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How to Relieve Back Pain Naturally

man with hands on back due to back pain

Back pain is a common issue that is often not due to anything serious. The most common cause of back pain is usually down to muscle strain (pulled muscle), strain of the ligaments or tendons around your back. Various factors can increase the risk of back pain, for instance: poor posture, stress, inactivity, or an injury caused by activities such as heavy lifting or playing sports. If it is short-term back pain, it can generally last for a few days up to a few weeks. The good news is that instead of suffering or risking your back pain getting worse, there are ways to alleviate the pain naturally. This blog offers methods for quick pain relief and prevention of further discomfort or pain.

Use cold and heat treatment to provide quick pain relief

Ice and heat are effective therapies in most cases, helping to alleviate mild to moderate pain and aid back pain recovery.

A cold compress is best for acute injuries, where back pain occurs suddenly and lasts no longer than 4 weeks. An ice pack or frozen pack of vegetables wrapped up in a towel can be applied to the affected area, to reduce inflammation and swelling. Do not place the cold item directly onto the skin, as it can cause ice burns.

A hot compress on the other hand, can help to relax tense muscles and reduce stiffness, relieving discomfort and pain. You can use a hot water bottle or heating pad to apply warmth to the area. Again, take care when applying a heat compress by wrapping hot items in a towel. This will ensure low level heat and prevent burns. It is paramount to note that you should not fall asleep with a heat compress on.

This study’s findings proved low level heat therapy to be effective in helping patients with acute or chronic lower back pain to return to their normal activities.  Low level heat therapy was applied continuously, providing pain relief early on, contributing to an improvement in muscular strength and flexibility. This indicates that low level heat therapy may be used for acute or chronic back pain (pain that comes back or continues past 4 weeks).

Please note that neither of these therapies should be used for longer than 20 minutes at a time to avoid burns or skin damage.

Try stretching to ease pain and promote faster healing

Another recommended and effective way to relieve back pain naturally is by developing a daily habit of stretching. Not only will it help with the current pain you are experiencing, but can also prevent repeat episodes. A doctor or physiotherapist may also recommend stretches to ease back pain and aid recovery. Light and gentle stretching can help to loosen tight muscles and improve circulation, in turn reducing pain and discomfort.

Some simple stretches you can try are the hamstring stretch, knee-to-chest stretch, and the child’s pose (yoga pose).

A person stretching, holding a child’s pose (yoga pose on a mat)

Watch this video from NHS inform for recommended stretches and how to carry them out.

It’s important not to overdo it and note that not all stretches are suitable for every individual or type of back pain, so take care when trying out new exercises. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional if you find that your back pain does not improve.

Practise good posture to limit the risk of back pain

Often poor posture can be a cause of back pain. For instance, sitting at a desk for work for hours whilst not having a comfortable workstation (furniture and equipment) to offer good back support may lead to poor posture. This could result in aches and muscle strain over time. Maintaining good posture can therefore help to relieve back pain and prevent it.

If you have a desk job, your employer should ensure you have a well-designed workstation to prevent injury. If you work remotely, ensure that you have the necessary set-up, invest in an ergonomic chair, a footrest and office equipment to reduce strain. Try to take regular breaks from sitting down, remembering to get up and walk around. It could be for just a few minutes at a time, and you can even implement some gentle stretching exercises into your work day.

When seated for any situation, try to change sitting positions often. Avoid crossing your legs, slouching, or hunching over, as this can cause strain on your back muscles. Try to pay attention to your posture during regular daily activities, for instance, during walking, watching tv, washing the dishes and so on.

If standing, be mindful of standing up straight and tall, keep your shoulders back, chin tucked in, and feet flat on the ground. Allowing your arms to hang naturally at your sides and keeping your head level will all contribute to better posture. At first, it may feel weird but with intention and continued practice it will become second nature.

Stay active to heal and prevent repeat episodes

Regular exercise is essential for preventing back pain. Back pain can occur due to inactivity – sitting or standing in the same position for too long and not moving the body enough. You might wonder how doing nothing can cause pain, but a sedentary lifestyle causes your muscles to become stiff and weaken over time. This decreases flexibility, and weaker muscles are more prone to injury. Hence, it is vital to exercise the body.

What you do depends on the intensity of the pain and the seriousness of your injury. Do not partake in activities where you will over-exert yourself, as this will have the opposite effect and may make the symptoms and problem worse. Instead, engage in low-impact activities and short sessions. Simply walking at a comfortable pace can help. Swimming can also be beneficial as the water supports your body but avoid strenuous strokes and twisting your body.

Yoga can also help, as you practise holding stretches and loosen up the muscles. Combined with deep breathing, it promotes relaxation and helps you feel more at ease, removing your focus from the pain. Before any yoga session, you should always inform your instructor of any injuries or areas of pain. During yoga, avoid switching from pose to pose too quickly, engaging in poses demanding for the back or any stretch that exacerbates the pain.

Get a massage to relieve tense muscles

Gentle massage can help to relieve muscle tension and increase blood flow to the affected area. Try a foam roller or massage ball to massage the back area – remember to keep it gentle.

If going to a trained massage therapist, inform them of your back pain and where exactly you feel it so they can recommend and perform the most suited massage.

A Person with Massage therapy

Massages stimulate relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety, which are states that can make the pain feel worse as your muscles become tense with stress. Massage therapy releases endorphins, known as natural painkillers, and reduces cortisol (stress hormones).

Massaging the body also releases trigger points, which are small areas of tight muscle fibres that, if triggered, result in discomfort and pain. Getting a regular massage can help to release these trigger points.

Try mindfulness meditation and breathing to reduce stress

It is common to experience bouts of stress in phases of life and everyday scenarios. However, stress can build up over time if not effectively managed, causing tension in the body leading to pain and aches. The areas most prone to stress-related aches and pains are the neck, back, and shoulders.

Stress can also be a response to back pain and therefore worsen it as your body responds by releasing stress hormones such as cortisol. This can amplify the sensation, making it more challenging to cope with back pain, as it leads to further tightening of the muscles and inflammation.

Therefore, addressing the stressors through activities that promote relaxation is beneficial for pain management. Developing a meditation practice and using breathing exercises exudes a sense of calm and helps to reduce stress. Studies have shown meditation to reduce the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. At the same time, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which will help you to feel calm and relaxed. This balance helps manage stress and its physiological effects.

You do not need to sit in a cross-legged position and for long hours to experience the benefits of meditation. Just a few minutes a day is helpful in building the habit and reducing stress, loosening tension in the body and shifting your perception of the pain.

If you feel unsure where to start, consider trying a meditation app such as Headspace or Balance. These apps offer a variety of guided meditations and breathing exercises ranging from a few minutes upwards.

When to see a doctor

Combining these tools will lead to more effective relief and prevention of back pain, however, its suitability can vary from person to person. You can continue with the methods that are showing signs of improvement. If the pain does not improve after a few weeks, you find you cannot fulfil day-to-day activities, the pain is severe or is continuing to worsen over time, or you are finding it difficult to cope, you should consult a doctor (as recommended by the NHS). A doctor or medical professional should be able to identify the cause, or refer you to a specialist or therapist, who will guide you to the most suitable treatment.

Your GP may prescribe painkillers to help you manage the symptoms until your back improves. Trying to gain access to prescriptions can sometimes take a long time, and we understand how difficult it can be to wait in line and collect medication when experiencing health problems. If you need access to prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or other health products fast, Meds4Healthcare offers a safe and approved service.

See our range of pain relief medications here.


NIH – Back pain

NHS – Back pain

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