How to Relieve Lower Back Pain 101: Remedies & Treatments to Try
Struggling with lower back pain? You’re not alone. Lower back pain is a common ailment that causes more disability than any other condition.
Whether your pain’s due to pregnancy, an old sports injury, poor posture, or lifting a heavy load, the result is the same. The pain interferes with life and can even lead to depression over time.¹
Lower back pain can cause you to miss workdays, cancel plans, and overall feel like crud. Luckily, several remedies can ease the pain right from the comfort of your home — so you can get back to living life!
This article spells out eight home remedies for how to relieve lower back pain, plus treatments and products that can provide extra relief. But first, let’s break down the two types of back pain and some common causes.
Lower Back Pain Causes: Which is the Culprit for YOU?
Low back pain can either be acute or chronic. Acute pain is short-term and lasts anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. Chronic pain is anything that lasts over 12 weeks.
Low back pain is a prevalent problem. In fact, 8 in 10 people will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. Yet, some people are more at risk.
Risk Factors Common with Low Back Pain
- Age. As you age, the discs in your vertebra dry out and shrink, which can lead to more pain and stiffness.
- Being sedentary. Sitting too much stiffens your spine and puts stress on your neck and back muscles and discs.
- Pregnancy. Being pregnant changes your posture and puts extra strain on your back.
- Smoking. Nicotine can speed up the degeneration of spinal discs.² Research shows that people who smoke have a greater risk of back pain.³
- Poor posture. Chronic slouching stresses your muscle tissue and strains the discs of your vertebra.
- Excess weight. Being overweight puts extra stress on the spine and joints.
- Lifting heavy objects (or improper lifting). When lifting, always squat using your legs — never your back.
- Chronic conditions. 95% of people recover from lower back pain within a few months. But, certain medical conditions may create chronic low back pain, including herniated disc, arthritis, osteoporosis, spinal stenosis, or ankylosing spondylitis.
How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Fast: 8 Home Remedies
When you’re struggling with low back pain, you may want to curl up in bed and wait it out. But believe it or not, too much bed rest can cause the pain to linger longer.
Instead, experiment with these home remedies to find the pain-relieving combo that’s right for you.
Being sedentary increases your risk of lower back pain.⁴ That’s because sitting too much can weaken and stiffen your muscles. It’s ironic, but one of the best things you can do when you’re in pain is get your body moving!
Exercise loosens muscles and releases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. Start with some gentle lower back pain exercises, like walking, swimming, or stretching. As your pain lessens, you can get more adventurous with your workouts.
Pay special attention to your core muscles, as they help support your back. Keeping a consistent exercise routine may prevent pain from revisiting in the future. Find something you enjoy, and stick to it!
2) Get Cold & Hot
Both ice and heat can ease low back pain. But the order you use them is key. Ice calms inflammation, so it’s best used the first 48–72 hours after a new injury.
Don’t overdo it though. Apply ice for up to 20 minutes, then give yourself a break. Also, be sure to cover your icepack with a cloth to prevent frostbite.
After you’ve iced for a couple of days, switch to heat. This will relax your muscles. Any heat will do, so work with what you have. You can bust out a heating pad, hot water bottle, or even take a hot bath. As with ice, stick to no more than 20 minutes at a time.
3) Check Your Posture (& Your Workstation)
We’re living in the age of slouching. Many people spend their days slumped over a phone, hunched over a laptop, or curled up on the couch.
Over time, this causes muscle tension and puts strain on your discs. So when your mom told you to “Sit up straight,” she was right!
Practicing good posture allows the vertebra of your spine to line up correctly. Do your best to keep your head centered over your pelvis and avoid shoulder slouching.
If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, set up an ergonomic workspace. Some tips to get you started are:
- Keep your screen at eye level
- Feet resting on the floor
- Knees level with your hips
- Wrists and forearms parallel with the floor
- Place a rolled-up towel or small pillow in your chair to support the lower back
Make sure to take sitting breaks every hour (at the very least). Or consider investing in a standing desk or adjustable height desk.
4) Stretch it Out
Not sure how to ease your pain? When it doubt — stretch it out!
Stretching reduces tension in the muscles that support the back. It also builds strength and flexibility, making future injuries less likely.
Just be gentle and move slowly. Never force yourself into painful positions.
Below are four stretches to relieve lower back pain. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds or as long as feels comfortable.
Start on all fours with your hips above your knees and shoulders above your wrists. As you inhale, arch your tailbone, drop your belly, and gaze gently towards the ceiling. On your exhale, press into your hands, tuck your tailbone, and draw your belly towards your spine.
Start on all fours and stretch back, resting your bottom on your feet. Keep your arms extended with your hands on the floor.
Knees to Chest
Lying flat on your back, pull one knee into your chest. Repeat with the other leg. You can also pull both knees into your chest and wiggle side to side. This gives your low back a gentle massage to help release tension.
Tight hamstrings can change your posture and increase stress on the low back. To keep low back pain at bay, aim to stretch your hamstrings twice a day.
Lay flat on the ground and bend one knee. Put a towel or strap under the ball of the foot of your bent leg. Gently straighten your bent leg and pull it towards your chest.
5) Give Yoga a Try
Yoga is one of the best ways to get rid of pain naturally. It combines the pain-relieving benefits of stretching with slow deep breathing, making it the perfect combo for easing stress and reducing muscle pain.
In fact, research shows that yoga is as effective as physical therapy in treating moderate to severe low back pain.⁵ If you’re not sure where to begin, there are loads of free classes available online.
