tension in the targeted muscles and on the spine itself.
5. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is a combination of stretching, strengthening and cardiovascular exercises aimed at strengthening the core to stabilize the spine, which can help relieve pain and pressure on the vertebral column and allow natural healing to occur. It is very often the first treatment modality a healthcare provider will suggest as it has a high success rate, so trying some basic rehabilitative exercises at home before seeking medical treatment is a good idea. There is also a significant postural component to physical therapy, so focusing on keeping your back straight throughout the day, especially while sitting down for long periods of time, and using good form when lifting heavy objects is an integral part of the process. Continued, regular use of the exercises and techniques you learn in physical therapy can help keep pain from returning.
6. Chiropractic Care
A chiropractor is a medical professional who focuses on treating disorders of the musculoskeletal system through manual manipulation, meaning they physically move the body to eliminate pain and increase mobility. They do not prescribe medication of any kind, but rather focus on harnessing the power of manual therapies like spinal manipulation, mobilization, massage, and other adjunctive therapies to provide relief. Chiropractors can treat a wide variety of conditions and have had great success in managing musculoskeletal injuries without narcotic pain medication.