Unlike a headache or stomachache, back pain can totally disrupt your day. The back is integral to sitting, standing, and movement, and when it hurts, doing anything becomes a chore. When you can’t afford to be sidelined by back pain, there are some natural ways you can alleviate the pain and try to get back on your feet quickly.
1- Get Moving
Common advice for back pain used to be lots of rest. If your pain is severe enough, complete rest may still be what you need. But if the pain isn’t that severe, or you can tolerate it well, a little exercise and movement may be just what you need to ease the pain.
Consider gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming. Gentle stretching, like yoga or Pilates, can also help. Stretching in directions that ease the pain can help you get back on your feet in this instance, and continuing with a simple yoga or Pilates practice may help prevent future occurrences.
2- Apply Ice and Heat
Alternating ice and heat can help ease the inflammation that’s causing the pain and ease any tension in the painful muscles. You should always wrap any heating pads or ice packs in a towel or other layer of cloth to protect your skin. Both ice and heat should only be applied for 10-20 minutes at a time, and you should take breaks between applications.
You can also apply heat with a warm bath or shower, a moist heating pad, hot water bottle or a microwavable cloth bag filled with rice.
Ice can be applied with an ice pack, freezer gel pack, or a plastic zip-top bag filled with ice cubes. You can even use a bag of frozen vegetables (although, if you thaw them completely during this use, you should not re-freeze and eat them). In a pinch, you could soak a towel in cold water and place it in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes.
3- Get a Good Night’s Sleep
The way you sleep, and the surface on which you sleep, can have an enormous impact on whether or not you have back pain (or any other kind of pain). If your mattress is 8 years old or older, it probably needs to be replaced. Your body weight, even if you’re not overweight, will start to change the landscape of the mattress, making it difficult to find a comfortable position in which to sleep. The twisting of your spine as you toss and turn, or lie in hills and valleys formed by your body, can contribute to or cause your back pain.
Your sleeping position also makes a difference. Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended at all, because it makes your head and neck twist, creating undue stress on the back. Back and side sleeping is usually recommended, with back sleepers putting a pillow beneath their knees. Side sleepers can keep their spine in a neutral position by placing a pillow between their knees.
4- Ease Your Mind and Stress
Stress and tension starts in the mind, but it affects the whole body. Using techniques like meditation, tai chi and yoga to ease the stress and tension in your life can do wonders for your back. Inducing a relaxation response, even if it doesn’t actually ease any pain, can reduce the perception of pain. This means that by relaxing, you can feel as if the pain has eased, even if there hasn’t actually been any real change in the pain level.
Meditation is easier than you might think. You can download apps that allow you to be guided through a simple meditation, with no need to quiet your mind the way you expect. Even 5-10 minutes can be enough to make a difference.
5- Focus on Your Core and Hamstrings
The muscles of your abdomen and back help to support your spine, and if your core isn’t strong, it may be making your back do most of the work, creating your pain. Tight hamstrings can lead to a stressed lower back.
Try doing some exercises focused on your core, and stretch your hamstrings gently twice a day. Even if these are not the specific cause of your back pain, they may help to ease the pain and make it more bearable.
There are plenty of natural options to relieve back pain. These are all relatively quick and easy fixes that should give you rather immediate results.