According to the American Physical Therapy Association, the majority (about two-thirds) of Americans suffer from lower back pain. However, only 37 percent of people seek medical attention for treatment. Instead, to relieve lower back pain, many people use home remedies, with 72 percent using pain medication and 55 percent turning to heat and cold packs. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from lower back pain and want the convenience of treatment at home, consider these options:
Get Out of Bed
Although you might need to modify or decrease your activities after sustaining a minor injury to your lower back, staying inactive for too long may actually prolong your recovery. Avoid strenuous tasks and movements that aggravate your injury, but do gentle stretches, take walks, and try to do as much of your normal routine as you can without inducing too much pain.
Apply Cold, Then Heat
When the pain and swelling first start, it’s important to apply cold and not heat. This is because heat increases blood flow and may actually contribute to additional swelling. On the other hand, applying therapeutic cold can help reduce swelling and naturally relieve pain. You can use ice packs, gel packs, or a cold therapy system to apply cold at home. After several days, if the swelling has subsided, you may also be able to apply heat packs to help relax tight muscles and improve range of motion. Application of cold and/or heat in combination with gentle stretching may also be beneficial for enhancing recovery.
Wrap It Up
Applying compression to swelling may help reduce it and prevent it from getting worse. You can use an elastic back brace or a compression bandage to apply constant, gentle pressure to the lower back area. If you choose to use a cold therapy system, the wraps provide active compression that helps pump away excess fluid.
Mind Your Meds
You may use an over-the-counter pain medication and/or an NSAID to help relieve lower back pain. Each type of medication provides different benefits, so make sure you understand the effects of the option you choose. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a pain killer that does not help reduce inflammation, so if you are trying to reduce swelling, look for an NSAID instead. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are all NSAIDs that help reduce the production of the chemicals in the body that promote pain and inflammation. All types of over-the-counter medication come with the risk of side effects, so if you’re not sure, ask your doctor which type is best for you.
Stretch It Out
Gentle stretches and strengthening exercises can help reduce tension, build the muscles that support the spine, and relieve lower back pain. Some exercises to try include:
- Seated Floor Touch
- Hamstring stretches
- Wall sits
- Half cobra pose
- Pelvic tilts
- Bridge pose
You may also be able to do low-impact cardiovascular exercises such as walking, cycling, or swimming to maintain a healthy weight and improve range of motion. Invest in good shoes that provide sufficient support, and practice good posture when sitting. Try to avoid exercises that may put more stress on the lower back, such as toe touches or full situps,
Though the majority of people with lower back pain can safely use home treatment methods, there are a few symptoms that you should watch for. Go to a doctor if severe pain lasts for more than a few days or gets worse. These could be signs of a more serious condition such as osteoarthritis or a herniated disc, so be sure to get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment from a medical professional.