Have you ever woken up and felt a stiffness in your spine? Or returned home from a long day at the office, only to feel that awful pain in your back that makes it impossible for you to get comfortable? You’re not alone. Around 65 million Americans suffer from back pain, and it accounts for a significant number of sick days taken off work. Thankfully, 95% of back pain does not require surgical treatment — but that doesn’t mean you want to spend your life popping over-the-counter pills.
Back pain may be common, but it isn’t something that you should ignore. That pain you feel is your body’s way of warning you that something isn’t right. Think of pain as a messaging service that tells you exactly what’s going on with your body. You need to listen to these messages. Not only can the mistreatment — or worse, complete denial — of pain lead to more severe problems in the long run, it can also have huge negative effects on your daily life. Mobility and movement are what keep us young, so don’t resign yourself to bed.
Get up, move around, and start using these simple and natural hacks for back pain relief.
The Science of Back Pain
Before we jump into the list, we need to take a second to think about the science behind back pain — we’re all science geeks here at truMedic.
So, why do we feel back pain?
Back pain can occur for many different reasons. Your back is a complex puzzle made up of a series of interlocking pieces: vertebrae, intervertebral discs, facet joints, and a whole load of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Your back pain could be the result of a malfunction of one or many of these components. Your spine is full of delicate nerve endings that can become inflamed and irritated. Your joints can become jammed or the vertebrae can become misaligned.
And yet, the number one cause of back pain is stress. Every day you might encounter several challenges, problems, and day-to-day stresses, and these take a physical toll. You may spend long hours sat at a desk, slumped over your keyboard — that causes stress on the body. You may have young children who you carry and play with — that causes stress on the body. Your body is also under constant stress from the environment, with ingested chemicals, pollution, and toxins all playing a part.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to eliminate everything that causes stress on our body. But, our list of hacks is a great place to start!
1. Realign Your Posture
You’ve probably heard it a million times: “don’t slouch”, or “stand up straight”. You’ve also probably ignored this advice. But poor posture is one of the leading causes of back pain. Slumped shoulders and curved spines put unnatural pressure on the joints, which can lead to discomfort. Too many hours sitting, long commutes, carrying groceries — these daily activities often make the imbalances in our posture worse. So, take the time to work out how to align your posture properly.
Try out this little sequence:
- Stand straight with your weight equally distributed between your two feet
- Move your pelvis back and forth in a thrusting movement
- Find the position where your spine is perfectly neutral — not overarched or curled
- Work your way up your body. Make sure that at all times, your feet are touching the floor
- Check that your core is pulled in and your chest positioned comfortably
- Imagine that there is a piece of string pulling you from the top of your head — lengthen your neck and pull your chin in.
Doing this realignment process every day will slowly undo the bad habits you have developed in your posture, probably without even realizing it!
2. Improve Your Sleep
Back pain and sleep disorders go hand-in-hand. Roughly two-thirds of people who suffer from back pain also suffer from a sleep disorder. And worst of all? It’s a vicious cycle. Not getting enough sleep can cause back pain. This pain then causes you not to sleep. On and on it goes, with restless nights and chronic discomfort becoming the norm.
To break the cycle, try switching up your sleeping position. You might typically sleep on your side or on your stomach, but this can make a sore back worse. Instead, try sleeping in a reclining position. Adding extra pillows to support your head, neck, and back takes the pressure off the spine, making your rest more restorative and healing.
3. Visit a Massage Therapist
Who doesn’t love a massage? The soothing music, the scented oils, the luxury of taking time to completely relax. Too many of us think of massages as a treat — something we might do once a year for a special occasion. But the benefits of massage for back pain are particularly extraordinary.
A massage promotes circulation, relaxes muscles, boosts endorphins, and eases stress. Regular visits to a massage therapist will slowly address the pain in your back and encourage your body to repair itself. If you’ve ever needed an excuse to book yourself an appointment, we think that’s a pretty good one.
4. Invest in a Home Massage Unit
Massages are one of the best ways to relax, but finding time to make an appointment, traveling to the location and committing yourself to a program can be stressful in itself. We’re trying to relieve stress here, right? Investing in a home back massager, neck massager or shoulder massager is an easy and economical way to enjoy the many benefits of massage from the comfort of your own home.
A Shiatsu massage chair gives you spa-quality relaxation without ever having to leave home. With body-scan technology that automatically detects the position of your body and shape of your spine, it’s like having your own on-hand massage therapist in your living room. By identifying the areas of tension in your body, a massage chair delivers a customized treatment tailored to your body’s needs. Got no room for a chair? No problem! A Shiatsu neck and back massager is the perfect alternative for managing your back pain. Easy to use, this lightweight and portable massager can be stored easily and discreetly for use in your home or on the go.
5. Get Active with Low-Impact Cardio
When back pain strikes, your first instinct may be to clamber into bed. Who would blame you? We know that pain responds well to rest, and your bed is so comfy. But did you know that studies have found that regular exercise reduces pain by 28%? Of course, if you’re suffering from back pain, it’s not a great idea to run to the gym and start powerlifting heavy weights. But, low-impact exercise could be the key to relieving your back pain. Exercise not only helps to lubricate the joints — but it also aids weight loss. While those few extra pounds may seem harmless, they put added pressure on the lower back that over time can lead to the compression of discs and nerves.