Here’s one to get you started:
6) Switch Your Shoes (& Your Bag)
For some people, treating lower back pain may be as simple as swapping out your shoes and bag. If your shoes are too tight or offer little support, it can put undue pressure on your back, legs, and neck.
High heels are one of the biggest offenders, as they throw off the spine’s natural alignment. Research shows that people who wear high heels often experience more back pain.⁶
But flat shoes can aggravate pain too since they offer no back support. As a rule, aim for shoes that fit properly, support the feet, and have a heel no higher than two inches.
While you’re inspecting your wardrobe, check out your bags. Overstuffed purses, bags, backpacks, or briefcases can strain your low back. Lighten your load and you might just lighten your back pain too.
7) Get Some Solid Sleep
When it comes to lower back pain, it pays to sleep well. Studies show people who get poor sleep have an increased risk of back pain.⁷ The trouble is low back pain can also disturb your sleep.⁸ If this is the case for you, try switching your sleep position.
The ideal sleep position for a healthy back is lying on your side with your knees bent towards your chest (aka fetal position). Placing a pillow between your legs will provide some extra support. If side sleeping isn’t your thing, try sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees.
Keep in mind that sleeping on a soft mattress can cause back pain as well. So, if your mattress is soft, consider swapping it for a firmer one.
8) Ease Your Stress
Want to soothe your aching back? Then it’s time to get your stress in check! Research shows a link between chronic stress and low back pain.⁹
When you’re stressed out, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline. This causes a tightening of the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and down the spine. Over time, this can create lower back pain.
Here are a couple of ways to ease your stress (and hopefully your back pain too):
Mindfulness is gaining a lot of attention as an effective stress-buster for low back pain.¹⁰ But what exactly is mindfulness? Here’s how mindfulness founder Jon Kabat-Zinn explains it:
Mindfulness can involve meditation, but it doesn’t have to. You can be mindful washing the dishes, driving your car, or even waiting in line at the grocery store.
It’s all about staying present. Simply being aware of your bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings in a non-judgmental way can reduce your pain.
When you’re in pain, it’s easy to focus on the negative. That’s where gratitude comes in.
Practicing daily gratitude shifts your attention towards the positive, no matter how small. You might give thanks for your hot cup of coffee, a sunny day, or hearing your favorite song on the radio. It all adds up.
Science shows the more you give thanks, the happier you are.¹¹ And the happier you are, the more resilient to pain you’ll be.¹²
Want Some Help? 4 All-Natural Lower Back Pain Treatments
If you’ve tried the home remedies above but are still struggling with lower back pain, it may be time for outside help. Four lower back pain treatments that may offer relief are:
Acupuncture practitioners insert fine needles on targeted energy meridian points. They then tap or twist them to encourage energy flow (aka ‘Qi’) and promote well-being. Research shows acupuncture may relieve pain by stimulating feel-good chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.¹³
Chiropractors practice spinal manipulation. This involves applying pressure with their hands to the spinal joints to put them in proper alignment. This may increase your range of motion and reduce pain.
Getting a massage not only feels yummy, it reduces tension and improves blood flow, which is key to muscle recovery.
Studies show massage lowers the stress hormone cortisol while boosting “feel-good” neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.¹⁴ Another study found that massage increases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers, by 16% in just 30 minutes.¹⁵
Physical therapists prescribe targeted exercises and stretches to reduce pain, increase function, and prevent future injuries. A main focus is strengthening your core muscles, which support your lower back. When strength, flexibility, and endurance increase, the pain subsides.
Still in Pain? Try These Lower Back Pain Relief Products
Wondering how to relieve lower back pain fast? Many products may soothe your pain. Try building a pain-busting toolkit with the products below. The next time you’re in a flare-up, you’ll be glad you did!
OTC Medicated Creams
There are loads of skin creams, salves, ointments, and patches to ease lower back pain. These products often contain camphor, menthol, or lidocaine, which can cool, heat, or numb the problem areas. Have trouble reaching your sore spots? Ask someone for help.
A few supplements that may dial down the pain are:
- Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show turmeric is effective in relieving arthritis pain.¹⁶
- Magnesium relaxes muscles and eases stress. Getting your fill of magnesium may reduce muscle spasms.
- Devil’s Claw is an herb with anti-inflammatory properties shown to ease lower back, knee, and hip pain.¹⁷
- Omega-3 fatty acids can lower inflammation caused by back pain. Omega-3 supplements come in capsule or liquid form. Or you can up your omega-3 intake by eating more salmon, sardines, tuna, and leafy greens.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help lower pain and muscle stiffness. Some common NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
How to Ease Lower Back Pain — Next Steps
Home treatment for back pain is possible. The remedies and treatments we’ve covered can calm your pain and make it less likely to revisit in the future. Especially if you try several remedies at once! Hang in there — most lower back pain will improve in a few weeks.
However, if your pain is severe, won’t seem to go away, or interferes with your daily activities, it’s time to see your doctor. They can get the cause of your pain properly diagnosed.
So, there you have it. Now you’ve got oodles of options for how to relieve lower back pain. Play around with the remedies and treatments we’ve covered until you find the perfect pain-busting formula for you.
Maybe ditching the high heels and adjusting your workspace is just what the doctor ordered. Or maybe your body’s begging for some yoga and a massage. You’ll never find your magic pain-relieving combo until you test them out. So get to it — your back will thank you!