Whether it’s from getting a little too enthusiastic with recreational activities, a work injury, or just overdoing it with household chores, most people will incur back pain at one point or another. In fact, research has shown that 80% of American workers suffer a work-related back injury before retirement.
The Anatomy Of The Back
A look at the anatomy of the back may add some understanding to the likelihood of backaches. The human spine consists of 24 vertebrae (bones). The vertebrae are stacked atop each other and run from the base of the skull to the pelvis, making a gentle “S” curve along the way. Spongy discs cushion the bones and act like tiny shock absorbers. The back of each vertebrae are connected by a series of interlocking joints. Muscles and ligaments wrap and support the spinal column.
With so many interlocking, moving parts and considering the spine takes the brunt of the load each time a person bends, stoops, sits, runs, or lifts something, it’s easy to understand why back pain affects so many people.
The upside is that most back pain isn’t the result of a major structural injury. This means that home remedies can alleviate the backache and save you a lot of time and money.
Here are twelve home remedies for back pain that can help you get ‘back’ in the swing of things:
1. Rest, Not Bed rest
In the past, standard protocol was that a sore back called for several days laying about in bed. Research is now showing that the immobility and pressure of bed rest can actually slow down back pain relief, and it can further make weakened muscles more prone to strain when normal activities are resumed. Resting is fine, but ensure that you periodically get up and move around and continue light activities. Do avoid any activity that makes the pain worse. When sleeping or resting keep these points in mind:
- Avoid bending, reaching, and lifting heavy objects.
- Avoid lying face down.
- Avoid using so many pillows under head that it hyperextends your neck.
- Do rest flat on your back with one to two pillows under the back of the knees.
- Do sleep on your side; flex your knees and place a pillow between them.
For the first 24 hours following the start of the back pain, ice can be applied to reduce inflammation and minimize lower, middle, or upper back pain. If you don’t have pre-packaged ice packs or break-and-use ice packs, you can place a few ice cubes in a plastic bag and place it in a pillowcase. Apply the ice pack to the center of the painful area for 20 minutes; repeat every 30 minutes.
The cold of an ice pack only reduces pain and inflammation for the first 24 hours post-injury. After that, heat will help alleviate pain. It will also help the muscles to stay loose. Pregnant women with back pain should take caution not to raise their body temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit since prolonged exposure to this type of heat carries a risk of miscarriage and birth defects. Wet and dry heat sources include:
- Electric heating pad
- Warm bath
- Hot tub
- Break-and-use heating sticky pad
4. Epsom Salt Soak
Soaking in Epsom salt can also reduce swelling. Add two cups of the salts to a warm bath. Soak for 30 minutes once or twice a day.
5. Look For Sources Of Back Pain
Maybe you know that your back pain stems from that extra round of golf yesterday, but, if you can’t remember particularly doing anything that might have caused your back to hurt, then you should look for sources of back pain in your home or office, such as:
- Worn mattress or mattress that’s too soft or hard for your comfort.
- Sagging couches or chairs that no longer sit “right.”
- Work spaces or office spaces that aren’t ergonomically designed.
It’s amazing how where you sit, rest, sleep, and work can play such a role in your back pain. Fix the problem,fix the pain.
6. Is Your Back Pain Related To Your Mental State?
Internal stress and anxiety causes muscle, ligament, and tendon tension in your back, which in turn creates a stiff, painful back. If mental stress is the root of your back pain, try these home remedies:
- deep breathing exercises
- getting lost in a book or other relaxing activity
7. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea has a calming effect on tense muscles in the back. If prepackaged chamomile tea isn’t available, you can steep chamomile flowers in a cup of boiling water. Do consult your doctor first if you’re allergic to ragweed pollen or pregnant.
8. Ginger Root
Most pregnant women are already all too familiar with ginger root in their quest to cure nausea. However, ginger root also contains anti-inflammatory properties that can help with back pain. Simmer ginger root slices in a quart of of boiling water for 30 minutes. Strain before drinking.
Compression can help support back weakened or strained back muscles that may be causing the back pain. It can especially be soothing for muscle spasms in the upper, lower, and middle back.
Compression works great with the heat and ice phases of home remedy. An elastic bandage can be used for the compression and it doubles to hold the heat or ice pack in place. Wrap the elastic bandage around your midsection so that it covers the painful area, but be careful not to wrap too tightly. If you can’t easily put your finger between the bandage and your skin, then it’s too tight.
10. Lay Off The Cigarettes
You might have heard that people that smoke take longer to heal from injuries than those that don’t consume nicotine. In back injuries, smokers not only take longer to heal, but they also are prone to chronic back injuries because the toxins from cigarettes prevent spinal discs from receiving necessary nutrients from the bloodstream. Spinal disc injury is the number one cause of lower back pain.
A gentle massage can help revive muscles, relieve accumulated tension and waste in muscles, and help blood vessels open up and get better flow to painful muscles. When massaging the back, start at the center of the pain and work your way outwardly.
Particularly concerning chronic back pain, it’s important to stretch muscles and ligament to prevent stiffness and tension that causes pain. When stretching keep these points in mind.
- Stretch regularly.
- Perform stretches at least twice a day.
- Use gentle, slow motions that aren’t jerky, bouncy, or forceful.
- Anything past mild tension is too forceful.
- Hold each stretch at its’ mild tension point for 10-20 seconds.
- Allow muscles to completely relax between stretches.
While there are some serious, structural back injuries that will require medical intervention, most sources of backache and back pain can be treated at home with the above natural home remedies.