Ultimate Guide To Back Pain
By Fran Trelease
How to Relieve Lower Back Pain in 2020: Fast and Effective Steps (That You Can Do At Home!)
We’ve all been there. You just played a friendly game of basketball with your neighbor. You reach down to scoop up the ball to bring it home. Then Ouch! Your lower back seizes up. It hurts to stand straight and walk. You smile and hobble back to your house, trying not to let on. But the pain is real.
If this has happened to you… rest assured you’re not alone.
Research shows an estimated 8 out of 10 Americans will experience mild to moderate back pain at some point in their lives. No kidding! Maybe you’ve asked your friends and family how to relieve lower back pain, and the answers you got back were spotty. Or maybe their suggestions just didn’t work.
So now what? We’ve compiled a list of the most common, but often overlooked, remedies for lower back pain. From stretches and exercises to natural remedies, our comprehensive guide covers why it occurs, ways to treat it at home, and signs that indicate it’s time to call your doctor.
Tip One: fast, easy ways to relieve lower back pain at home
Here are 5 easy at-home exercises and stretches to help increase blood flow, reduce stiffness, and speed healing.
- The Knee to Chest stretch. For this stretch, lay on your back, feet flat to the floor. Rest your hands below your kneecaps or right behind your knees. Begin to bring both knees toward your chest, pulling them toward you using your hands. Hold them there for at least 20 seconds, giving a stretch and massage to your lower back. Return to start. Repeat 10 times.
- The Big Toe Stretch. For this stretch, lie flat on your back. Bring your right (or left) leg up towards your head. Hold it there by placing your hands behind your calf or thigh. Make sure the other leg remains on the ground. With your leg as close to your face as it can go, hold there for at least 10 seconds. Remember to breath! Gently lower it. Repeat with the other leg.
- The Bridge Pose. For this one, lay flat on your back, with your feet flat on the floor. Bend both knees, and make sure your feet are hip width apart. Now begin lifting your hips, with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Arch as high as you can comfortably go and keep the muscles tight. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
- Child’s Pose. Start in a sitting position, with your arms stretched out in front. Sink back with your hips so your butt is coming to rest just above your heels. Rest your stomach on your thighs, and keep your arms stretched out in front of you. Hold this position for 5-10 deep breaths. Repeat 5 times.
- Piriformis stretch. To do this stretch, lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your right ankle at the base of your left thigh. Then, place your hands behind your left thigh and pull up towards your chest until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for 1 to 3 minutes. Then do the opposite side.
Tip Two: Common Painkillers to relieve lower back pain (no prescription required!)
NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, if you want to get technical) are important to know about. This class of pain reliever is the most commonly used to treat lower back stiffness and pain. NSAIDs are readily available over-the-counter pain relievers often sold under the names Advil and Aleve. They work as anti-inflammatories, reducing swelling and pain around the affected area. They can help inflammation around muscles, joints or spinal discs that might be arthritic. (Always ask your doctor before self-diagnosing a medical condition.)
A second popular favorite is acetaminophen, which is not an NSAID and will not reduce inflammation. But it does block pain signals coming from the brain, and it can also reduce fevers if they exist. The most popular brand sold over the counter is Tylenol. People with liver disease should use acetaminophen only under a doctor’s direction.
Tip Three: Ready to go Au Natural? Try Nature’s Way.
Now we turn our attention to natural supplements and nutrition to relieve lower back pain. Know that eating a healthy diet – rich with vitamins and minerals – can help build your body’s natural defenses against pain. Always make sure you include dark greens, fruits and whole grains on your dinner plate. They’re rich in anti-oxidants, and they can help fight inflammation. Ready to pair that healthy dinner with dietary supplements? Check out our list.
*Word of caution: supplements do not require FDA approval or oversight. And some might interact with prescription drugs you’re taking. Consult your pharmacist with questions.
- Turmeric. Turmeric is the crowd favorite, for two simple reasons – it’s powerful and it works. This wonder supplement makes everyone’s “short list,” because it reduces back pain thanks to its mega anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure your turmeric contains a healthy dose of its active ingredient – the spice curcumin. Look for the vibrant orange color. Recommended daily dosage: 1000mg.
- Vitamin D. According to Stewart B. Leavitt, MA, PhD, editor of Pain Treatment Topics, Vitamin D is the most overlooked natural pain killer for lower back pain. Dr. Leavitt’s report states:In one study of 360 patients with back pain, all of them were found to have inadequate levels of Vitamin D. After taking Vitamin D supplements for 3 months, symptoms were improved in 95% of the patients. All of them with the most severe vitamin D deficiencies experienced back-pain relief.
- Magnesium. Magnesium is an often-overlooked gem. It’s known to help back muscles relax and loosen up from cramps and contractions. It can be a vital tool in the back pain relief tool box. Your lower back feels sore and tight? Consider a daily magnesium supplement. Its most easily absorbed forms include magnesium citrate and magnesium lactate.
There are a host of other natural supplement pain relievers, too. Do your research, and consult your doctor with questions.
Tip Four: When It’s Time to See a Doctor
So there you are, doing everything right. Yet despite your mix of healthy diet, exercises and natural supplements – the pain you’re feeling may just feel too severe. (The best laid plans… as they say.) If 6 to 12 weeks have gone by, and your daily lower back pain is still affecting your physical and/or mental well being, it may be time to pay your doctor a visit. Specialists that treat lower back pain include primary care physicians, chiropractors, neurologists and orthopedists.
Each specialist will take their own approach to your treatment, so consult with the professional that’s right for you.
In some cases, when the pain level is high, a doctor might recommend surgery to relieve lower back pain. And medical conditions that might warrant surgery include herniated discs, bone spurs, degenerative arthritis and degenerative spinal conditions like stenosis. Always make sure you get a full medical work-up. If you don’t trust one doctor’s findings, get a second opinion. Or even a third.
Tip Five: Wherefore Art Thou, Back Pain?
So we’ve looked at things you can do to relieve your lower back pain, including at-home exercises, healthy diet, natural supplements, medical consults and surgery. But let’s take a step back for a moment. What are the most common causes of lower back pain? Back pain falls into two general categories: acute (short-term) and chronic (ongoing.) But one stands out as the most common.
According to John Pelozza, MD, “The single most common cause of lower back pain is a torn or pulled muscle and/or ligament.” The good news is that these usually heal in time. Even if they’re chronic in nature, they’re rarely serious. Other common causes might include:
- Workplace Injury
- Sports related Injury
- Other Medical Condition
This is a general listing, and not meant to replace medical advice. There might be other causes not on this list, and every case is different. Regardless of the case, choose the treatment plan that makes the most sense for you.
Lower Back Pain? You’re History!
It’s tempting to retreat to your bed or the living room couch when lower back pain hits. Daily activities just don’t seem like as much fun, and your energy can feel sapped. But don’t despair. There are many ways to treat and eliminate your lower back pain. Whether it’s stretches, exercises, medication, or surgery – or a combination of the above — solutions are closer than you think.
Follow the tips in this Ultimate Guide, and take back your life. Here’s to renewed lower back health!