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Remedies for Back Pain

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 14, 2020

Back pain appears in many forms. It could be muscle aches or a shooting, burning, or stabbing pain in your back. With certain movements, the pain could radiate down your leg or worsen when bending, twisting, standing, or lifting. It can occur from a muscle or ligament strain, bulging or ruptured disks, arthritis, or osteoporosis.

In the U.S., 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their life. Disability from lower back pain is one of the most frequent health complaints that causes lost time at work, second only to the common cold.

Typically, your back pain will last a few weeks and proper home remedies will help alleviate the pain. If you have chronic back pain, it’s important to pay attention to your body and know your limitations. 

Remedies and Treatments for Back Pain

Back pain can occur in two forms — acute and chronic. In other words, back pain can manifest suddenly and without warning, or it can come back from time to time as a familiar condition that you’ll eventually know how to manage efficiently.

Generally, your acute or chronic back pain can be treated at home. There are many ways to find back pain relief, but below are the best methods for treating acute and chronic back pain.

Acute Back Pain Care

Acute back pain typically resolves within a few days or weeks. Here are some ways to treat the condition and help make you feel better: 

  • In the first 48 hours of a flare-up, you may use ice packs to relieve pain and swelling. You can add compression — the use of pressure on the affected area — to this tactic, too.
  • You can take a nalgesic medications like acetaminophen or aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen, muscle relaxants, and topical pain relief like gels, creams, patches, or sprays.
  • Gentle stretching, light exercise, and resuming normal activity will help improve the movement and extension of your back. Bed rest is not recommended for back pain, but if the pain becomes unbearable take a break.

Chronic Back Pain Care

Chronic back pain may be something that you have dealt with or will experience from time to time over a long period. Here are ways to help relieve chronic back pain:

  • While typically not recommended for acute back pain, exercises to strengthen abdominal or core muscles may help increase your chronic back pain recovery rate. Talk to your doctor about appropriate exercises to include in a routine.
  • Antidepressants like duloxetine and tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline have been shown to relieve chronic pain that’s unrelated to depression.
  • Therapeutic massages, chiropractic spinal alignments, and acupuncture are other methods that may help relieve chronic back pain.

When to See a Doctor

Acute back pain will typically go away after a few days. Chronic back pain comes and goes — you will eventually figure out which remedies work well for you and which don’t.

Call your doctor as soon as you can if you don’t feel back pain relief even after trying common remedies and treatments — especially if you also start experiencing the following symptoms: 

  • Sharp consistent pain even when you’re lying down
  • Radiating pain that moves or shoots up your back or down your legs
  • Sudden weakness in your legs
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Numbness or pins and needles in your groin or glutes

Emergency Care

In rare cases, you may need to seek immediate emergency care, even if the pain isn’t extreme. If your back pain happens after a fall, a blow to your back, or any other injury — and is accompanied by a fever — go to the nearest urgent care facility or emergency room right away.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: “Back Pain Treatment Guide.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Chronic Back Pain.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Home remedies for low back pain.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “7 Ways to Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery.”

Mayo Clinic: “Back pain - Diagnosis & Treatment.”

Mayo Clinic: “Back pain - Symptoms & causes.”

Mayo Clinic Health System: “When should I see a doctor about back pain?”

Michigan Medicine: “Upper and middle back pain.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Low back pain fact sheet.”

Reid Health: “7 common causes of back pain.”

UTSouthwestern Medical Center: “5 signs your back pain might be an emergency.”

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