For those of us who’ve experienced back pain, we know that there’s very little else that is as uncomfortable, inconvenient, and straight up painful.
It is estimated that around 25% of all Americans experience some type of back pain every year. (1)
Next to high blood pressure and diabetes, back pain is the number one reason for doctor’s appointments.
Unfortunately, home remedies for back pain are often overlooked in favor of pharmaceutical intervention (pain pills) and invasive procedures.
According to Dr. James Levine, Director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona state University Obesity Solutions Initiative, “Sitting is the new smoking”. (2)
Researchers have proven that the computer-centered sedentary lifestyle most Americans lead is beyond unhealthy – it’s deadly. “Sitting more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting” Levine continues “We are sitting ourselves to death.” (3)
Back problems are arguably the most common side effect of a sedentary lifestyle – but it is important to remember that correlation is not necessarily causation.
There is a relationship between sitting and mild back pain in the short term, but other factors contribute to chronic back pain.
Individuals who spend most of their time sitting tend to be less active, weigh more, and have more general health problems. (4)
How to Get Rid of Back Pain
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for back pain. Depending on the location, severity, and cause of the pain, it will likely be a process of trial and error to find relief. The best results usually come from a combination of approaches.
If and when you find a home remedy for back pain that works for you, continue to utilize that method even after your pain subsides.
Consider incorporating other home remedies for back pain and/or preventative measures to further decrease the risk of your pain coming back.
Here’s a list of 17 home remedies for back pain for you to choose from:
Stretching is one of the first instinctual responses to back pain (provided it doesn’t cause more pain). Stretching can help loosen tight muscles when done slowly and without forcing it.
Regular back stretches will not only help resolve your current issues, but help prevent future back problems.
2. Stand/Sit up Straight
As mentioned above, staying in the same position for extended periods of time is detrimental to your physical health – but it really does a number on your spine. Whether you’re sitting at a desk for most of the day or long hours commuting: do your best to sit up straight!
If you have a desk job, there are several small but effective changes you can make at your workstation. Also: don’t forget to get up and move around at regular intervals.
3. Change your Sleeping Position
This remedy might be the most difficult for some, but your sleeping positing has a huge impact on your back.
For starters: do not sleep on your stomach! Sleeping on your back is best, but if you are more comfortable on your side you can further reduce lower back pain by placing a pillow between your knees.
Clinical studies show that back pain sufferers who receive regular massages report less back pain than those who don’t. Around half of these individuals report substantial back pain relief.
You don’t necessarily need a full body massage either – targeted massage is reported to work just as well. Don’t have the time or resources for a professional massage? Grab a tennis ball and be your own massage therapist.
There’s a reason acupuncture has been around for millennia: it works. According to clinical studies, acupuncture is effective in treating chronic back pain. (5)
It is particularly effective in those that find conventional treatments ineffective. Due to the intricacies of acupuncture, be sure to get treatment from a qualified practitioner.
6. Muscle Rubs and Ointment
The use of pain-relieving muscle rubs or ointment is a popular and effective way to temporarily treat back pain. Most contain menthol, a pain-relieving compound found naturally in minty plants (think peppermint, wintergreen, spearmint).
These rubs are usually very effective for muscle pain, but you may need to experiment to find which one works best for you,
7. Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salt is cheap, easy to use, and very effective for back pain when used in a warm bath. Pour up to two cups of Epsom salt into warm (but not too hot) bathwater and soak for around 15 minutes.
For a truly relaxing experience, add a few drops of lavender essential oil as well. For added pain relief, use peppermint essential oil.
8. Scale Back Your Exercise Routine
While exercise can provide a rush of endorphins (a natural pain killer), overdoing it at the gym is guaranteed to exacerbate your back pain.
The human body is smart: it will let you know the difference between mild discomfort and pain. Unless you have severe back pain, a low impact workout will do you a world of good. (6)
Using an effective muscle rub or ointment prior to exercise – along with some gentle back stretches – will help get you ready to workout.
