How to Relieve Lower Back Pain: The Ultimate Guide to Pain-Busting Strategies for Relief (at Home)!
Dealing with lower back pain can be exhausting!
At its worst, one wrong move and lightning pain rips through your back. You are terrified to move again because you want to avoid that searing pain. You are stranded, hostage to a tyrant.
At its “best”, lower back pain can be a steady dull ache that just never seems to go away.
Lower back pain makes ordinary activities difficult and even robs you of sleep. It’s a constant reminder that you are not well. You feel controlled by your pain, limited in what you do because the pain is always there.
If lower back pain has become your invisible tyrant robbing you of life’s enjoyment, then take heart. There ARE solutions you can try right at home!
Let’s take a look at the main causes of lower back pain and the pain-busting strategies that will show you how to relieve lower back pain right at home. You’ll be swinging back into life in no time! Let’s get started.
Causes of Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain comes in two forms: Acute and Chronic. Acute pain is the type of pain that arises from a recent injury. Chronic pain is the type of pain that develops from a medical condition or a historical injury.
This guide has 5 main sections to make it easier to find the pain-relief strategies you are looking for:
- The Slip & Fall Route to Acute Back Pain
- Don’t Be a Hero: When to see a doctor
- Chronic Lower Back Pain: The Ache That Never Ends!
- Women and lower back pain
- How long will my back pain last?
1. The Slip & Fall Route to Acute Back Pain
Back strains and minor back injuries can happen to anyone.
The major causes of lower back pain include:
- Slips and falls,
- Pain caused by lifting or carrying a heavy load,
- Extended periods of sitting, such as working at a desk without breaks, and
- Inactivity and weak muscles that lead to pain.
You can beat lower back pain caused by strains and minor injury using the strategies below. Choose the one that best fits your situation, or try a combination of strategies for better relief.
How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Fast:
(1) Use ice packs and heat wraps
While many people find comfort applying heat to an aching back, the recommended strategy is to first apply ice packs, up to 20 minutes at a time, for the first 24 to 48 hours, and then use heat wraps thereafter.
The ice can help to reduce inflammation in the initial phase of a lower back injury. Then, switching to heat can help relax your sore muscles and provide pain relief. Check out the video below for a complete explanation of how and when to use ice vs heat for a sore back.
(2) Rest your back, but not necessarily your whole body
Resting your back when it hurts seems like a great idea to reduce your pain, right? After all, movement tends to trigger a painful reaction in sore back muscles. Many sources of advice recommend anything from 2 days to 2 weeks of rest to ease discomfort.
But if you are tempted to just go to bed and wait for the pain to stop, DON’T DO IT! Bed rest is not the same as resting your back.
Your back and your body are designed to move. Every time we immobilize a joint or moveable body part we risk losing range of motion as the joint gets stiff or as scar tissue builds up and restricts movement.
A recent study published in The Lancet shows definitively that continuing to move is critical for a speedy recovery from lower back pain. The key to fast healing is to adjust your schedule and tasks to avoid repeating or worsening the injury while continuing to move. This study confirms that limiting your movement too much will actually slow down your recovery by days or even weeks. Check out the Global News coverage of the study below.
(3) Use pain relievers for short term relief
In the initial days of an injury, relief from non-prescription pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful. Examples include drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
Ask a pharmacist or a health care provider which medication is best suited for you. Remember to always use drugs according to their labels and to check for possible drug interactions if you are already using other medications.
(4) Gentle stretching
While you don’t want to continue activities that trigger sharp pain in your back, and you don’t want to just go to bed, gentle stretching can provide relief from lower back pain and get you moving more comfortably.
Exercises that slowly stretch and relax tight back muscles can lead to long term pain relief. Try these 10 best exercises to relieve lower back pain recommended by Penrose Physical Therapy and remember that movement can bring relief.
(5) Use correct lifting posture
Lifting heavy objects is a common cause of lower back pain. Ensure that you understand the correct posture for lifting. That means squatting down to lift something heavy, keeping your shoulder, back and hips aligned, and lifting with your whole body, rather than by bending over and straining your back. It may also mean making a few trips instead of just one!
If your back pain is the result of lifting at work, ask for a change of duties for 3 to 14 days to let you recover while still continuing to be active at your job. When you do return to lifting, do so slowly and mindfully to avoid repeating the mistake and re-injuring your lower back.
(6) Break up periods of sitting with movement
If your back pain is the result of too many hours chained to your desk, you may come home to find your back sore and aching by the end of the day. The critical thing here is to move MORE not less!
Take 5 to 10-minute breaks every 50 to 60 minutes to relieve your sore back when working or sitting for extended periods of time. Simply standing up and walking around can make a big difference in your level of pain. Or try the gentle stretching exercises noted above for added relief.
