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How to Properly Treat Lower Back Pain

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT August 13, 2019 0 Comments

Woman sideview wearing gel ice pack on her lower back

Lower back pain is extremely common and linked to a range of causes from muscle strains and injuries, to the way we sit or sleep, our posture, overuse or even existing medical conditions. It can be uncomfortable and debilitating, ranging from mild to severe. Fortunately, there are several ways you can treat lower back pain. This guide will teach you about the most effective home treatments along with the medical and professional options available. For severe or chronic pain, talk with your doctor to ensure safe treatment.

Home Treatments for Lower Back Pain

Most people will experience lower back pain at some point. Luckily, a wide variety of home remedies makes it easy to find relief without medical attention. However, if you are suffering from chronic or persistent pain, we highly recommend working with your doctor to develop the safest treatment plan for you. Learn how to properly care for you back with some of the most effective options below:


While prolonged periods of bed rest may actually hinder your recovery, taking short breaks throughout the day reduces stress and strain on the muscles, discs, and ligaments. Getting enough rest and sleep also helps to increase your tolerance of pain and promotes healing.

You should also take a break from activities that may be aggravating your lower back pain. If you’ve injured yourself by lifting weights, over exercising or even performing house work -  taking time off will help give your body the time it needs to heal. To learn more about stretches and exercises that you should avoid, check out the article below.


    Stretching loosens tight muscles and is the best way to avoid an injury. When looking to relieve lower back pain, find stretches that target your lower back, hamstrings and glutes. These gentle exercises are especially helpful for those who experience chronic pain.

    Incorporating a daily stretching routine requires discipline, but it can have a big impact on your physical and mental health.


    Pain and stiffness often develop when the back muscles and core muscles are too weak to provide adequate support to the lumbar region. To combat this, consider beginning an exercise program that targets and strengthens the abdominal muscles and those around the spine.

    Learn more about safe and easy exercises below, and work with your physical therapist to develop an appropriate program for you.

    Hot and Cold Therapy

    Using hot and cold treatments, either together or separately, is a very effective form of pain relief. These gentle therapies are suitable for those with arthritis, sciatica, and other chronic pain conditions.

    Both ice and heat have their own unique healing properties, and using them appropriately can provide immediate relief from pain, swelling, and stiffness in the lower back. An ice pack, for example, provides anti-inflammatory benefits, while a heating pad can loosen up tight muscles.

    Massage Therapy

    Harness the healing powers of massage to speed up your recovery. Massage therapy for lower back pain brings oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissues, loosens up areas of stiffness, and decreases scar tissue buildup. Even simple self-massage techniques can be incredibly effective for lower back pain when practiced regularly.

    Improved Posture and Ergonomics

    Poor posture and ergonomics are a leading cause of back pain, especially among those who spend a lot of their day sitting down. The good news is that, for many people, improving posture and using posture supports can significantly reduce or completely eliminate back pain.

    You can, for example, use seat cushions and lumbar supports when sitting for long periods of time. When lying on your side, place a pillow between your knees and, when on your back, place the pillow underneath your knees. These positions help support the spine and reduce pain and discomfort.

    Back Braces

    Wearing a back brace is a great way to support the spine and relieve lower back pain while on the go. The best braces for lower back pain combine compression and support to encourage a speedy recovery. They also help to prevent further tissue damage, especially when working out.

    Diet and Lifestyle Changes

    Just like the heart and brain, the muscles, spinal discs, and other tissues require adequate nutrition to stay healthy and supple. To support your lower back, eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water throughout the day. A healthy diet also reduces the risk of obesity, a condition that puts extra strain on the back.

    Other lifestyle changes to reduce lower back pain and damage include quitting smoking (a risk factor for chronic back pain) and exercising regularly.

    Anti-Inflammatory Medications

    Some people take over-the-counter medications for pain management. Examples include ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Discuss the use of these with a doctor or pharmacist first, especially if you have any medical conditions or are taking other medications.

    Topical Gels

    For aches and pains, try applying topical gels or creams. These formulas include menthol; which provides a cooling sensation that acts similar to ice when applied directly to your skin and help to decrease pain by blocking pain receptors.

    Professional Treatment for Lower Back Pain

    Physical Therapy or Chiropractic Care

    Some people may benefit from working with a physical therapist or a chiropractor. Chiropractors use spinal manipulation to correct misalignments in the body in order to alleviate lower back pain and other musculoskeletal problems. Physical therapists help people to recover their full mobility and flexibility following an injury or illness. For people with back problems, they typically use a combination of exercises, stretches, and massage.

    Pain Injections

    Injections for lower back pain are minimally invasive. Epidural steroid injections (ESI) are used to treat nerve pain targeting inflamed spinal nerves and nerve block injections use the anesthetic lidocaine to numb the area. Both types of injections are considered short term pain relievers and tend to wear off after a few hours.


    If you suffer from severe lower back pain that doesn’t improve with nonsurgical treatments, depending on your condition, your doctor may eventually suggest surgery. Additionally, the cause of you pain must be detectable through image testing to determine the best course of action.

    Recovery Time

    Making a full recovery from back pain doesn’t usually happen overnight, but you should notice that your pain begins to lessen with time. If your back pain is severe or does not improve with home care, then it’s important to seek medical advice and treatment.

    Your doctor may recommend combining medications or surgery with home remedies in order to bring about effective and lasting relief from back pain. Or, they may suggest physical therapy or chiropractic care for chronic back pain relief.


    Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
    Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

    JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.

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