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Remedies to Explore for Back Pain Relief

Published May 10, 2017
| Written By SpineNation Editorial Staff   | Medically Reviewed by Jerry Nichols, MD

There are countless ways to ease back pain out there, and none of them works for every problem. It’s important that you understand why you hurt, and what helps you—not what works for everyone else. Experiment with each of these to find your relief:

Aerobic Exercise

There are plenty of reasons to get aerobic exercise, and nearly all of them apply directly or indirectly to the management of back pain. Not only is it a good way to build up all the muscles that support your body and maintain healthy posture, it will release endorphins which ease pain and improve your mental well-being. You’ll also find it easier to maintain flexibility and keep the degenerative impacts of aging at bay if you exercise regularly.

Core Exercise

Your core supports your spine, and a well-supported spine hurts less, so work those abs and those back muscles. Basic aerobic exercises can give you basic core health, but if you really want to improve your core strength you’ll want to work your way up to free weights at the gym. Avoid fixed-movement machines for core exercise if possible, as you want all the little supporting muscles of your body developed alongside the big movers for back pain relief.


Certain over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, can help back pain for short periods of time. These medicines belong to a category of pain relief medication called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Since a lot of back pain stems from inflammation of the spine and surrounding musculature, it’s no surprise that these particular drugs can offer relief. Just be wary of the extended use of anything other than small aspirin dosages, as NSAIDs can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers, and other organ damage over time.

Maintaining Mental Health

Stress, depression, and various other mental health difficulties can worsen the back pain you experience day to day. Not only can these ailments contribute to physical difficulties such as tension and poor sleep, they can affect the way you perceive the pain for the worse.

Better Supports

Your office chair, your bed, your favorite lounging place in the living room—all of these can contribute to back pain if they’re not ergonomically designed and appropriate to your needs. Also, pay attention to things that inform the way you hold your body; if your monitor is too high or too low, your keyboard too close or too far, then you’re going to sit poorly even if your chair is excellent.

Shoes and Feet

Your feet control the alignment of your entire body, so when something’s wrong at the bottom it’s no surprise that you see problems at the top. Make sure the shoes you’re wearing are right for you: the right size, the right cushioning, the right arch support, the right heel height. Good shoes are a sound investment for anyone, doubly so for those suffering back pain. You’ll also want to pay attention to how you stand, how you walk and how you run. Small problems in the way you place your feet can lead to big problems further up.


The best supports in the world can’t help you if you don’t sit and stand properly. An ergonomic office chair doesn’t support your back if you’re hunched over a too-low desk or kicked way back browsing. Think about how you sit, and correct yourself. Eventually, good posture will become a habit you don’t have to think about at all.

Lose Weight

Weight reduces your body’s overall ability to cope with injuries and stay healthy, which of course contributes to back pain. There’s also the increased pressure on your back and tension in your back muscles, which can cause pain or exacerbate existing problems.

Quit smoking

Smoking is directly connected to the development of degenerative disc disease, as it worsens the flexibility of spinal discs and thus increases the likelihood of disc herniation. This, in addition to the general worsening of your physical condition resulting from smoking, should encourage you to stop as soon as possible.


A deep tissue massage does a lot for your back, even if it’s a self-administered massage with a tennis ball. In addition to the physiological benefits of improved circulation and relieved tension, there’s a notable psychological benefit to massage—something important to keeping pain from dominating your life. While any good deep tissue massage can work wonders for back pain, working with a proper massage therapist will get you the best results and the best long-term back pain relief.


A good way to manually release endorphins if aerobic exercise isn’t an option, meditation also helps you develop the mental fortitude necessary to shuffle pain to the back of your mind. The same amount of physical pain can be experienced in very different ways—meditation will help you focus your attention elsewhere when things are at their worst.


Good sleep is crucial to overall well-being, so it’s no surprise that it can play a critical role in keeping back pain under control. There are quite a few factors to consider here, including the quality of sleep, sleep posture, and your mattress. Difficulties here can impact tension, flexibility, mental health, and a host of other factors directly or indirectly tied to back pain.

Heat and Cold Therapy

Cold packs and heat packs can both be beneficial to back pain, depending on the specific source of your problem. While cold packs may not be immediately relieving in the way heat packs are, spine pain related to inflammation will be reduced following a good cool down, while it may be increased after the initial relief from heat packs. Similarly, cold packs can cause extra pain if your difficulties lie in excess tension or similar problems.


A good stretch routine can work wonders for back pain relief. Don’t limit yourself to stretches directly affecting your back, though those are quite crucial to overall back health. In many cases, back pain can be tracked to problems elsewhere in the body, such as over-tight hamstrings placing undue tension on your spine.

Parting Thoughts...

Ultimately, all of these or none of these could help your back pain. There are so many potential sources of pain, not all of them adequately understood, that the best you can do is experiment. Even if you have a concrete diagnosis of a back problem, the exact cause of the pain you experience can be different from other people with the same problem. Take the time to find out what works for you.

Updated: February 14, 2020

Information provided within this article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Those seeking specific medical advice should consult his or her doctor or surgeon. If you need to consult with a specialist, you may be able find a health care provider in our Specialist Finder. SpineNation does not endorse treatments, procedures, products or physicians.

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Contributors and Experts

Jerry Nichols, MD is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation with Carilion Clinic.