What to Do When You Are Experiencing Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common medical conditions, affecting up to 80% of adults at some point in their lives. It can be a slight ache in your lower back or even spinal cord damage that you might be unaware of. While a doctor should evaluate severe or persistent back pain, you can take several self-care steps to relieve your symptoms and improve your back health.

Rest and Activity Modification

Resting Positions to Relieve Back Pain

Lying on your back with knees bent, lying on your side with knees bent, and reclining are good resting positions to relieve back pain. Avoid positions that arch your back.

Exercises for Back Pain Relief

Gentle exercises like walking, biking, and swimming can help relieve back pain by loosening tight back muscles and releasing endorphins to improve mood and pain tolerance. Start with 5 to 10 minutes a day and slowly increase the duration and intensity of exercise as your back pain improves.

Pain Relief Techniques

Heat and Cold Therapy

Applying heat to your back (with a heating pad or warm bath) can help relax tight muscles and relieve spasms. Ice packs can numb the area and reduce inflammation—alternate heat and ice every 10 to 20 minutes to maximum benefit. Limit heat and ice to 15 to 20 minutes and wrap them in a towel to prevent skin damage.

Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

You may get relief temporarily from over-the-counter medications, but you should follow the dosage instructions carefully and avoid taking them for more than 10 days in a row unless directed by a doctor. You should make an appointment with a back and spine specialist in Phoenix or your area if your pain is intense. 

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

Basic Stretches to Help Relieve Back Pain

Knee-to-chest stretch, cat/cow pose, seated twist, and bridge pose are gentle yoga stretches that can help relieve back pain. Hold each stretch for half a minute without bouncing. Be gentle, and don’t force the stretch. Stretch 2 to 3 times per day or as needed to relieve pain.

Yoga Poses for Back Pain Relief

Gentle yoga focuses on your strength. Yoga can help relieve back pain and prevent recurrence by stretching and strengthening your back, core, and leg muscles through controlled movements and focused breathing. Yoga for back pain should be gentle and modified based on your pain levels and flexibility. 

Ergonomics and Posture

Ergonomic Chairs and Desks for Work

An ergonomic chair, desk setup, and proper workspace design can help reduce back pain from prolonged sitting at work. Your chair should provide lumbar support for your lower back, your desk should be at an appropriate height, and your keyboard, mouse, and monitor should be directly in front of you, so you are not constantly twisting your back. 

Adjusting Sleeping Positions

Use a medium-firm mattress to support the natural curves of your spine while sleeping. Add a pillow under your knees if sleeping on your back or between your knees if sleeping on your side. Sleeping face down is not advised. Use a pillow to support the neck but do not raise your head too high. The ideal sleeping position is on your back or side with knees slightly bent and a pillow supporting your thighs and torso.

Diet and Hydration

Anti-Inflammatory Foods 

An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce chronic inflammation that contributes to back pain. Focus on foods like fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, turmeric or curcumin, bromelain, ginger, and green tea. Limit red meat, sugar, and processed or fried foods. Staying hydrated also helps reduce inflammation and lubricate your joints and muscles.

Nutritional Supplements 

Certain supplements may help reduce chronic back pain. Turmeric or curcumin supplements also act as anti-inflammatories. Glucosamine and chondroitin help maintain joint and spine flexibility and mobility. Magnesium helps relax tight back muscles, which can lead to spasms and pain. Talk to your doctor before taking supplements to determine dosage and safety, especially if you are on other medications.

Mental Health and Stress Management

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) provides tools to help change negative thoughts and behavior patterns related to chronic back pain. A CBT therapist can help you adopt positive coping strategies, pacing techniques, problem-solving skills, and relaxation methods to improve your ability to manage back pain daily. CBT may be more effective for chronic back pain than pain medications alone.

Stress Management Techniques 

High stress and tension can intensify back pain, causing tightened back muscles and restricted mobility. Try progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, visualization, Tai Chi, yoga, or light exercise, which releases endorphins to boost your mood and relieve stress. Limit stressful activities when your back pain is severe. 

Professional Treatment Options

Physical therapy provides targeted exercise and manual therapies to help reduce back pain. A physical therapist can teach you specific strengthening, stretching, and postural exercises to relieve pain based on the types and symptoms of back pain. Manual therapies like massage, heat, and transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) may also relax tight muscles and provide immediate relief from acute back pain


In summary, back pain, though it can seem quite manageable, can lead to long-term and consistent discomfort. Such discomfort and intensity can hinder your daily activity levels. At-home remedies are important and effective, but remember to consult a professional before the issue becomes irrecoverable.

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