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31 Back Pain Tips Your Doctor Didn't Mention

31 Back Pain Tips Your Doctor Didn't Mention

Well, maybe you have a spectacular doctor who has all the time in the world to tell you how to care for your back. But just in case, we thought we’d compile a list of the most helpful tips that we’ve heard over the years – from doctors, physical therapists, nurses, and back pain patients. Some of these may seem contradictory – like using heat and ice – but the truth is that managing back pain is often a process of trial and error and most people have to try several options to see what works best for them.

Back Pain Remedies


  1. Numb it. After activity-related discomfort, ice acts as a local anesthetic by numbing the tissue, and reduces inflammation, which usually is a factor in low back pain. Make your own ice pack by freezing dishsoap in a plastic bag, or freeze water in a paper cup and get an ice massage.
  2. Warm it up. Heat helps blood circulate in the affected area of the low back, and blood brings healing nutrients. Some prefer moist heat - a hot bath or other form of moist heat.
  3. Keep it warm. Some people feel more pain relief with continuous, low level heat, which is available with commercial heat wraps (e.g. ThermaCare, and ACE).
  4. Combine acetaminophen and ibuprofen. These have different mechanisms of action, and when combined, are more effective than either one alone. I like to stagger the doses (take ibuprofen, then 2 – 3 hours later acetaminophen).
  5. Take the max dose. If you’re taking over the counter medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen, take the maximum dose to keep a therapeutic level of the medication in your bloodstream.
  6. Use your brain. Employ powerful relaxation and distraction techniques in order to make your brain ignore at least some of the pain signals it receives and help you feel more in control of your situation.
  7. Get a massage. Nothing helps like a good back massage to loosen up the muscles and get the blood flowing.

General Health
  1. Get continuous sleep. Lack of deep, restorative sleep makes the pain worse, and pain makes it hard to sleep. If you need it, get professional help for sleep aids.
  2. Treat your emotions. Depression and chronic back pain go hand in hand and each makes the other worse. Get professional help for the depression too.
  3. Stop smoking. It causes back pain.
  4. Avoid alcohol. It is a depressant and interrupts sleep cycles.
  5. Avoid being tall. Tall people are at higher risk for developing back pain, so take extra care of your back if you are tall.
  6. Check your gene pool. A lot of back pain runs in families, so if back pain runs in your family take extra care of your back.
  7. Connect with others. Pain is lonely. Most people feel better when they can connect and share with others who are experiencing similar challenges.

  1. Stretch your hammies. Tight hamstring muscles put stress on the lower back. Stretch them every morning and evening.
  2. Stay active. Don’t rest for more than a day or two when back pain is at its worst. Prolonged inactivity makes the pain worse.
  3. Walk as much as possible. Carry a pedometer to know you’re walking 10,000 steps a day. A treadmill has less impact on the spine than walking on a sidewalk
  4. Try an elliptical trainer. The tracks never touch the ground, so there is almost no impact on the spine.
  5. Biking is good too. For people who feel better leaning forward, try an upright exercise bike. For those who feel better reclining, try a recumbent bike (with a lumbar back support)
  6. Water therapy is gentle. The water provides buoyancy and mild resistance, but no impact or stress on the back.
  7. Strengthen your core. Abdominal and back muscles need to be specifically targeted with strengthening exercise in order to support the spine.
  8. Try a strengthening program. McKenzie therapy, Dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises, and most forms of exercise ball programs, tai chi, pilates, and yoga all focus on strengthening the core trunk muscles.

Posture and ergonomics
  1. Look at your chair. If you’re reading this, chances are you spend a reasonable amount of time at your computer. Make sure the back of the chair supports the inward curve of your lower back, your chest is open, arms on armrests, upper back is straight and your feet are flat on the floor.
  2. Use a lumbar support (or rolled towel) for your office chair and car.
  3. Don’t slouch. Ever. It stresses the back.
  4. Replace your office chair with an exercise ball. Sitting on the ball introduces an element of instability, and over time the muscles used to balance on the ball become stronger.
  5. Pivot with your feet. Don’t twist while lifting. Instead, pivet with your feet to keep your low back from twisting.
  6. Use pillows. Support your spine while sleeping by using pillows to reduce stress. One very supportive position is to lie on your side in the fetal position with a pillow between your knees.
  7. Avoid standing. At least for long periods of time. If you have to, make sure one leg is resting on a step or something a few inches off the ground, and switch feet every few minutes.
  8. Push. If you have to move a heavy object, always push – don’t pull.
  9. Get household help. Have someone else vacuum, load and unload the dishwasher, lift grocery bags and other household chores that require bending and place stress the low back. You can chip in with the chores that don’t stress your back.

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