Back pain can rear up at any time. It’s more common to experience pain in your lower back, but your upper back is susceptible to injury too. Whether you’ve overdone an activity, aggravated a previous injury, or it’s a new one, finding relief fast and getting back to your day is a priority.
Understanding Your Back
The body is a complex set of moving parts. To understand how easy it can be to injure your back, you must take a look at how your body works on your best days.
Your vertebrae, discs, and hinged joints simplify movement along your spine. In addition, you’ll find muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These add support and create tension inside your body. You also have your pain sensors intertwined in a delicate network.
All it takes is one accident (such as sleeping in an awkward position, working too hard, or any number of underlying conditions) to cause pain in your back. Managing your pain once it occurs isn’t as simple. Sure, articles talking about prevention are a dime a dozen, and they can be worth reading and following. However, prevention won’t help you when you’re seeking back pain treatment and remedies.
What Causes Back Pain?
Oftentimes you won’t know the exact cause of your back pain. You can narrow down your activities and might discover the moment you first felt the ache or sharpness. If you have a preexisting condition that intensifies your pain, you could place the blame there. However, most of us simply don’t know unless we’ve injured ourselves.
• Injury to muscles, disks, or bones
• Poor posture
• Repetitive lifting, bending, or squatting
• Chronic coughing, such as smoker’s cough
• Illness, such as the flu
• Kidney and urinary tract infections
Types of Back Pain
• Acute—lasts less than 6 weeks
• Chronic—lasts more than 6 weeks and frequently returns
• Lower back—occurs in your lumbar region of your spine
• Upper back—occurs in the thoracic and/or cervical region of your spine
When to See Your Doctor
You can ease your aches and pains at home. Sometimes other symptoms can present with your pain that will require medical attention. Your pain could also be due to an undiagnosed underlying condition.
Call Your Doctor if You Experience:
• Nausea with or without vomiting
• Difficulty peeing or passing stool
• Pain that radiates downward to your legs
• HIV positive
• History of tumors
• Pain that lasts over 2 weeks
• Leg weakness that onsets with your pain
• Worsening pain when you place pressure on your back
• Unexplained rapid weight loss immediately preceding your pain
According to the National Institute of Health, the following can be major factors:
• Previous injury
• Hereditary conditions
• Lack of physical activity
5 Simple Home Remedies to Relieve Your Back Pain
Pain threshold varies among individuals. These remedies are for mild to moderate pain. If any of the below remedies increase your pain, stop and contact your doctor.
1. Chakravakasana (Cat-Cow) Yoga Pose
Bed rest might seem like a good idea when you’re in pain, but multiple studies and doctors now recommend you move your body instead. Yoga offers a low-impact workout that builds strength, burns calories, clears the mind, and more. It’s also excellent for relieving stiff, sore lower backs.
Research also supports that people who practice yoga for pain relief receive equal benefits of those who underwent physical therapy for their back pain treatment.
Cat-Cow focuses on gently flexing and stretching your back. With my doctor’s permission, I used this pose sequence during each of my three pregnancies to alleviate my pain naturally with great success.
This sequence also stretches your core, shoulders, and your neck.
You won’t need any fancy equipment or a mat. I would often perform this sequence on my floor, in bed, and I even did Cat-Cow outside in the grass and once in a store dressing room.
How to Perform Cat-Cow
Get into position:
• Lower yourself to the ground on all fours.
• Make sure your wrists are underneath your shoulders. Knees should align with your hips.
• Ensure you evenly balance your weight among your four limbs.
• Your neck should hang loose and be relaxed.
1. Inhale as you look up. Your focus should be straight ahead.
2. Allow your stomach to gravitate toward the floor.
3. Exhale, tucking your chin toward your chest. Draw your belly to your spine, and arch your back like a frightened cat.
4. Repeat the sequence no more than a minute or two before resting. Remember to breathe with your movements.
Other Poses to Treat and Strengthen Your Back:
• Downward Facing Dog
• Sphinx Pose
• Cobra Pose
• Locust Pose
• Bridge Pose
• Child’s Pose
2. Alternating Hot and Cold Therapy
This back pain treatment is simple and effective at relieving many aches and pains. Heat relaxes your muscles. It might improve blood flow and reduce spasms. Ice reduces swelling and inflammation. It can also numb deeply seated pain.
