How to Alleviate Back Pain Naturally

Five Parts:Using Natural Pain ReliefStretching Your BackTreating Back Pain Using Standard MethodsUnderstanding Back PainProtecting Your Back

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for sick days at work, school, and for seeing a doctor.[1] This common pain can be caused by many things, like muscle strain, a bulging disc, arthritis, spinal irregularities, or osteoporosis.[2] In many cases, it is possible to reduce back pain naturally without surgery or medication.

Part 1
Using Natural Pain Relief

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    Visit a chiropractor. A chiropractor is a specialist who treats neuromusculoskeletal conditions, primarily those that impact the back, neck and joints.[3] A chiropractor will assess your condition and then will help align your spine naturally through a series of adjustments. This is usually painless and needs little or no medication.[4] You may need to visit a chiropractor's office once or twice a week for 2-4 weeks.
    • Chiropractors hold a doctorate, completing a year graduate program, and must hold a license wherever they practice. Individuals are 28 times less likely to need surgery if they get treatment from a chiropractor rather than a surgeon.[5]
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    Try acupuncture. Extremely thin needles are placed on specific points along the body that are thought to either open or control energy currents. Acupuncture has been used to treat pain, nausea, fibromyalgia and other conditions.[6] It's been shown to be an effective treatment for chronic lower back pain.[7][8]
    • Acupuncture carries few risks, primarily soreness at the needle site. Licensed acupuncturists use sterile, single use needles, so the risk of infection is low.[9] If you have a bleeding disorder, take a blood thinner, or have a pacemaker, make sure you let the acupuncturist know.[10]
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    Get a professional massage. Don't try to give yourself a massage. You may do further injury. Instead, find a trained and licensed massage therapist. During massage therapy, the therapist will use various degrees of pressure on areas of muscle pain and spasm. This pressure from fingers, hands, knuckles, or elbow will signal your muscles to relax.
    • Studies have shown that massage therapy can reduce low back pain and increase the range of motion and flexibility.[11] It also gives pain relief[12][13], by increasing circulation, relaxing muscles, and increasing levels of natural pain relievers.[14]
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    Try physical therapy. This can reduce your low back pain while increasing your mobility. In this process, trained professional physical therapists manipulate your back, give you specific exercises to strengthen your back, and give you tips to prevent back pain as well as specific training on how to prevent back pain.[15]
    • Physical therapy works without medication or surgery.
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    Use herbs. Many herbs have anti-inflammatory properties. Use the following herbs in cooking, as a tea, or as a supplement. If you supplement, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Try these herbs:
    • Willow bark
    • Basil
    • Calendula
    • Cardamon
    • Cinnamon
    • Turmeric: 400-600mg three times a day
    • Cloves
    • Ginger: 500-600mg twice a day
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    Make a pain-relief poultice. Slowly mix ten tablespoons of bentonite clay with 20 tablespoons of room-temperature distilled water. Stir in 2 drops of essential oils or 1 teaspoon of anti-inflammatory herbs. The mixture will be the consistency of mud. Spread the mixture on a clean cotton cloth or towel so the mixture is ¼" thick.
    • Make sure to leave room around the edges of the cotton cloth to make it easier to apply.
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    Apply the poultice. Try applying the poultice cold or at room temperature to see which works best for you. Cover the poultice with a towel to keep it in place. Keep the poultice on for 30 minutes at a time, checking to make sure that the clay hasn’t dried. Remove the poultice before the clay dries to avoid drying out your skin. You can repeat the process and reapply the poultice for a total of two hours.
    • Before you try any of these on your sore back, test a small area of skin. Wait ten minutes and wash off the poultice. Check for a rash or any irritation. If there is no irritation, apply the poultice. If there is some irritation, try another herb.

