22 Home Remedies for Back Pain


Maybe you lifted something heavy or swung a golf club a little too enthusiastically. Or maybe you've been hunched over a desk or computer for two weeks, battling a deadline. Whatever the reason, now your back is "out," and you're wishing for something, anything, that will put an end to the agony.

Take heart; you're not alone. Almost everyone suffers from back pain at some point in his or her life. The bad news is that unless you have a major injury or disc problem, your doctor may not be able to do much for you other than prescribe some pain medication and advise you to rest. The good news is that some simple home remedies can have you back in the swing of things in just a few days. Even better, you can help ensure that you won't have to endure similar discomfort in the future.

In this article, you will find ways to relieve your aching back and prevent back strain altogether. We will begin in the next section with some home remedies for alleviating back pain.

For more information on preventing and relieving back discomfort, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Back Pain

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. A massage, whether performed by a massage therapist or by a loved one, can help relieve back pain.

The following home remedies are appropriate for anyone who is suffering from back pain due to tight, aching muscles or a strain. However, if you are experiencing pain, weakness, or numbness in the legs, or a loss of bowel or bladder control, see a doctor without delay.

Don't take it lying down. Conventional wisdom once held that several days or even weeks in bed were the best cure for a sore back. However, a growing number of doctors today encourage patients to get up and around as soon as possible and to avoid bed rest entirely if possible. That's because mounting research shows that lying down for an extended period not only fails to speed up relief of low back pain but may make it even worse. If you feel you must rest your aching back, the best position is lying flat on your back with two pillows underneath your knees. Never lie facedown, since this position forces you to twist your head to breathe and may cause neck pain. Make an effort to get up and move around, slowly and gently, as soon as possible. Any more than three days of bed rest could weaken the muscles and make them more prone to strain.

Ice it. Applying an ice pack to the painful area within 24 hours of an injury can help keep inflammation to a minimum and ease discomfort by decreasing the ability of nerves to send pain signals to the brain. Place ice cubes in a plastic bag, then apply the bag on top of a thin towel that has been placed on the skin. Leave the ice pack on for 20 minutes, take it off for 30 minutes, then replace it for another 20 minutes.

Take a hot bath. If more than 24 hours have passed since the injury occurred, ice will not help reduce pain or inflammation. After that first day, heat may help increase the elasticity of the muscles somewhat, so try soaking in a tub of hot water for 20 minutes or more. Pregnant women, however, should not sit in a hot bath or hot tub for too long, since raising the body temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for long periods may cause birth defects or miscarriage. If you are pregnant, contact your doctor for advice before trying a hot soak.

Invest in a new mattress. A soft, sagging mattress may contribute to the development of back problems or worsen an existing problem. If a new mattress is not in your budget, however, a three-quarter-inch-thick piece of plywood placed between the mattress and box spring may help somewhat. It's not clear whether water beds offer any relief for back pain.

Get some sleep. Getting sufficient rest at night is important when your back muscles are strained. It's best to lie on your side, with the knees flexed and a pillow between them. If you lie on your back, place a pillow under your knees.

Get a massage. If you're lucky enough to have an accommodating spouse, friend, or roommate, ask him or her to give you a rubdown. As you lie facedown on a bed or sofa, ask your masseuse to knead your back muscles. Local massage therapists may also make house calls if you don't feel able to visit one of them. Check the yellow pages for listings or ask your doctor or a friend for a referral.

Relax. Much back pain is the result of muscles made tight by emotional tension. Learn and practice a relaxation technique, such as meditation, or try a deep-breathing exercise, such as closing your eyes, breathing slowly and deeply, and counting backward from 100.

Take two aspirin. Taking an over-the-counter analgesic such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may help relieve your pain. However, be aware that not all medications, not even nonprescription ones, are for everyone. Pregnant women, for example, should not take any medication without first checking with their doctor. And people with ulcers should stay away from analgesics containing aspirin. Don't take any medicine for a bad back without first learning about its potential side effects and talking to your doctor. Consult this list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics.

Unfortunately, treating back pain is not all hot baths and massages. In the next section, we'll look at home remedies that can help to prevent back pain before it starts.

For more information on preventing and relieving back discomfort, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

More Home Remedies for Back Pain

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Many experts agree that swimming is the best aerobic exercise for a bad back.

Many of the activities you engage in each day, such as sitting, lifting, bending, and carrying, can put a strain on your back. By learning new ways of going about these activities, you can help prevent back pain and ensure the health of your back for years to come. Try the following home remedies to keep back pain at bay.

Use a cushion. Most seats in cars and trucks are not designed to support the small of your back, although some these days do provide adjustable lumbar support at least for the driver. If the seat in your vehicle doesn't, buy a small cushion that can be fitted to provide the missing support. Despite what your mother told you about sitting up straight, leaning back at an angle of about 110 degrees is ideal for the back. If you sit for long hours, get up and walk around periodically to increase blood flow and decrease stiffness.

