Best Home Remedies for Back Pain: Advice From a Physical Therapist

If you spend too much time sitting, try some easy stretches and use a foam roller.

Low back pain, one of the most prevalent and incapacitating medical disorders in the United States, prevents millions of people from working or taking part in daily activities.

Consider using this advice from specialists to reduce low back pain and perhaps even prevent it in the future.

By Becky Upham
by Justin Laube, MD, for Becky Upham’s medical review

According to the American Chiropractic Association, back discomfort is the third most popular reason people contact their doctor, and in many circumstances, that’s a smart choice.

It is recommended that you consult a doctor if you are unsure of the extent of your back pain, you’ve experienced it for more than a month, it is getting worse over time, or you are exhibiting new neurologic symptoms like numbness or weakness in any region of your body.

According to Ian Stephens, a physical therapist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, occasionally a doctor or physical therapist can identify specific patterns that are causing or contributing to the pain. “Occasionally, we can spot a pattern in the actions, stances, or positions that cause a person’s symptoms to flare up frequently. “If we discover that, we may work with them to change it to lessen the possibility that they would experience back discomfort,” the man claims.

The good news is that most people will suffer back discomfort at some point in their lifetime, despite the fact that it can be excruciatingly painful. He observes that the majority of the time, the discomfort goes away and the client resumes their regular activities. “If back discomfort occurs, try not to dread it and keep trying to function,” he advises.

There are things you can do at home to ease back pain and help lower the likelihood that it will recur again, regardless of whether you decide to consult a healthcare provider. Here are some recommendations for managing lower back discomfort.

Set Yourself Up for Success with Ergonomics

According to Stephens, “the modern workplace frequently necessitates a lot of persistent static loading, particularly when sitting.” He claims that the scientific term for gravity is “sustained static load.”

Our muscles must constantly fight against gravity to keep us vertical over the course of the day since the force of gravity is slightly compressing us. “We’ll rely on that particular muscle group when we’re stationary for a long time, and eventually, those muscles will start to tire,” explains Stephens.

The science of ergonomics involves setting up your workspace or the items you use on a daily basis to meet your needs and body, enhancing efficiency and minimizing discomfort.

According to Stephens, while the optimum posture can vary depending on the individual, there are several fundamental ergonomic principles that are generally true for everyone. He explains that there are ways to help you so that you don’t have to rely solely on your muscles to fight gravity.

Stephens offers the following advice on how to work or sit so as to potentially lessen back pain:

  • Make sure you are seated deeply enough in your chair for the chair’s back to support your back.
  • Your chair shouldn’t be too high off the ground so that your knees are higher than your hips, but it also shouldn’t be too low so that you can comfortably rest your feet on the seat.
    So that you don’t slouch to get your sight aligned with the screen, place your computer monitor at eye level.
  • The armrests of the workstation should provide good support for your forearms and be elevated high enough so that you can comfortably rest your elbows on them.
    Take breaks and shift positions.
  • Stephens advises getting up to take a brief stroll every 30 minutes, or every hour if that’s not feasible.

“Simple movement and position changes can be beneficial. Setting a reminder on your phone or desktop calendar to remind you is helpful, according to him.

The best treatment for back pain is sleep.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the link between sleep issues and poor pain tolerance, including one that was published in August 2015 in the journal Pain.

According to Stephens, there is no one ideal way to sleep. He explains that while lying on one’s stomach may be ideal for some, lying on one’s back with a pillow between one’s knees may be preferable for others. If you believe your current sleeping position is the source of your back pain, he suggests trying a different posture or speaking with a healthcare provider.

No matter how you choose to sleep, it’s crucial that you get some type of restorative sleep. We are aware that it can be challenging to feel better if you aren’t getting enough sleep because this is the time when your body is actively recharging. You’ll be prone to pain if you can’t accomplish it, according to Stephens.

Sleep 101: The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Better Night’s Sleep is related.

