80% of us experience back pain at some point in our adult life. For some people, this pain can be temporary. For others it can be ongoing.
Back pain can often be debilitating, affecting everything from our ability to work to our sleep quality. While not all back problems are curable, there are many ways to reduce back pain. By trying out different methods, you can work out the best way of coping with your individual pain. Here are just 15 different ways to fight back pain.
Long ago, doctors would recommend that patients stay in bed to help reduce back pain. However, it’s since been proven that maintaining some physical activity can be far greater for your back. In fact, lying in bed or on a couch all day – as tempting as it can be – may cause muscles and joints to seize up, causing pain to get worse. Mild exercise can keep blood flowing to muscles and joints and can also release endorphins to numb pain. Just make sure not to overdo exercise so that you don’t aggravate any underlying injuries – low-impact exercises like swimming, walking and yoga are the best options.
Upgrade your mattress
Back pain and lack of sleep can cause a vicious cycle if you’re not careful. Lack of sleep can make us stressed, which can make back pain worse. Meanwhile, back pain can affect the ability to get to sleep. If you suffer from chronic back pain, upgrading your mattress to an orthopaedic mattress could help to increase comfort, helping you to get to sleep and reducing stress. Such mattresses tend to be firm in order to offer the back the support it needs (soft mattresses are not advised if you have a back problem).
Correct your posture
Poor posture can lead to back problems. This could include stooping while walking or leaning forward while sat at a desk. If you do not correct this posture, the pain could get worse. Train yourself to keep your back straight. If it hurts to sit with your back straight, consider using a cushion to support your lower back. There are also contraptions that can help you to fix your posture while walking.
Smoking damages just about every part of the body including the back. It can slow down circulation, preventing important nutrients from getting to the spine. Smoking can also result in elevated cortisol levels – cortisol is the stress hormone and can increase inflammation. By quitting smoking, you could help to reduce cortisol levels and improve circulation, helping to reduce back pain. There are numerous ways to give up smoking including taking up vaping and trying therapy.
Reduce your sugar intake
Consuming lots of sugar can make pain worse. Sugar causes insulin levels in the body to spike, which can lead to inflammation. By reducing your sugar intake, you may be able to prevent this inflammation. One of the biggest offenders for sugar is soft drinks – if you drink a lot of juice or soda throughout the day, you may want to cut back to see if this makes a difference to your pain levels. Water is the healthiest substitute, although you can also try zero-sugar version of soft drinks.
Take over-the-counter/prescription medicine
There are numerous pain-killers that you can try to help ease pain. Some of these can be bought without a prescription such as aspirin and paracetamol. Always follow instructions when taking dosages and be careful of mixing medication (the likes of paracetamol and aspirin can be taken together, but ibuprofen and aspirin should not be mixed). If this medication isn’t strong enough, you may be able to ask your doctor about the option of using more heavy-duty prescription drugs. You will usually need to have a diagnosed condition in order to be prescribed this medication.
Give herbal medicine a go
There are many forms of herbal medicine that can also offer pain relief. Devil’s claw is a popular herb used to fight chronic back pain. Turmeric is another herb that is commonly used to treat back pain. You may be able to drink these herbs as a tea or even combine them into food. You may be able to take these herbal painkillers with traditional painkillers or you may prefer to take them as a substitute if you need a break from pills.
Try a cold compress
Using an ice pack or a cold wet flannel, it may be possible to reduce inflammation by pressing on the affected area of your back. This is known as a cold compress and is commonly used by first aiders. A cold compress tends to be better suited to recent injuries as a way of reducing initial inflammation, however you can use a cold compress to reduce swelling in chronic conditions too.
Take a hot bath
A hot bath can also be an effective way to fight back pain. The temperature of the water can stimulate nerve endings across the skin, resulting in an endorphin rush that could help to numb pain. Meanwhile, the buoyancy of the water can help to relax muscles and joints. Hot baths are also great at reducing stress (and stress can aggravate pain). Some people find that Epsom bath salts can further reduce pain. The best time to have a bath is often before bed as it could help you relax and improve your sleep quality.
Get a massage
You could also consider booking a massage to help ease the pain in your back. Massages can help to loosen up tight muscles and release trapped nerves. If you’ve recently suffered a back injury, you may want to look into a professional physical therapist who can offer a massage catered to your injury. There may also be ways of massaging yourself to reduce pain (putting a foam roller or tennis ball beneath you back and rolling on it can be an effective way to massage your own back muscles).
See a chiropractor
Hiring a chiropractor could be another option for fighting back pain. What does a chiropractor do? These professionals specialize in treating musculoskeletal disorders using a combination of methods including soft tissue therapy, manipulation and exercise. They are commonly approached to treat spinal injuries and conditions and may be able to unlock the hidden cause of your back pain if you haven’t been able to diagnose it yet.
Acupuncture is a popular alternative form of pain relief that involves inserting long thin needles into pressure points around the body. These needles are so thin that they do not cause pain or bleeding. Many people swear by this form of pain relief. You should always seek out a qualified professional before undertaking this form of therapy.
Try floatation therapy
Floatation therapy is a modern form of therapy that involves floating in salty water in a specially-designed chamber. The buoyancy of the water can help take pressure off of joints and muscles, helping them to relax and helping to reduce pain. There are clinics that specialise in this form of therapy. It is very popular among people with back pain.
Try electrical nerve stimulation
Electrical nerve stimulation is another modern form of pain relief that involves using an electric current to treat pain. The current can manipulate nerves and may even be able to help repair muscles. This treatment can be administered by a professional in a specialized clinic or it can be self-administered using a self-bought kit. This form of treatment is not recommended for those with a heart condition.
Ask your doctor about surgery/spinal injections
There are also a number of medical procedures that can be done to reduce certain types of back pain. Spinal injections are sometimes used to treat pain caused by health problems such as herniated discs – by injecting steroids into the affected area, it’s possible to reduce inflammation. Back surgery is another option that may involve removal of part of a disc. To see if you are eligible for such procedures, talk to your doctor. The effects of such procedures can last months and may even be permanent in some cases.