Sources for heat vary, but a hot water bottle, heating pad, or a shower/bath are common. If you’re pregnant, consult with your doctor before take a hot bath. Prolonged exposure to high heat, such as in a 100-degree hot tub, has been linked to birth defects.
Ice therapy is nothing more than an old-fashioned ice pack or a bag filled with ice. Be sure to wrap a towel around it to protect your skin.
3. DIY All Natural Muscle Rub
Making your own muscle rub offers more than a back pain treatment. It stores well, and you can use it on other areas of your body too. If you’re actively using essential oils, you likely have the ingredients on hand too.
We’re providing a base recipe, but you can use your favorite anti-inflammatory essential oils or create a custom blend that suits your needs. Feel free to experiment with the added herbs too.
Easy Muscle Rub Base
• ½ c organic coconut oil
• ¼ c beeswax or candelilla wax (or favorite vegan alternative), grated
• 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
• 2 tsp. ginger powder
• 15 drops lavender essential oil
• 15 drops chamomile essential oil
• Heatproof glass container
1. Pour two inches of water into a small saucepan. Place over a medium flame.
2. Combine oil, wax, and herbs in your heatproof container. Place inside the water bath.
3. Stir until ingredients melt and to combine.
4. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
5. Add essential oils.
6. Pour into small tins or containers and allow to cool completely.
7. A solid salve should be your final product.
To use your homemade salve, simply rub or massage a small amount wherever you have pain. Be careful to always wash your hands after using and avoid your eyes. The cayenne pepper can burn.
4. Get Proper Sleep
Lack of quality sleep can cause pain in your back (and be a royal pain in the neck!). It can also make existing soreness worse. When you receive restorative sleep, your body heals.
Is Your Mattress a Solution or an Underlying Problem?
Unbelievably, your mattress can cause back injury and pain. An old, sagging mattress without support is generally the culprit. If a new mattress isn’t in your budget, you can slid inexpensive plywood between it and the box spring. This will add temporary support until you can afford a new mattress.
Other options to try are sleeping on your side with a pillow wedged between your knees. Doing this removes pressure off your lower back and straightens your spine.
5. Relax and Relieve Pain with Aromatherapy
Pain causes us to tense our bodies, which creates stress and anxiety. Both can make pain feel worse than it actually is. By keeping stress levels low through aromatherapy, we can engage our senses and potentially reduce our reaction to pain receptors.
Think it sounds too good to be true? Science backs aromatherapy as a viable treatment for chronic pain.
Anti-inflammatory Essential Oils:
• Green apple essential oil
• Lavender essential oil
• Chamomile essential oil
• Eucalyptus essential oil
• Rosemary essential oil
• Thyme essential oil
• Sandalwood essential oil
• Juniper essential oil
• Wintergreen essential oil
Alternatively, you can use these same essential oils and make massage oil or a salve to apply to your affected area. This allows the anti-inflammatory properties to absorb into your skin. Be sure to use a carrier oil, and perform an allergy test if you haven’t used an oil before.
Basic Massage Oil Recipe
• 1 tablespoon carrier oil
• 4 drops essential oil
1. Mix in your palm or a small bottle.
2. Shake gently.
3. Apply as needed.
Final Thoughts on Back Pain
You can’t prevent all forms of back pain, but you might find relief at home with many tried and true remedies. Some studies suggest that these treatments are as effective as conventional treatments. What you gain is little risk, which you’ll find increases with OTC and prescription medications.
Prevention can go a long way in protecting your spine and muscles. Make small changes and concentrate on the root cause of your pain. If you have arthritis, look to make changes that strengthen your joints and bones. Maybe you’re carrying extra weight. Consider adopting a new lifestyle and reduce your weight in a healthy, sustainable manner.