Back pain can be prevented and relieved through exercise and movement.
According to Stephens’ observations, those who walk more during the day seem to have fewer occurrences of back pain and often less severe ones as well. He adds that this guideline might not be applicable to those with physically taxing jobs that include a lot of lifting.

“In general, most forms of exercise offer some protection against the possibility of suffering from back discomfort as well as its prognosis.” Regular physical activity appears to provide some preventive benefits, and if back pain does develop, it speeds up recovery, according to Stephens.

Which exercises are beneficial for back pain? All kinds, in Stephen’s opinion, are beneficial. “For a significant portion of individuals, that might be as easy as walking daily,” he claims.

In a study that was released in October 2017 in the Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine, researchers examined the walking patterns of 5,982 adults 50 and older, of whom 26% reported having lower back discomfort. The top quartile of walkers, according to the researchers, had the lowest prevalence of back pain.

According to Stephens, whether a person will benefit from particular strengthening activities for their back depends on them and their level of back discomfort. He suggests consulting a physical therapist or your doctor before starting any new fitness program.

When beginning a new exercise, Stephens advises, “Start low and progress slowly.” Your body needs time to get used to the new activity. You might feel some soreness and pains that you didn’t have before the first few times you complete a workout, the expert predicts. He continues, “Most of the time, such feelings are fleeting and will go away after your body adjusts to that new activity.”

Related Article: The Best and Worst Back Pain Exercises

Ice, heat, or both for relieving short-term pain?

According to Stephens, both heat and ice can be used to temporarily relieve back discomfort. Both of them will aid in slightly relaxing the nervous system and calming down the pain signal, he claims.

According to him, “normally, we would advise ice early on during the acute phase of the injury.”

As a general rule, ice the sore area at least three times each day using an ice pack or a frozen damp towel, protecting your skin by placing a towel or other piece of cloth between your skin and the cold pack. Applying ice shouldn’t last more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

We would switch to utilizing a heating agent after a few weeks, according to Stephens. According to some studies, moist heat can be an effective addition to exercise and other treatments for people who are experiencing acute low back pain.

Foam rollers and stretching could help with back pain.

According to Stephens, if stiffness and restricted motion were the main causes of back discomfort, he would probably recommend stretching exercises. These might be carried out individually at home or with a therapist, he says.

Foam rollers can occasionally be useful in relaxing a tight muscle, but if you’re attempting to do it on your own and have lower back discomfort, it might be challenging to access the appropriate location, he says.

Losing weight healthfully can help reduce back pain.

Your muscles don’t have to work as hard to hold you up against gravity if you’re at a healthy weight. It will help with discomfort because the muscles won’t get tired as soon, according to Stephens. “Your back and other joints are also not under as much stress,” he continues.

The incidence of low back pain was shown to be raised by both overweight and obesity, according to a meta-analysis of 33 studies that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Related: Adult Men’s and Women’s BMI Calculator Charts for a Healthy Weight

Consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications.
Stephens recommends that people suffering from back pain consult with their primary care physician to learn how to safely take NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).

We are well aware of some of the potential long-term health hazards linked to NSAID overuse. “They have a place in the management of pain, but a patient must adhere to their doctor’s recommendations to limit any side effects,” adds Stephens.

Some patients who use NSAIDs may experience severe or life-threatening gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers, and using too many of these medications may result in liver or kidney damage or failure.

Treat back pain as soon as possible.

If you’ve tried modifications like changing your work environment or posture and the discomfort hasn’t gone away after two to four weeks, Stephens suggests seeking a formal consultation with a healthcare professional or physical therapist.

He says physical therapists can typically be more helpful if you come early in your pain episode. “It’s not a good idea to live with pain for too long,” he says.

According to Stephens, bed rest is no longer considered a good treatment for back pain, despite the fact that many doctors used to advise it. We’re convinced that it doesn’t speed up or improve the outcome of a low back pain episode, he claims.

“There’s nothing wrong with relaxing for a day or two, but that’s really the most that someone should be doing after any kind of bed rest, in my opinion.” After that, they should strive to introduce movement because it is crucial for promoting tissue healing, says Stephens.

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