9. Strengthen Your Core
Maintaining strong core abdominal muscles is quite possibly the most overlooked and underutilized method to fight and (especially) prevent lower back pain.
Michael Kelly, a certified neuromuscular therapist, recommends focusing on abdominal and glute strengthening exercises.
Stronger core muscles help to take stress off your back throughout the day, reducing both lower and upper back pain.
10. Hot/Cold Therapy
Hot and cold packs can provide more pain relief than you might think. Heat therapy stimulates blood flow with healing properties to the area, and also works by blocking some of the pain signals from reaching the brain.
Cold therapy significantly reduces inflammation and acts as a temporary local anesthetic. For best results, alternate hot and cold packs on the part of your back that hurts. Try not to leave the packs on for more than 15 minutes at a time (each).
11. Focus on Your Hamstrings
In addition to performing back stretches, make sure to stretch out your hamstrings daily. Your hamstrings are large, powerful muscles that exert a lot of force on your pelvis and lower back. (7)
Lower back and sciatic nerve pain are hallmark signs of tight hamstrings. Watch this video on proper hamstring stretches and you should start seeing results very quickly.
12. Look to Natural Painkillers
Most people will turn to over-the-counter or prescription painkillers for back pain relief. While these medications have their place, you should consider natural painkillers (such as menthol muscle rubs) whenever possible.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and narcotic painkillers are notorious for harmful side effects, addiction, and rebound pain (often worse than the original pain) as they leave your system. Give some natural options a go before turning to pills.
13. Change Your Shoes
For some people, back pain is a complicated issue with complicated causes. For others, solving back pain is as simple as getting a good pair of supportive shoes.
Anyone that spends long hours on their feet, runs long distances, or has ever been in the military will tell you that a good pair of shoes makes all the difference when it comes to knee, hip, and back pain. Look for flat, cushioned shoes with decent arch support. Women should avoid wearing high heels.
If you really want to get technical, have your gait, alignment, and feet analyzed by a professional to determine the best shoes for you. They may even recommend custom insoles to prevent and treat back pain.
14. Try Yoga
Compared to conventional treatment methods, chronic low back pain sufferers who practice yoga report significantly more pain reduction.
Yoga provides pain relief in several ways: release of endorphins (a natural painkiller), stretching, core/glute/hamstring strengthening, and improved mental health.
If you’re not sure about going to a yoga class just yet, try some of these beginner yoga poses for back pain relief at home first.
15. Lose Weight
Excess weight affects nearly every aspect of your health, not the least of which is your back. An estimated one-third of all American adults are obese (even more are overweight) – which means it is no surprise that back pain is such a common issue. Extra weight in general places more pressure on all of the discs in your spine. (8)
Excess weight around the abdomen exerts even more strain on your lower back – especially if you have weakened core muscles.
For the sake of your overall health and to reduce pain in your back (and knees and hips and neck), follow a realistic diet and exercise plan. Slow, sustained weight loss is the best way to go.
16. Limit Screen Time
This is the first step in becoming more active, less sedentary, and improving your posture. Most people slouch when watching TV, working on their computer, and playing on their phone. Get out from in front of the screens as often as possible, and pay close attention to your posture when you can.
17. Take Care of Your Mental Health
There is a strong correlation between mental health and physical pain. One study found that individuals who score poorly on mental health psychological tests are three times more likely to report back pain.
Keeping a healthy mind and a positive outlook helps reduce pain levels, especially in those that can’t find pain relief through conventional treatment methods.
Back pain is a drag, but these simple home remedies for back pain are a great place to start. If one method doesn’t work, try another.
The best results will likely come from a combination of the above recommendations, so don’t be afraid to try more than one in the same day.
Be aware of your body – there is a difference between discomfort and pain. If something causes extra pain, don’t try it again unless your back pain is gone or you’re under the supervision of a professional.
Good luck and be well!