What Can I Do to Relieve My Lower Back Pain?

Reviewed on 9/21/2021

Lower back pain can often be relieved with home treatment such as cold and hot compresses, gentle stretching, bed rest, over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, topical capsaicin and lidocaine, physical therapy, and acupuncture.
Lower back pain can often be relieved with home treatment such as cold and hot compresses, gentle stretching, bed rest, over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, topical capsaicin and lidocaine, physical therapy, and acupuncture.

Lower back pain is a common problem and it can often affect a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks. Most acute lower back pain is caused by injury or a disorder such as arthritis. Fortunately, lower back pain can often be relieved with home treatment. 

Home treatment to relieve lower back pain may include:  

  • Cold and hot compresses 
  • Gentle stretching
  • Bed rest for 1 to 2 days at most — activities should be resumed as soon as possible
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers to reduce pain and discomfort 
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture

Movement can be effective for relieving lower back pain, and strengthening back, abdominal, and leg muscles may help prevent lower back pain from recurring. 

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends the following back exercises. Consult your doctor or physical therapist before performing any of these exercises for lower back pain. Depending on the cause of your lower back pain, some exercises may not be recommended.  If any exercises worsen the pain or cause new pain, stop and contact your doctor. 

Beginning Exercise Program

Ankle Pumps

  • Lie on your back
  • Move ankles up and down
  • Repeat 10 times

Heel Slides

  • Lie on your back
  • Slowly bend and straighten knee
  • Repeat 10 times

Abdominal Contraction

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and hands resting below ribs
  • Tighten abdominal muscles to squeeze ribs down toward back
  • Do not hold your breath
  • Hold 5 seconds, then relax
  • Repeat 10 times

Wall Squat

  • Stand with your back leaning against the wall.
  • Walk feet 12 inches in front of body
  • Keep abdominal muscles tight while slowly bending both knees to 45 degrees
  • Hold 5 seconds, then slowly return to upright position
  • Repeat 10 times

Heel Raises

  • Stand with your weight evenly distributed on both feet
  • Slowly raise your heels off the floor
  • Hold 5 seconds, then slowly lower your heels to the floor
  • Repeat 10 times

Straight Leg Raises

  • Lie on your back with one leg straight and one knee bent
  • Tighten abdominal muscles to stabilize the lower back
  • Slowly lift leg straight up about 6 to 12 inches and hold for 1 to 5 seconds
  • Lower leg slowly
  • Repeat 10 times

Intermediate Exercise Program

Single Knee to Chest Stretch

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent
  • Hold thigh behind knee and bring one knee up to chest
  • Hold 20 seconds, then relax
  • Repeat 5 times on each side

Hamstring Stretch

  • Lie on your back with legs bent
  • Hold one thigh behind knee
  • Slowly straighten knee until a stretch is felt in back of thigh
  • Hold 20 seconds, then relax
  • Repeat 5 times on each side.

Advanced Exercise Program

Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Lie on your back near edge of bed, holding knees to chest
  • Slowly lower one leg down, keeping knee bent, until a stretch is felt across top of the hip/thigh
  • Hold 20 seconds, then relax
  • Repeat 5 times on each side

Piriformis Stretch

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent
  • Cross one leg on top of the other
  • Pull your opposite knee to your chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock/hip area
  • Hold 20 seconds, then relax
  • Repeat 5 times on each side

If conservative home treatments and exercises are not effective in relieving lower back pain, medical treatments may include: 

  • Prescription medicines
  • Spinal manipulation and spinal mobilization such as chiropractic 
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Spinal injections
  • Implanted nerve stimulators 
  • Surgery in severe cases

What Causes Lower Back Pain?

There are many causes of lower back pain. Most of the time, lower back pain is a result of a disruption in the way the parts of the back (the spine, muscles, discs, and nerves) fit together and move. Causes of lower back pain include:

Risk factors for developing lower back pain include: 

  • Age: usually occurs between 30 to 50 years for the first time and is more common as people age
  • Not being physically fit
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Genetics
  • Having a job that requires heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling, or working at a desk all day with poor posture or sitting in a chair with insufficient back support
  • Stress and muscle tension
  • Smoking
  • Overloaded backpacks in children

SLIDESHOW

Back Pain: 16 Back Pain Truths and Myths See Slideshow

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Reviewed on 9/21/2021
References
https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/recovery/low-back-surgery-exercise-guide/

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Back-Pain-Information-Page

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/patient-caregiver-education/fact-sheets/low-back-pain-fact-sheet