According to the American Physical Therapy Association, almost two-thirds of Americans experience some form of lower back pain. While the odds of having more frequent or severe back pain only increase as you age, there are simple ways to ease discomfort without making a trip to see your doctor. Here are pain relief remedies from Darbi Invergo, DO, neurosurgeon at North Suburban Medical Center, to help manage chronic pain and increase general wellness.
- Stretch it out
“To ease lower back pain and avoid a flare-up, use simple hamstring stretches,” said Dr. Invergo. “Sit down and extend one leg in front of your body, lean forward until you feel a stretch in the hamstring, and repeat with the other leg.”
Along with stretching on your own at home, a deep tissue or sports massage can help your muscles recover from a long day at work or an intense workout session, as well as reduce chronic pain symptoms in people with low back pain.
- Work it out
Along with being good for bone health and general wellness, cardiovascular work and isometric strengthening exercises can help lessen back pain.
“Swimming is a great form of exercise for the lower back and neck, and working against the gentle resistance of the water will help strengthen your core,” said Dr. Invergo. “Repetitive and targeted movements also help strengthen the core muscles so they can better support your back. For example, if you’re doing crunches, tense your abs, count to ten, and then relax and repeat.”
- Heat up or cool down
Ice or heat can work wonders for pain relief, especially if you have aches and pains immediately following physical activity or have a flare-up.
“Ice for 30 minutes will cool down inflammation. I tell all my patients to apply ice after a workout, even if they’re not feeling sore,” said Dr. Invergo. “Heat is a better option later in the day when you want the back muscles to relax. There’s nothing wrong with a topical cream like Icy Hot, as long as it provides the relief you need.”
- Pop a pain reliever
If ice or heat isn’t enough to relieve pain, Dr. Invergo suggests taking aspirin or ibuprofen. While nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be sold over the counter, be sure to consult your doctor before taking any new medications to avoid any possible side effects or contraindications—especially if you already take blood thinners.
- Sleep tight
If chronic back pain keeps you up at night, try checking your mattress. While a supportive mattress can be even more important than adjusting your sleeping position, adding an extra pillow can also help.
“If you’re a side sleeper, try placing a pillow between your legs to help equalize the pressure on the spine,” said Dr. Invergo. “If you sleep on your back, try adding a pillow under your knees to ease any tension.”