Back pain is one of the most common health problems that affects people of almost all ages. But it is especially more common in people ranging from 40-60 years old, and chronically in elderly individuals.
80% of the population is likely to experience back pain at some point in their lifetime, leading to limitations in day-to-day activities and loss of work time.
Symptoms of back pain include pain in the back or around the pelvis and hips, reduced ability to bend, difficulty in changing position while sitting, standing or obtaining a comfortable position for sleeping.
Back pain can occur for many reasons such as muscle tension, improper diet, lack of physical activity, arthritis, excessive physical labor, poor sitting posture, faulty body mechanics and pregnancy.
During the current time of rising concern for opiate addiction, more and more people are seeking non-medication remedies for addressing lower back pain. Natural treatments can provide quick relief from the pain and inflammation, allowing for a quicker return to regular activities.
Tips to Treat Back Pain at Home
Here are 10 home remedies for back pain.
1. Cold and Heat Packs
Cold compresses are often the best choice for an acute injury, where there is a lot of superficial inflammation. The cold temperature can decrease inflammation and provide a numbing effect to pain.
Once removed, a flushing effect brings increased blood flow to the area, further addressing pain and inflammation. If ice is not available, you can also use a bag of frozen vegetables.
- Put a bowl of crushed ice in a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel or place in a pillowcase. Put the compress on the affected area for up to 20 minutes.
- Do this repeatedly, waiting half an hour between each application.
Note: Do not apply an ice pack directly to your skin as this can cause ice burn.
For more aching and sore type back pain symptoms, heat can be a better choice to increase muscle relaxation and blood flow. Moist heat can provide an additional level of relief. Heat pack can be made as follows:
- Place a hot, damp hand towel in a large plastic bag.
- Optionally, place another towel or pillowcase around the plastic bag and apply to the affected area
for up to 20 minutes.
- Repeat every half an hour. Make sure to monitor the temperature to check that the pack is not too hot.
2. Herbal Oil Massage
Massaging your back with herbal oil can help your muscles relax and relieve pain. Most herbal oils such as eucalyptus oil have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that help address the problem.
Plus, the massaging action has been found to be effective for getting relief from persistent back pain.
- Heat a few tablespoons of almond oil, olive oil or coconut oil.
- Add 5 or 6 drops of eucalyptus or other herbal oil in the warm carrier oil.
- Gently massage the aching area with this oil for a few minutes to relieve the pain.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times a day for a few days.
- Apply some ginger paste on the affected area. Leave it on for 15 minutes, then rinse it off. Do this once daily for a few days
- Alternatively, you can cut 4 to 6 thin slices of fresh ginger root and put them in one and a half cups of water. Simmer it on low heat for 10 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and strain it. Sweeten with a little honey and then drink it. You can drink this ginger tea two or three times a day for a few days or until you feel an improvement.
- Or, you can make herbal tea with 4 or 5 black pepper corns, 4 or 5 cloves and 1-inch sliced fresh ginger root boiled in 2 cups of water for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Basil Leaves
Holy basil is not only a wonderful herb for your health, but it can also come to your rescue when you are suffering from back pain.
- Add 8 to 10 basil leaves to one cup of water and boil it until the water reduces to half.
- Let it cool to down to room temperature, then add a pinch of salt.
- For mild pain, drink this concoction once daily; for severe pain, drink it twice daily.
Capsaicin, the component of cayenne pepper known to give it heat, is a known topical remedy that can help alleviate low back pain. It is available in the form of creams, gels, and packs, or it can also be made at home.
Caution: Make sure to perform a skin test to avoid irritation.
- Mix 3 tablespoons of cayenne powder with 1 cup oil (coconut, grapeseed, almond oil, etc.).
- Heat the mixture in a double boiler for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in 1/2 cup of grated beeswax and continue to stir until it completely melts.
- Chill the mixture in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Remove it and stir.
- Chill for another 10 to 20 minutes and stir again.
- Transfer to a glass mason jar with a tight lid.
- Keep refrigerated. It will last for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Apply the mixture to the affected area up to 4 times a day for up to a week.
Garlic is another ingredient that can help treat a backache. Simply eat two to three cloves of garlic every morning on an empty stomach. You can also massage your back with garlic oil.
- To make garlic oil, heat some coconut oil, mustard oil or sesame oil on low heat and then add 8 to 10 cloves of garlic to it. Fry the garlic until it is brown. Strain the oil and let it cool to room temperature.
- Massage your back gently with the oil. Leave it on for 20 minutes and then take a bath with warm water.
- Repeat once or twice daily for a few days.
7. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, has long been viewed as a way to ease pain and relieve inflammation. Epsom salt is generally considered a safe way to address soft tissue pain.
Magnesium, in particular, can help relieve chronic back pain associated with a neuropathic component.