Part 2
Stretching Your Back

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    Wear comfortable clothes. When you’re ready to stretch your back, make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes that you can move easily in. This will enable you to stretch more readily and focus on the stretch. Talk to your doctor or therapist before exercising to relieve pain.
    • Stretching can prepare your back for a daily warm up or a specific activity. Stretching the muscles can actually help relieve tension that might be causing back pain.
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    Stretch the upper back. Relax the back muscles. Muscles can go into spasm resulting in back pain. You can help to prevent this by relaxing and then gently stretching your back. Repeat them up to three times a day.[16] Try some of these stretches to target your upper back:[17]
    • Sit or stand tall. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as tightly as possible. Hold for 5-10 seconds and release.
    • Sit or stand tall. Place your hands behind your neck and gently arch your back backwards while looking up to the ceiling.
    • Sit tall in a chair. Cross your arms over your chest and twist your torso to one side and then to the other slowly and gently.
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    Stretch the lower back. Lie on your back and bring your knees up to your chest. Bend your head towards your knees. Hold this position for at least ten seconds, and then release. Repeat as necessary until the tension begins to subside. You can even try rocking from side to side, or from neck to buttocks. Remember to be gentle. Try these other stretches for additional relief:[18]
    • Child’s pose: Kneel and then sit back on your heels. Lower your upper body to the floor with your arms stretched straight out in front of you. Stretch the lower back.[19]
    • Two-knee twist: Lie flat on your back. Bring both knees up to your chest and then drop them both down to one side of your body. Stretch your arms straight out from your body. Release and repeat on the other side.
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    Stretch the sides of your back. Lie on your back with your arms stretched out to your sides. Bend one knee and slowly roll onto the side opposite the bent knee. Roll as far as you can while keeping both shoulders flat on the ground. Hold this position for at least 10 seconds then switch sides. Repeat this stretch, alternating sides 10 times on each side.[20]
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    Stretch your neck. Sit or stand tall with good posture. Bend your head forward to feel a stretch in the back of your neck. Then begin to rotate your head around in a circle, first bringing your chin to your chest, your left ear to your left shoulder and rotating your head around to bring your right ear to your right shoulder. Repeat.[21]

Part 3
Treating Back Pain Using Standard Methods

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    Use a hot or cold pack. These can ease the pain and inflammation although studies are needed to show this.[22] Acute pain usually does better with cold packs, while chronic pain often does better with hot packs.
    • To use a cold pack, wrap the ice pack in a towel and set it on your sore back for 10-15 minutes at a time. Repeat this 4-5 times a day. To use a heat pack, place a heating pad on your back and keep it on low for 20-30 minutes at a time.
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    Get short-term bed rest. This means you should rest for as short a time as possible and carefully get moving as quickly as you can. Prolonged bed rest can actually make back pain worse and can lead to an increased risk of blood clots, depression and decreased muscle tone.[23]
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    Use pain medications. Most of the time, over-the-counter medications are enough to relieve back pain. You might take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe opioids. These drugs should be used only for a short period and only under a physician’s supervision.
    • Avoid using NSAIDS over the long term since they can cause stomach and GI upset, ulcers, heartburn (acid reflux), diarrhoea, fluid retention, and in rare cases, kidney dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. Check for interactions with other medications before taking NSAIDS.[24][25]
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    Consider having surgery. Surgery can be used as a “treatment of last resort” for severe pain. These surgeries are not always successful, can involve a long recovery time, and may run the risk of permanent disability.[26][27] But, several minimally invasive surgeries can correct physical problems of the spine.
    • Talk with your doctor about what options are available to you.