Is the gym not your thing? Why not try swimming? Swimming is a great way to get your heart rate up and build endurance, strength, and cardiovascular fitness. Your heart, lungs, and muscles all benefit from regular swimming sessions, and best of all, the buoyancy of the water takes the impact of stress off your body. Unlike when running on hard ground, your body is supported by the water, meaning your back pain won’t be further aggravated.
6. Workout Your Core
Everything in your body is connected. Managing your back pain doesn’t just involve limbering up your spine. Your abs play a crucial role in supporting your spine and improving your overall posture. If you think you need to spend hours doing countless crunches to get a tight core, think again! Just 3-5 minutes of core work is enough.
A standing crunch is an easy alternative to more traditional ab exercises:
- Stand up straight with your weight equally distributed, just as if you’re aligning your posture
- Clasp your hands behind your head with your elbows at a 90-degree angle to your body (or pointing forward)
- Hold in your core tight
- Crunch forward, curling your spine
- Gently roll out of the crunch and return to the standing position.
- Do this exercise daily, repeating it as many times as you can. As you grow stronger, build up the number of reps. In no time, you’ll have a solid core.
7. Become a Yogi
Yoga is the perfect form of exercise for those of us who suffer from back pain. Gentle, relaxing and low-impact, yoga encourages the flexibility and joint mobility that you need to support and protect your back. Yoga can seem a little daunting, especially when you’re getting started. Contorting your body into strange and bewildering positions can put off even the most enthusiastic newbies. However, gentle yoga doesn’t have to be so intimidating.
Start out simple. The downward dog is one of the fundamental positions of yoga, and it’s a great pose for stretching out your back.
Start out on all fours, with your hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart
- Slowly lift your pelvis, lifting your knees off the floor so that you’re standing on your toes
- Gently tilt your pelvis upwards, focusing on stretching your back
- Straighten your legs and hold the pose for 5-10 seconds
- Return to your initial position, and repeat
- Once you’ve mastered the downward dog, why not try out some new poses? There are hundreds of free videos available on YouTube, or you could sign up for yoga classes at your local studio or gym.
8. Stretch out Your Hammies
Did you know that tight hamstrings are a major contributor to back pain? When your hammies are tight, it places stress on your sacroiliac joints and lower back. This pressure builds up over time, causing back pain and discomfort.
Your hamstrings are a huge muscle that can be easily stretched every day. Take the time to do some forward bends to relieve the tension. For an easy and effective stretch, try placing one foot on a chair and straightening your leg. You should feel a nice burn underneath and along the inside of your thigh — when you do, you’re doing it right!
9. Have a Laugh
Laughter is a universal cure. Have you ever noticed how a good joke can leave you smiling, even hours after it’s been told? Or how good conversations with friends immediately make you forget all your stresses, aches, and pains? There’s a reason for it! When you laugh, you increase your oxygen intake and produce endorphins. These endorphins are produced naturally in your body and trigger a positive feeling in your body, not unlike that of morphine. Laughter really can be the best medicine.
Endorphins block pain signals from registering in your brain, which helps to alleviate anxiety, stress, and depression. By relieving stress, you’re also relieving your back of pain — so put on a funny show, have a catch up with your friends, or tell yourself a silly joke, and reap the benefits of laughter.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, why not sign up to laughter yoga? Laughter yoga programs are taught all around the world and are designed to harness the power of laughter to reduce pain. The combination of breathing exercises and prolonged, intentional laughter makes for a truly effective and fun workout.
10. Indulge in a Hot Bath
Foamy bubbles, flickering candlelight, warm water, and time to yourself — a bath can be a truly soothing experience. A hot bath will not only relax your muscles and ease the aches and pains of the day, but it will also take the pressure off your body by supporting it. If you needed another benefit, baths also help to prime the body for sleep. Why not indulge in some you-time by running yourself a luxurious bath?
11. Experiment with Hot/Cold Therapy
Frozen peas, ice-packs, warm towels, and hot water bottles — all are household items that can be used to alleviate your back pain. A cold compress is an effective anesthetic that slows down your nerve impulses and reduces inflammation. On the other hand, applying heat to the painful area helps to stimulate blood flow. Healing nutrients are carried in the blood, so when you improve your blood flow, you’re ensuring that the right nutrients are being delivered to where they’re needed most.
All of truMedics massagers have heat therapy built-in, including our heated pillow massager. Sometimes it’s the simple things that have the best effect.
12. Practice Mind Control
Pain seems tangible — “I feel it, so it must be real”. However, studies are increasingly finding that pain is not as clear-cut as we may think. We feel pain because our brain is processing and interpreting signals sent through our nerves, but the way we react to these messages can be manipulated.
“Mind over matter” is the idea that you can control bodily sensations just with the power of your mind. Focusing on other things and allowing your brain to become distracted is a great way to trick yourself out of feeling pain. Why not give it a try? It’s important to remember that if your pain doesn’t go away, you should seek advice from a medical professional.
More on National Chiropractic Month:
How Massage Therapy Can Help Fix Your Posture and Give You a Better Back:
A Brief History of Chiropractic Care
Massage Therapy and Chiropractic Adjustment: What's the difference?
Suffering from back pain? Enjoy the benefits of a relaxing and effective massage with your personal home massager from truMedic, and say goodbye to back pain for good!