Back pain can be... well a pain. It can affect both your personal and work life, but there are simple treatments you can try at home to help.
Back pain can begin suddenly as a result of an injury or by lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time as we age. The intensity can range from a muscle aching to a shooting, burning, tingling or stabbing sensation. The pain may also radiate down your leg or worsen with bending, twisting, lifting, standing or walking.
How can I relieve back pain at home?
Fortunately, lower back pain usually gets better on its own. To help relieve the pain in the meantime though, over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen), can help. There are also other helpful at-home treatments you can try to self-manage and relieve your discomfort:
When back pain strikes, exercise is probably the last thing you want to do. However, a short walk, yoga, swimming, or another low-impact activity can often help alleviate back pain. Exercise may loosen tense muscles and release endorphins, which are the brain’s natural painkillers.
Use hot or cold compresses
Studies have found that both cold and heat therapy can bring a surprising level of pain relief for most types of lower back pain.
When your back pain is acute (less than a 4-week duration) and/or occurs due to a direct injury, use cold therapy first. Lowering the body temperature will help constrict the blood vessels, reduce swelling, decrease inflammation, and cause a numbing effect. You can use a shop-bought ice pack designed for pain relief or simply wrap some ice or a bag of frozen veg in a towel.
Once the cold therapy has helped reduce the inflammation, a heating pad can help to relieve stiff or achy muscles. If you’re not able to use a heating pad, then you can try a hot water bottle instead.
Topical creams and sprays
When applied to the skin, these creams or sprays cause nerve endings to feel either heat or cold, and this can help dull pain. Key ingredients to look for include cooling menthol; salicylate, the compound in aspirin; or capsaicin, a heat-stimulating substance found in hot peppers.
Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that people can apply directly to the skin to treat muscle pain, swelling, bruising, and minor injuries. The reason arnica works is because, like many plants, it has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. When arnica cream or arnica gel is applied, it stimulates circulation, helping the body's own healing system react—which encourages some speedy relief.
Fix your footwear
Wearing shoes that do not fit or that offer no support could be causing your back pain. For example, high heels can throw off alignment and add extra stress and strain on the lower back. Flip flops, at the other extreme, are so flat that the lack of support can lead to arch pain, heel pain, ankle pain, or knee pain.
You might want to consider switching to shoes that fit correctly and support the feet. A podiatrist or foot specialist can help you find proper footwear if you need further advice.
A final note: Self-treating back pain with home remedies can be helpful to a certain point. But if after a few weeks, your pain is not getting better, getting worse or is severe at night, see a doctor to find out what else may help.