Modifying your workstation and organizing your desktop can also reduce your lower back pain. Check out this video for tips on how to create an ergonomic, back-friendly workstation.
(7) Use an exercise ball
Crazy as this might sound, sitting on an exercise ball can relieve lower back pain and help strengthen your core muscles all at the same time. When used correctly, the ball helps to stabilize the spine which can reduce your back pain.
Check out the video below for how the exercise ball can support you while doing pain-relieving exercises for your lower back.
(8) Seek supportive therapy
For lower back pain that does not respond to any of the home treatments noted above within 4 to 6 weeks, it may be time to seek supportive therapy, such as physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic or acupuncture treatments.
Supportive therapies provided by certified caregivers can help to re-establish your range of motion and ease your pain. Aligning, relaxing, stretching and strengthening the lower back muscles will reduce your pain rapidly and help prevent future injuries.
Therapists can also make specific recommendations for lower back pain exercises and stretches that are best suited for your situation and type of injury.
2. Don’t Be a Hero: When to See a Doctor
It is wise to be cautious about treating lower back pain on your own. While most strains and minor injuries can be treated with home care and are resolved without further complications, some situations require medical attention.
Seek the advice of a medical professional if you encounter any of the following situations while treating your lower back pain at home:
- If you suffered a serious injury or fall, that may have included banging your head.
- If you experience sudden acute pain or pain that has substantially worsened after your home treatment.
- If new symptoms arise, especially pain that radiates down one or both of your legs.
- If home treatment does not resolve your back pain in 4 ot 6 weeks time, you may need additional therapy to support your recovery. Seek professional medical advice.
3. Chronic Lower Back Pain: The Ache . . that . . . Never . . . . ENDS . . . . .
Sometimes lower back pain is a longer-term problem than just a minor injury or fall. While you can still use the above suggestions to treat a flare-up of chronic pain, there are additional steps you can take at home to improve you're well being. Causes of back pain that require additional steps for recovery can include:
- Old back injuries that flare-up
- Herniated disc
- Overweight or obesity
Chronic Lower Back Pain Treatment at Home
For lower back pain that is more persistent, the key is to stabilize the lower back and maintain your range of motion to prevent further declines in your ability to move and enjoy life. Try the following pain-busting solutions:
(1) Regular physical activity
The key to relief of lower back pain is MOVEMENT, not rest. So as crazy as it might seem when your chronic back pain flares up, movement and maintaining flexibility hold the key to long term relief.
Regular activity actually decreases the chances of pain over time. So while you might be tempted to stop every time it hurts, gentle exercises like walking, or even swimming, can make a big difference to your lower back pain now and in the future. The critical factor is making it regular!
So instead of being a couch potato or a weekend warrior, look for ways to add gentle exercise to your everyday life. Simple steps like parking your car further from the store, taking the stairs instead of using an elevator, or joining a swim class can keep you free of lower back pain longer.
Check out these 8 simple pool exercises that do not rely on floatation devices. Each exercise is simple to perform, is gentle for your back. Learn how to use the buoyancy of the water to support your body during exercise and ease your pain.
(2) Try yoga
Easy to do at home without a lot of specialized workout equipment, yoga provides a holistic approach to dealing with lower back pain. Yoga combines controlled stretches and mindfulness that can lead to pain relief. By strengthening key muscles, improving posture, and establishing balance, yoga is a winner for home treatment. Learn the do’s and don’ts of yoga for lower back pain relief in this Yoga International article.
(3) Check your mattress and your shoes
Sometimes solutions to lower back pain are easier than you might think. Do you wake up each morning tired and with an aching back? Could be that old sagging mattress is putting extra strain on your lower back and preventing you from finding relief through the other strategies listed above.
Don’t let your bed rob you of a good night’s sleep and the back relief your desire. Check out the mattress guide and information from The Sleep Advisor for the Best Mattress for Back Pain.
Likewise, check your shoes! Your feet have to support your whole body with every step. If your shoes are old or have unusual wear patterns, it’s time for a change!
What should you look for? Check to see if your left shoe shows different wear patterns than the right shoe? Does one shoe sag more than the other? Is the right side more worn than the left? Uneven wear patterns may indicate that you need a more supportive shoe.
What about the heels? Hold your shoes together and examine the heels to see if both shoes show the same heel wear. Your shoes might be causing more of your back pain than you think if one heel is wearing out faster than the other.
Try wearing better fitting footwear or check out orthopedic inserts. Balancing and supporting your feet will also balance and support your back, and lead to faster pain relief.
