7 Small but Effective Ways to Relieve Back Pain

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Back pain can be incredibly frustrating. It can make even the simplest tasks—stopping to pick up a sock, for instance—feel like a knife in your back. Other times, it manifests as a constant throb that leaves you wrestling with your sheets at night, desperate to find a comfortable position.

You’d think that, because back pain is so common—almost everyone experiences it at least once in their lives—we’d know more about it or have an easy fix. But it’s tricky: Although tons of conditions, including arthritis, a slipped disc, and muscle sprains, can mess with your back, the majority of the time, the cause is unknown.1

Now, finally, the *good* news: As debilitating as back pain is, most cases will improve with time.1 (Unfortunately, by time, we don’t mean days—it can take a few weeks before it resolves.) And there are a lot of treatments and lifestyle changes that can help, even if you don’t know the specific cause.

According to the spine specialists and fitness experts we talked to, you may have to experiment a bit to find ways to keep your aching in check.2 However, here’s how they coach people to cope with back pain in their day-to-day lives.

1. Get moving first thing every morning.

It’s not unusual to wake up with a sore back. But even if you start out relatively pain-free, it’s a good idea to stretch your back, legs, and hips first thing in the morning Jared Laxner, MSc, CSCS, a fitness specialist at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at CU Anschutz, tells SELF.3

This helps activate the muscles and ligaments around your spine after they’ve been stagnant all night, he notes: “You’re lubricating joints and increasing blood flow to the hips and lower back,” which can help your spine move and bend more comfortably throughout the day.3

Laxner recommends starting slow—just stroll around your room for a couple of minutes. This will warm up the muscles that support your spine (like your hip flexors and glutes) before you launch into your day, he says. From there, Laxner recommends doing a couple of yoga-inspired poses for back pain like cat-cow pose and kneeling hip flexor.

2. Apply heat.

Heat can increase blood flow, relax muscles, and improve their flexibility—all of which can reduce pain and tension.4 That’s why Laxner suggests using a heating pad on an aching back for 15 to 20 minutes, ideally twice a day. You can also take a hot bath, sit in a sauna or steam room, or apply a hot water bottle. Use heat therapy as much as feels good—you can’t really overdo it.5 So, if you need relief first thing in the morning when you feel stiff, or at lunch after you’ve been sitting for a few hours, go for it. But the best time to use heat for many people, according to Laxner? Right before bed. “At the end of the day is usually when you have the most pain because of what you did throughout the day,” he says.

3. Think about your posture.

A lot of common everyday activities—long hours sitting at a desk, scrolling on phones, or slumping over laptops in bed or on a couch—put stress on your spine, and evidence consistently shows it’s a major source of lower back pain (as I write this hunched over my laptop).6,7


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