Part 4
Understanding Back Pain

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    Learn the symptoms. The pain can be a dull, constant ache or can be a sudden, sharp and piercing pain. Back pain can be chronic (defined as lasting longer than 12 weeks), acute (lasting a few days to a few weeks) or subacute, lasting between 4-12 weeks. Most back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning that the muscles, vertebrae, facet joints in your spine, nerves and discs are not working as a unit anymore.[28][29][30]
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    Understand the risk factors. Both men and women are at equal risk for back pain, but certain risk factors may increase your chances of experiencing back pain. These include:[31]
    • Age: back pain is more likely as you get older.
    • Level of physical fitness: intense bursts of physical activity could damage your back.
    • Weight: being overweight increases the risk of back pain.
    • Pregnancy: the weight of the growing baby and changes in pelvic structure put pregnant women at risk for back pain.
    • Family history: some disorders (like ankylosing spondylitis) have a genetic basis.
    • Occupation: jobs that require heavy lifting or heavy manual labour put you at higher risk.
    • Desk jobs: sitting in the same position without moving much can cause back pain.
    • Pre-existing mental health issues: depression, stress, and anxiety can worsen back pain.
    • Children’s backpacks: when overloaded or unevenly loaded, backpacks can injure a child's back.
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    Know when to see a doctor. Most of the time, you can take care of a sore back with rest, a little home care, and some time. Make sure that you seek treatment if you are depressed. Chronic back pain is often accompanied by depression and depression can make back pain worse.[32][33] You should see a physician immediately if you have back pain and any of the following symptoms:[34]
    • changes in bladder or bowel habits
    • fever
    • pain or throbbing in the abdomen
    • recently experienced a fall or other injury
    • intense, severe, and constant back pain (especially at night or when you lie down)
    • back pain that spreads down your legs and below the knees
    • numbness, weakness or tingling in your legs
    • unexplained weight loss
    • swelling or redness on your back
    • You are over 50, and this is the first time you have experienced significant back pain
    • You have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, or drug/alcohol abuse
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    Learn how back pain is diagnosed. In general, a diagnosis will be based on your symptoms, history and a medical exam. You may also get some imaging done, like X-rays, MRIs, CTs or an ultrasound. Other tests may be more invasive. Some use a contrast dye that is injected into the spinal canal to see structural problems like herniated disc, fractures or spondylolisthesis.
    • There are no blood tests needed to diagnose back pain.

Part 5
Protecting Your Back

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    Practice smart lifting. Avoid lifting and bending as much as possible. If you do have to lift something heavy, test how heavy the load is first by trying to move it. If it seems too heavy, get some help, like a dolly, forklift, straps, handles, or another person's help before you try to lift it.[35]
    • Back belts are not really proven to prevent back injuries, so don’t rely on a one to protect yourself.[36]
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    Do stretches before lifting. The easiest stretch is to pretend you are reaching for something just a bit out of reach. Alternate, reaching with one hand and then the other. Do this ten times (five on each side). Then, slowly bend forward and bend backwards, five times each.[37]
    • Make sure to stretch your hamstring muscles well; these are the muscles at the back of your thigh.[38] Lie down on your back and lift one leg up, supporting the knee with your hands or by looping a towel around the back of the knee. Pull back gently until you feel a good stretch. Hold for 10- 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
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    Lift with your knees. Set your feet about shoulder-width apart. Squat down close next to the object and grab it with a secure grip. Keep your back as straight as you can and slowly lift up using the muscles in your legs, abdomen, and buttocks. Make sure to keep the object between your shoulder and your body.[39] Don't twist at your waist.
    • This way, you are not using your back as a lever. Instead, you're using it as a crane, with your legs doing most of the work. When you do lift something, lift by bending your knees and not by levering the weight with your back.
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    Keep in shape. Exercise regularly and make sure to strengthen your core and abdominal muscles. Crunches are a great way to keep your abdominal muscles in shape. Whatever exercise you choose to do, pace yourself. Be sure to take lots of small breaks between lifts and exercises.
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    Protect your back while you work. Keep your posture correct.[40] Sit up straight and avoid hunching forward with your shoulders drooping. Use an ergonomic chair while you work. This will support your body’s overall posture. If you spend most of your day sitting, get up and walk every so often.
    • Use a lumbar pillow which helps maintain the natural curve in your back as you sit in a chair. It helps keep your spine in proper alignment. If you spend a lot of time in your car, it’s a good idea to use a lumbar pillow while you drive.[41]
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    Sleep on your side. This reduces strain on your back. Try out different mattresses for at least 10-15 minutes until you find one that supports your back and spine all along its natural curve.[42] Some people prefer firm mattresses or adjustable beds.[43] You might even try sleeping on your stomach to get back pain relief.
    • Place a pillow in between your knees if you’re resting on your side. This keeps the pressure off your back and can help keep the hips supported.[44]


  • Use the strength of your legs to lift heavy objects by bending your legs as you lift. This will transfer the strain away from your back. Move slowly and smoothly, as hurried; jerky movements increase the risk of injury.[45]
  • Stay hydrated. This can decrease your risk of back injury and pain.[46][47]
  • Find a licensed and certified acupuncturist at The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine's website ( Visits for back pain are usually weekly, but they may be twice a week at first. This depends on the severity and cause of the back pain.


  • Don’t rely solely on a back-belt to protect your back when lifting heavy objects, as there is little scientific evidence to show that back belts actually prevent injury.[48], [49]

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