(4) Improve your diet
While calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D are all important nutrients for strong bones and your back, having an overall healthy diet plays an important role in reducing lower back pain. Your body needs good food to heal itself. Eating nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables helps to ensure adequate minerals and vitamins are available to support your recovery.
If you are overweight, shedding a few pounds can make a significant difference in the strain on your back and the pain that you feel. This is especially true if you carry your weight around your stomach area as opposed to lower on your hips. Every extra pound contributes to your back strain, so maintaining a healthy body weight is a key factor in long-term back pain relief.
(5) Don’t underestimate the power of your mind!
Science has shown that the mind is a powerful tool for fighting pain in our bodies. When we engage our minds in pain relief, we open up new and exciting opportunities to improve our lives.
Visualization, meditation, distraction, and positive thinking can vastly improve your life and reduce your lower back pain. And the best part is, these methods are drug-free and available to you 24/7!
Check out the following 6 ways to use your mind to control pain from Harvard Health Publishing and start using your mind to reduce your pain.
4. Women and Lower Back Pain
Women have some additional sources of lower back pain that men rarely suffer from. Some female-specific causes of lower back pain include:
- Wearing high heels
- Lifting and carrying small children
Lower Back Pain Relief for Women
(1) Modify your shoes.
For some women, wearing high heels is a regular part of their fashion ensemble and not something that is negotiable for them. Fair enough.
But high heels can contribute to lower back pain because of the added pressure created by raising the heel higher than the toe.
If switching to a lower heel or wearing orthotics are not options you will consider, then try the following:
- Minimize the total time you wear high heels by using lower heels or more comfortable shoes while commuting to and from work or events.
- Take your heels off at your desk to rest your feet.
- Use foot relaxing and stretching exercises to strengthen and relieve your feet so they can provide more support for your back, and
- Check out the following tips on how to avoid back pain while wearing high heel shoes.
(2) Modify how you lift children
Lifting small children can be difficult for most mothers to avoid. If you suffer from lower back pain, this daily occurrence can make you wince in agony and dread the thought of holding your child.
Try the following pain-busting strategies that can relieve your lower back without unduly upsetting your parenting vibe:
- Use the correct lifting posture to raise and lower your child. This will minimize the impact on your lower back and prevent further injury. If your child is older, try bending down to talk and comfort your child rather than immediately picking them up.
- Use supportive carrying gear, such as baby backpacks or slings, to reduce the strain on your back if you find yourself carrying your child for extended periods of time. There are many models and styles to choose from that shift the weight of the child to your hips and thus protect your lower back. Even just using these supportive slings and carriers around the house can make a big difference to your back pain day after day.
- Adjust the height of your baby change table to allow you to comfortably interact with your child without bending forward and straining your back.
- Ask for some help. You don’t have to be “super-mom” all the time. If you have recently injured your back or are experiencing a flare-up of lower back pain, getting help for a few days could drastically reduce your recovery time. It’s so much better to ask for some help early on than to suffer endless back pain every time you reach for your child. Tell someone you need help.
- Try pain-relieving stretches. Check out these pain-relieving stretches for moms that will help you reduce your lower back pain.
(3) How to relieve lower back pain during pregnancy?
Maternity belly support bands can provide significant relief from lower back pain by providing gentle support, improving circulation and offering mild compression. These supportive belts can improve daily movement and function, which is better for overall health and wellness during pregnancy. Even after your baby is born, continued use of the support bands can speed post-partum recovery time by reducing your pain and discomfort.
5. How Long Will My Lower Back Pain Last?
Lower back pain can interfere with your normal daily routines and it may seem like your pain is never going to end. But having a realistic view of how long it can take to recover from back pain can actually make it easier for you to be kind to yourself. Even acute lower back pain can resolve in 4 to 12 weeks using the pain-busting strategies listed above.
Mark your calendar at 4 and 12 weeks to remind yourself that healing takes time.
Be realistic in how fast your body can recover based on your age and your personal health history. Reviewing your progress after sufficient time has past is a great way to gauge your success.
If your pain is persistent and not responding to these at-home strategies, make sure to have your diagnosis confirmed by a doctor.
The Bottom Line
Lower back pain has the potential to control your life and steal your joy the way few other health problems can. Much of the frustration comes from that helpless feeling you get when the pain strikes and you feel that there is nothing you can do.
But you have options!
Both acute and chronic back pain can be successfully treated at home. You now have the pain-busting strategies for how to relieve lower back pain here at your fingertips.
There is no silver bullet though. Achieving lasting relief will take some time and some effort.
So get started today! Banish your lower back pain tyrant once and for all with a strategic approach to pain relief, and get back to the life you love.