Put your arm behind your back. If you get stuck sitting for a long period in a seat that doesn't support your lower back and you don't have a cushion, try rolling up a towel or sweater so that it has about the same circumference as your forearm. Then slide the rolled up cloth between your lower back and the back of the seat. In a pinch, you can simply slide your forearm between your lower back and the seat back to ease the strain on your back. Even with the best back support, however, sitting is still stressful on your back, so try to at least make small adjustments in the curvature of your lower back every few minutes or so.

Swim. Many experts agree that swimming is the best aerobic exercise for a bad back. Doing laps in the pool can help tone and strengthen the muscles of the back and abdomen, which help support the spine, while buoyancy temporarily relieves them of the job of holding up your weight. Walking is the next best choice.

Lift with your knees bent. The large muscles of your legs and buttocks are better equipped to bear heavy weight than your back muscles are. To be sure you're lifting properly, imagine you're balancing a bowl of soup on your head, trying not to spill a single drop: Keep your back straight and bend only your knees, rather than bending at the waist, as you squat to pick something up. Then, as you rise, concentrate on using your leg muscles to push your upper body and the object back up into a standing position, again without bending at the waist. Strengthening your leg and buttocks muscles will make it even easier to squat and lift properly, whether you're picking up a pen, a bag of groceries, or a small child.

Carry objects close to your body. When picking up and carrying heavy objects, pull in your elbows and hold the object close to your body. When reaching for a bulky item on a shelf, stand beneath it and rest the object on your head. That way your erect spine carries the weight, placing less burden on your back muscles.

Stay alert. Careless activity is the number-one cause of back injury, so beware if you have struggled with back pain in the past. As much as possible, avoid bending, twisting, and lifting. Make a mental note of situations that have led to back injuries in the past, and do your best to avoid them. That may mean paying someone to do your lawn work or move furniture for you, but shelling out a few dollars today could keep you pain-free and on the job tomorrow.

Watch your weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight (ask your doctor if you're not sure what that is) may help take the strain off the back muscles by lightening their load. What's more, having a flabby midsection may cause you to become sway-backed, which can worsen back pain.

When it comes to back pain, you need all the relief you can get. Read on to learn how items found in your kitchen can save your aching back.

For more information on preventing and relieving back discomfort, try the following links:

  • To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
  • For additional tips on warding off a sore back, see How to Prevent Back Pain.
  • How to Relieve Back Pain offers several ways to alleviate painful back symptoms.
  • If your pain involves the muscles of the back, read Home Remedies for Muscle Pain.

Natural Home Remedies for Back Pain

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Uncooked rice from your kitchen cupboard can treat pain.

Back-pain home remedies rely primarily on rest and modification of daily routine. The kitchen shelves, however, do hold a few ingredients that can help get you "back" into shape.

Home Remedies From the Cupboard

Chamomile tea. Daily stress can make back muscles feel knotted. Chamomile tea offers calming relief to soothe tense muscle tissue. During a break or after work, treat yourself to a steaming mug. Steep 1 tablespoon chamomile flowers in 1 cup boiling water for 15 minutes. Or, you can use a prepackaged chamomile tea. Drink 1 to 3 cups a day.

(Warning! Chamomile contains allergy-inducing proteins related to ragweed pollen. Ask your doctor about drinking chamomile if you are allergic to ragweed.) Packaged tea may be safer to drink than tea made from the flowers. Your doctor can advise you.

Epsom salts. Epsom salts ease back pain by reducing swelling. Fill your bathtub as usual and add 2 cups salts. Soak for 30 minutes.

Rice. Fill a clean, thick sock with 1 cup uncooked rice and place in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds on medium-low. Check the temperature and apply to the back.

Home Remedies From the Freezer

Cold compresses. Cold compresses or ice packs should be applied immediately after back strain or injury. When the back suffers injury, blood rushes to the damaged area. Even though the resulting swelling is normal, too much inflammation can increase pain and lengthen your recovery period. An icy application reduces inflammation and helps numb pain. To make a cold compress, pack a few crushed cubes of ice into a plastic reclosable bag, cover with a washcloth or towel, and apply to the back for 15 minutes. Take it off for 30 minutes and then replace it for 15 more minutes. (A bag of frozen vegetables also works well. Wrap in a towel, too.)

Home Remedies From the Refrigerator

Ginger root. Fragrant ginger root has long been known to cure nausea, but back pain? Yes, ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds, including some with mild aspirin-like effects. When your back aches, cut a 1- to 2-inch fresh ginger root into slices and place in 1 quart boiling water. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes on low heat. Cool for 30 minutes. Strain, sweeten with honey (to taste), and drink.

Milk. Bone up on milk. Women, especially, should take care to include plenty of calcium in their diets. Older women are at greater risk for developing osteoporosis, the disease of eroding bones. Calcium helps build strong bones and protects the spine from osteoporosis.

Home Remedies From the Stove

Hot compresses. You can begin to apply heat to your back 48 hours after an injury. Warmth relaxes tight muscles, increases blood flow, and is extremely soothing. Soak a washcloth in water that you've heated on the stove, use a heating pad, or take a hot shower or bath.

Nothing can put you out of commission faster than back pain. Now that you've read this article, you can make these home remedies part of your back-saving strategy.

For more information on preventing and relieving back discomfort, try the following links:

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.