Back pain is one of the most common types of pain, especially in chronic pain patients. According to the Health Policy Institute, 16 million adults, or 8 percent of all adults, have chronic back pain that limits their daily activities.
Unfortunately, many prescription medications used to manage back pain are tolerance building, which means they may become less effective over time. Many of these medications are also likely to cause dependency issues, and some of them are not well tolerated by all patients. Nonetheless back pain can be debilitating, which leaves patients looking for natural ways to relieve lower back pain at home.
Luckily, you've got options!
Here are some of the top home remedies for lower back pain, including some methods for fast acting relief and some lifestyle changes that may help gradually improve lower back problems.
Before we start, we’d like to point out that many of these natural back pain relief methods can be used in tandem, which may be a more effective approach to treating chronic back pain without medications.
While narcotic medications may knock out pain quickly (with a slew of side effects), the natural method may take a bit more trial and error to work out. Once you do find a pain relieving regimen that works for you, you’ll be thankful you did. Plus, many natural ways for relieving back pain are not tolerance building, which means they’ll keep working every time you use them.
First, let's cover some fast acting remedies for natural back pain relief:
Hemp-derived CBD is often touted as a miracle supplement, but it's actually not that miraculous. CBD simply interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a bodily system that's responsible for many regulatory processes, including the regulation of pain and inflammatory signaling. Because of the way that CBD may help to regulate natural endocannabinoids that signal pain, it's often used as a natural remedy for pain relief.
Studies have found CBD may be effective for managing many different types of pain, including neuropathic pain, which is one of the hardest types of pain to treat. Some research even shows that CBD's pain relieving benefits may be comparable to that of opioid medications.
White willow bark is an ancient remedy that's been used in Chinese and ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The bark of the white willow tree contains a compound that is the precursor to aspirin, and research shows that white willow bark extract may act similarly to aspirin in relieving inflammation and possibly even pain. It also is thought to have fewer drawbacks than over-the-counter aspirin, so it may be a better option for managing lower back pain naturally.
Arnica is another herbal remedy that’s often used to manage pain, but it’s unique in that it is applied topically, directly to the affected area. It’s safety profile is pretty sound, and since it’s used topically, it can often be used alongside other remedies to create an effective pain management routine. One case study found that a combination of acupuncture, massage, and topical arnica was capable of relieving difficult osteoarthritic pain.
Inflammation is often the source of back pain (and pain in general), which means managing inflammation will also usually help manage the discomfort you may be experiencing. There are various herbs, like turmeric and ginger, that have anti-inflammatory capabilities. Check out our full list of natural anti-inflammatory remedies, and consider working some of these herbs into your daily diet to help manage lower back pain.
You probably know that a warm bath can help temporarily relieve pain, but adding a cup or so of Epsom salt can help that relief last even longer.
Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, can be absorbed by the skin directly to the sore muscles. In general, magnesium is known to help loosen muscles and promote athletic recovery, and research has found that oral magnesium supplements may do the same thing.
Of course, Epsom salt is a laxative when taken by mouth, so you’ll want to look for a proper magnesium supplement if you go that route.
This one's also obvious, but many people don't realize that you don't have to buy a name brand muscle relief cream to get topical muscle relief. Make your own back-pain relieving rub by combining a few drops of peppermint with a carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba oil. Just rub this mixture onto the sore area and allow the peppermint to do its job relieving tension and inflammation.
This is a great option if you were recently injured, or if you experience frequent lower back pain and need a quick remedy. Applying ice is great for new injuries because it can numb pain and prevent the swelling that causes tissue damage and extends healing time. Ice is also great for sudden, sharp pain that you need to numb quickly.
Heat may be a better option for consistent soreness or dull pain. Use a heating pad or a rice-filled sock heated in the microwave, but pay attention to the temperature to make sure you don’t burn your skin.
While the natural back pain remedies above may provide quick relief, they don’t really have a long term impact without using them daily. For those experiencing chronic back pain (which means it lasts for 2 or more weeks and disrupts your daily activities), something more sustainable may be a better option.
The following remedies may not improve lower back pain immediately, but can help strengthen the back and lower back pain over time. Plus, they can be paired with the remedies above for fast and long-term lower back pain relief.
It may be tempting to slow down and do less physical activity when you're experiencing lower back pain, but that's not always the best idea. Of course, if you're experiencing extreme pain, it's better not to push it, but one of the best things you can do for consistent lower back pain is get plenty of gentle exercise and strengthen the back muscles.
Becoming sedentary is the number one mistake that many people make when they experience back pain, because the back muscles weaken over time, which really only worsens the issue. Light exercise like walking, gentle jogging, or gentle free weight exercises may be a good idea for naturally managing lower back pain.
If you want to step it up and notch (and you have your doctor's permission) you may consider finding strengthening exercises that target the back area.
In cases where lower back pain is severe, it may not be a good idea to exercise daily. You should still consider a gentle stretch daily to help keep the lower back muscles from becoming stiff and weak.
Stretching first thing in the morning can help wake you up and may also help “awaken” stiff back muscles after sleeping. Just doing stretches like a gentle twist from side to side, touching your toes, or laying with a rolled up towel under your lower back can help your spine decompress and keep your muscles loose and agile.
These gentle stretches can be done daily by most people who experience lower back pain, but if your back pain is severe or if you recently had back surgery, always follow your doctor's guidance on stretching and exercise.
This one seems obvious, but being overweight is one of the primary reasons that people experience back pain. Keeping your weight in check can help keep back pain from worsening. If you're overweight, safely losing weight may even help take some of the stress off of your back to naturally relieve lower back pain.
Of course, we don't recommend strict eating schedules, fad diets, or excessive exercising. A "healthy weight" means different things for different people, but you should definitely talk to your doctor if you believe your weight is contributing to your pain levels.
The majority of people have poor posture, especially those who sit in an office or work sitting down. Using electronics like your phone or computer can also influence you to slump forward in your seat, which weakens the spine and negatively impacts your posture.
Improper posture puts pressure on the spine that can lead to consistent back pain. Working to correct your posture may help lessen lower back pain. You can do this on your own by simply staying mindful of your posture when you sit and stand, or you can use a posture corrector for a short period of time. Wearing a posture corrector or back brace constantly isn't recommended because it "does the work" for your spine and may cause it to weaken over time.
Research has linked the chemicals in cigarettes to an increased risk of back problems, like spinal fusion, degenerative disk disease. Nicotine weakens bones and reduces available nutrients needed for optimal joint health. If you smoke cigarettes and you experience back pain, it may be time to consider quitting.
Shoes are important to skeletal alignment, and while it may seem trivial, changing shoes may actually help improve lower back pain over time. Studies have linked certain shoes, like high heels, to increased back pain.
Consider switching to shoes that fit correctly and support the feet, including proper arch support. This is especially important if you stand all day, if you run frequently, or if you’re usually on your feet. Ask a podiatrist or foot specialist to help you find shoes that are best for your feet.
According to research, sleep disturbances may make pain worse. Researchalso suggests that not getting enough sleep adversely affects a person’s pain tolerance. Make sure that you sleep on a supportive bed with a pillow that helps keep your neck and spine straight while you sleep. According to the CDC, most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep at night.
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, you may want to read about how CBD can help with sleep (without causing that groggy feeling you get from melatonin and sleep aids).
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