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Paracetamol doesn't work for bad backs, so what DOES?
Click here to return to the Medical News Today home page. Lower back pain is a widespread problem, causing more global disability than any other condition. Up to 80 percent of adults will experience low back pain at least once in their lives. The back muscles and spine support much of the body's weight. A person uses the muscles for everyday movements, including sitting, standing, and walking. Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may help relieve pain.
For those who wish to try home remedies, some of the following treatments might help:. It can be challenging to get up and move when back pain strikes.
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However, a short walk, yoga , water exercise, or another low-impact activity can often help alleviate back pain. Exercise may loosen tense muscles and release endorphins, which are the brain's natural painkillers.
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A person can also consider starting a daily exercise program, including strength training and stretching, to help keep muscles flexible and strong. Studies show that heat and cold are effective ways to get relief from back pain. Ice packs are most beneficial when a person uses them directly after an injury, such as a strain.
Applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel directly to the back can reduce inflammation. Cold may also provide a numbing effect for sudden, intense back pain. A person can use cold packs designed for pain relief, or in a pinch, use a bag of ice or frozen vegetables covered with a cloth to protect the skin from frostbite.
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It is best not to apply ice for more than 20 minutes at a time. A heating pad can also relieve stiff or achy muscles.
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People should be sure to read and follow the instructions on any heating pad and test the temperature carefully to ensure it is not too hot. If a heating pad is unavailable, a person can use a hot water bottle or heat a cloth bag of uncooked rice in the microwave. The following stretches may help relieve back pain.
People should hold each stretch for 30 seconds or as long as it feels comfortable. In addition to stretching the hamstrings, bending forward to reach your toes will help loosen the muscles in the lower back. Lying on your stomach, with your hands face down beside the shoulders, gently lift your chest up so that the top of your head points toward the ceiling. Beginning on your hands and knees, slowly alternate between arching your back toward the ceiling and dipping it toward the floor.
Sitting on the heels with your knees hip-width apart, lean forward to place your head on the floor, stretching your arms out in front of your head. Touching the toes: In addition to stretching the hamstrings, bending forward to reach your toes will help loosen the muscles in the lower back. Cobra Pose: Lying on your stomach, with your hands face down beside the shoulders, gently lift your chest up so that the top of your head points toward the ceiling.
Cat-Cow Pose: Beginning on your hands and knees, slowly alternate between arching your back toward the ceiling and dipping it toward the floor. Child's Pose: Sitting on the heels with your knees hip-width apart, lean forward to place your head on the floor, stretching your arms out in front of your head. A variety of pain-relief creams that can provide some relief from back pain are available in pharmacies and online. Creams that contain capsaicin, a compound found in hot peppers, may also help relieve pain.
One study found capsaicin cream to be helpful in treating osteoarthritis pain. Pain-relief creams that contain menthol have a cooling effect that can temporarily dull back pain. One study suggests that applying menthol to the skin can desensitize pain receptors in the body. However, using too much menthol can cause a person to be more sensitive to pain. Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that people can apply directly to the skin to treat muscle pain, swelling, bruising, and minor injuries.
Many pharmacies sell Arnica creams and gels.
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It is also available online. While there is little scientific research to prove that Arnica is effective, it has a low risk of side effects and some people may find it helpful. One case report found that arnica helped relieve chronic osteoarthritis pain when combined with acupuncture and massage. Wearing shoes that do not fit or that offer no support could cause muscle strains in the back, legs, and even neck. High heels, for example, can throw off the body's alignment, leading to lower back pain.
One study found a link between wearing high heels for long periods and having back pain. If a person experiences recurrent back pain, they should consider switching to shoes that fit correctly and support the feet. A podiatrist or foot specialist can help a person find proper footwear if necessary. Improper posture due to slouching or straining at a desk may cause back pain and other muscle aches. Using ergonomics to modify a workstation can help reduce pain due to poor posture.
A person should ensure their computer screen is at eye level and that their chair is at the correct height. Proper ergonomics at work may help reduce back pain and other injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the United States. One study in Denmark found that people who worked in nursing homes or home care had less lower back pain after changes in ergonomics, combined with behavioral therapy and physical training. If a person does any lifting for their job, they should squat and use their legs — not their back — for support.
It is best to ask for help or use trolleys when moving very heavy objects. Research shows that sleep disturbances could make pain worse.