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Try These Recommended Remedies for Back Pain

About eight in ten of American adults have something in common. We’ve had lower back pain at some point in our lives. This annoying pain affects men and women equally. Maybe you have back discomfort right now.

The intensity of back pain can be dull or a sharp, sudden sensation. At its worst, lower back pain can be disabling. Lower back pain is a leading factor in work days missed.

Lower back pain can be caused by an accident, a fall, incorrectly lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time due to age-related changes in your spine.

A sedentary lifestyle can increase the chances of lower back pain, especially when a normally inactive life is punctuated by occasional strenuous activity, such as a hard weekend workout or a busy day doing yard work.

We divide low back pain into three categories:

  • Acute — Pain that lasts less than 4 weeks.
  • Subacute — Pain that lasts 4 to 12 weeks
  • Chronic — Pain that lasts more than 12 weeks

What Can Be Done to Relieve Back Pain?

Low back pain usually goes away in a few days or weeks without special treatment. If the pain doesn’t go away on its own, visit with your health care provider about your treatment options. Surgery is rarely needed to remedy low back pain.

New guidelines from the American College of Physicians (ACP) offer doctors and patients some suggestions for nonradicular lower back pain relief. This type of pain does not irradiate from, and is not caused by, damage to the spinal nerve root.

The ACP guidelines are based on reviews of controlled trials and studies of noninvasive drug and non-drug treatments for low back pain.

The effectiveness of treatments can vary with different individuals.

For Acute or Subacute Pain — The ACP found these treatments may help:

  • Heat therapy — Apply a gentle heat source such as a warm cloth, hot water bottle or heating pad to the lower back. A whirlpool bath may also help.
  • Massage. A licensed massage therapist can guide you in the type of massage that will be most effective for you.
  • Acupuncture — A certified acupuncturist inserts tiny needles into the skin at select points of the body to block pain signals.
  • Spinal manipulation — Adjustment are made to the spine by a licensed chiropractor.

If these treatments above aren’t effective, discuss with your health care provider options such as taking ibuprofen or a muscle relaxant.

Chronic Low Back Pain — Before taking medicines, try these treatments:

  • Exercise — A number of exercises can focus on strengthening body core muscles, including the back. 
  • Rehabilitation — Special therapy addresses physical, psychological and social issues that may cause pain.
  • Acupuncture.
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction — You can learn ways to focus and calm your mind.

Here are some additional suggestions from the ACP:

  • Yoga — This exercise helps people better control breathing, benefit from meditation and strengthen the body.
  • Tai chi — This exercise help strengthen the body through slow, calming movements.
  • Spinal manipulation.
  • Back strengthening exercises.
  • Progressive relaxation — You’ll learn to tighten and relax muscles to relax the entire body.
  • Electromyography biofeedback — A special device is used to sense muscle tension and help release it.
  • Low-level laser therapy — In this treatment low-power lasers are used to help heal muscles.
  • Operant therapy — This psychological treatment rewards patients for beneficial behaviors.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy — This psychotherapy increases awareness of inaccurate or negative thinking and helps the patient change thought processes to more effectively respond to negative thoughts.

If after trying these remedies, addition pain relief is needed, visit with your health care provider about taking ibuprofen, tramadol or duloxetine.

The ACP says opioids should be considered only if all other treatments have failed and only if there are more benefits than risks for the individual patient.

Questions to Ask When You Visit Your Health Care Provider

The American College of Physicians suggest you visit with your health care provider if you have back pain. When discussing treatment options, ask:

  • How long will it take for pain to go away?
  • What symptoms could mean I have a more serious condition?
  • How long should I take medicines, if they’re recommended?
  • Are there activities I should avoid?
  • What should I do if the pain gets worse?
  • What exercises can I do to strengthen my back?
  • If you need to stop work, when might I be able to return.

If you have back pain, your remedy may begin with some simple self-care you can start today. Or make a provider appointment to get a professional recommendation.

If you find this guidance helpful, you’ll find more health information on the Aurora Health Care Facebook page. Visit and like us today! 

Meet the Author

Mustafa Farooque, MD is board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and fellowship trained in musculoskeletal spine and sports medicine at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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