- Mix ½ cup of Epsom salt in 1 cup of lukewarm water. Soak a hand towel in this solution and wring out excess water. Apply this towel over the aching area and leave it for 5 minutes. Repeat the soaking and application for 15 minutes. The heat from the towel will also reduce swelling.
- You can also add two cups of Epsom salt to lukewarm bathwater and soak your body in it for 20 to 30 minutes.
8. Chamomile Tea
A hot cup of chamomile tea, suggested to have calming and anti-inflammatory effects, may help relax tensed muscle tissues that can be the cause or a related symptom of a backache. You can buy pre-packaged chamomile tea or make your own.
- Add one tablespoon of dried chamomile flowers to one cup of boiling water and let it steep for 5 minutes.
- Drink one to three cups daily.
The natural inclination to the onset of back pain is to stop moving and take rest. But limiting activities too much often makes the pain worse and hinders your recovery.
Research has demonstrated that frequent movement, such as walking, yoga, or other gentle exercise, can help reduce pain more quickly and make for a faster recovery overall.
Exercising for 10 to 30 minutes can help release the body’s natural endorphins to address pain. Not sure what exercise would be safe for you? Seeking the help of a physical therapist is a great way to develop a low back recovery program to get you through your current episode of pain.
Positioning with pillows under your knees when lying on your back, or between your knees and in a hug position on your side, can help you achieve a more comfortable position for sleep.
Try other remedies as described above prior to retiring to bed to help prepare you for a more comfortable night’s rest so that your back can heal more quickly.
Try one or several of these home remedies to get immediate relief from back pain.
A video on natural home remedies for back pain:
When to See a Doctor
Turning to these remedies in the initial phase of pain is alright. But if your pain does not reduce by any magnitude with any of the above remedies, or worse, if it increases, then you need to consult a doctor immediately.
You should also visit the doctor if your back pain progresses to leg pain or weakness. An ideal time frame for getting relief from any of the above remedies is up to 1 week.
- Kinkade S. Evaluation and treatment of acute low back pain. American Family Physician. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17477101. Published April 15, 2007.
- Shmagel A, Ngo L, Ensrud K, Foley R. Prescription Medication Use Among Community-Based U.S. Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Cross-Sectional Population Based Study. Journal of Pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29678564.
- Birnbaum HG, White AG, Schiller M, Waldman T, Cleveland JM, Roland CL. Societal Costs of Prescription Opioid Abuse, Dependence, and Misuse in the United States. Freshwater Biology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01075.x. Published March 10, 2011.
- Lewis SE, Holmes PS, Woby SR, Hindle J, Fowler NE. Short-term effect of superficial heat treatment on paraspinal muscle activity, stature recovery, and psychological factors in patients with chronic low back pain. Advances in pediatrics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22289251. Published February 2012.
- Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Deyo RA, Shekelle PG. A Review of the Evidence for the Effectiveness, Safety, and Cost of Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, and Spinal Manipulation for Back Pain. Annals of Internal Medicine. http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/716463/review-evidence-effectiveness-safety-cost-acupuncture-massage-therapy-spinal-manipulation. Published June 3, 2003.
- Lem HW, Lee AC. The effectiveness of ginger compress on non-specific low back pain. Journal of Fundamental and Applied Sciences. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/jfas/article/view/165975.
- Bartels EM, Folmer VN, Bliddal H, et al. Efficacy and safety of ginger in osteoarthritis patients: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25300574. Published January 2015.
- Cohen MM. Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296439/. Published 2014.
- Chrubasik S, Weiser T, Beime B. Effectiveness and safety of topical capsaicin cream in the treatment of chronic soft tissue pain. Phytotherapy Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21104944. Published December 2010.
- Antioxidant, anti‐inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties of garlic and onions. Emeraldinsight. https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/00346650710749071.
- Yousef AA, Al‐deeb AE. A double‐blinded randomised controlled study of the value of sequential intravenous and oral magnesium therapy in patients with chronic low back pain with a neuropathic component. Freshwater Biology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/anae.12107. Published December 17, 2012.
- Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Molecular Medicine Reports. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/. Published November 1, 2010.
- Exercise as a treatment for chronic low back pain. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1529943003001748. Published January 21, 2004.
- Alsaadi SM, McAuley JH, Hush JM, et al. Poor sleep quality is strongly associated with subsequent pain intensity in patients with acute low back pain. Arthritis & Rheumatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24782195. Published May 2014.
- Finan PH, Goodin BR, Smith MT. The association of sleep and pain: An update and a path forward. Journal of Pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4046588. Published December 2013.
- Robertson JA, Purple RJ, Cole P, Zaiwalla Z, Wulff K, Pattinson KTS. Sleep disturbance in patients taking opioid medication for chronic back pain. Anaesthesia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5082544. Published November 2016.