The Best Tips, Tricks and Exercises to Help Relieve Lower Back Pain

With the way we sit, the hours we work and the devices we use, there’s a continuous repetition of poor postures we hold each day.

As the days add up, it causes not only a slouchy look, but also chronic back pain.

Chronic back pain can be a huge problem, especially when it interferes with your work and affects your physical mobility. When it causes you to rack up medical bills and try prescription pain relief, there could be a more natural solution you’re not seeing.

That’s why we’ve rounded up 17 all-natural “hacks,” including exercises and fixes, you can try for chronic back pain relief.

Most solutions need to be incorporated into your daily routine, so it’s not always overnight relief.

Sometimes, though, you may be surprised with the quick relief you get from massage therapy and other natural remedies. If you have a health condition, be sure to check with your doctor before you try any of these tips.


1. Apply Hot and Cold Compresses

A medical study on people with lower back pain found that hot and cold therapy works to relieve the pain [1].

Alternating between hot and cold compresses can be done at home with the help of ice packs and heating pads or hot water balloons.

With the onset of pain, start with applying an ice pack. Make sure there’s a layer of cloth between the skin and ice pack for protection. Let the ice sit for as long as you want, but for no more than 20 minutes at a time.

Then, place the heating pad or hot water bottle on the site to follow up with up to 20 minutes of heat. By reducing inflammation and improving circulation, this can go a long way in improving the condition of your lower back pain when you need immediate relief.


2. Stick to a Back Stretching Routine

To prevent pain and chronic back problems, the first thing you must do is get on a routine where you’re regularly stretching out your back.

Back stretches improve your range of motion, increase blood flow and reduces the tension that leads to pain.

Here are 3 back stretches you should do once or twice daily, to relieve lower back pain:

Upper Back & Trap Stretches: Chin-to-Chest and Ear-to-Shoulder

4 Techniques To Fix Your Tight Trapezius | Neck Pain & Pinched Nerve

  • Stand or sit up, holding your spine as straight as possible.
  • Bend your head directly forward and downward, so that your chin draws near the chest.
  • You should feel a stretch in the back of your neck and skull, as well as the upper trapezius muscles in your upper back. Hold for 30 seconds and then slowly lift your head back up.
  • Still maintaining a straight spine, drop your ear to one shoulder, feeling the stretch in your neck and along the top of one shoulder.
  • Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. Hold for 30 seconds and then gently switch sides.

Lower Back Stretch: Knee-to-Chest

Stretching Exercises : Knees to Chest Stretches

  • Lie down on your back on a mat, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Bring one (or both) knee into your chest.
  • Clasp your hands together behind your knee and tug your knee up toward your chest to stretch your lower back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. Slowly release and switch sides.

Full Spinal Stretch: Supine Spinal Twist

Lower Back Stretch – An Easy Stretch for a Healthy Back

  • Lie down flat on your back. Lift one knee (or both) into your chest and cross it over the opposite side of your body.
  • Push the knee with your hand down toward the floor as you stretch your opposite hand outward and look toward your opposite hand.
  • Keep your shoulders as squared and flat as possible.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and then slowly switch sides. [2]

For more stretches, see our page on how to stretch the lower back to relieve pain.


3. Learn Self-Massage and Find a Tool that Works for You

Deep tissue massage stimulates blood flow in muscle tissue and treats muscle pain and stiffness. It has even been shown in studies to work as well as ibuprofen (Advil) in relieving pain [3].

Today, we have self-massage tools that have been developed and continue to be developed for the convenience of getting a professional-grade massage at home on your own time.

You can use a manual tool like a foam roller, massage stick or massage ball, or you can get a device like a massage gun, percussion massager or massage chair pad.

Once you find a tool that can work out your back pain, you can regularly enjoy deep tissue massage to help keep your lower back pain at bay.


4. Change Your Sleep Posture

Most people think of posture in terms of how straight they sit and stand up, but rarely in terms of how they sleep in their bed. Posture during sleep matters, so you may need to change your sleep position to help with your back pain.

When you sleep out of alignment, your muscles tend to get strained and cause muscle imbalances that affect posture. Thankfully, there are a few tricks to improving your posture during sleep.

Knee Pillows


Side sleeping can put stress on your lower back muscles. If you’re a side sleeper, a knee pillow between your knees can help correct your back’s alignment during sleep.

If you sleep on your back, place a knee pillow under each knee so that your lower back isn’t strained as you lay flat on your back.

Mattresses


Memory foam mattresses can help stop back pain caused by sleeping strain. In some beds, you have to stress and strain your back to support your body.

Memory foam does a better job supporting your weight, and it helps take the burden off your muscles so they can relax as you sleep. You may find that a firm mattress is better if you have lower back pain because it allows you to better control your alignment and avoid just sinking into the bed.


5. Identify Your Specific Posture Problem

If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, most likely, there’s some sort of issue with your postural alignment.

When you figure out what type of posture problem you have, you can target the problem with the most effective exercises to fix it. Here are the major examples of posture problems:

Thoracic Kyphosis

Thoracic kyphosis is a “hunchback” posture in which your chest muscles are excessively tight and their opposing muscles in your upper back are overly stretched.

To correct it, you need to release your tight chest muscles and tighten up your upper back muscles with strength training exercises.

A back brace can also help with thoracic kyphosis alongside the strength training.

Forward Head Posture

As the name describes, forward head posture is characterized by your head being out forward in front of your torso. It causes your cervical spine to take on the weight of your head, which causes neck, shoulder and back problems.

Strengthening the muscles in your upper back and the backs of your shoulders can help bring your head back into its correct position and stop the pain coming from forward head posture.

Posterior Pelvic Tilt (Swayback)

A posterior pelvic tilt, or “swayback,” is a postural misalignment in which the front of your pelvis tilts upwards and you begin to lose the natural curve of your lower spine. In other words, your lower back becomes too flat.

Strengthening your lower back can help you overcome swayback. By tightening your lower back muscles, you’re able to help your pelvis align more squarely. You should also complement this with stretching out your ab muscles.

Hyperlordosis & Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Hyperlordosis is the excessive inward curvature of your lumbar spine, resulting in an anterior pelvic tilt.

It often causes lower back pain because the lower back muscles are in a continual contracted state.

Stretching your lower back and strengthening your abs can help relieve pain and correct hyperlordosis, as well as strengthening your middle and upper back muscles responsible for keeping your torso upright.


6. Wear a Back Brace

Back braces for the lower back reduce movement in your torso and take the pressure off your spine. This helps prevent further injury to the lower back and speeds up muscle tissue healing and spinal recovery.

There are also braces for the upper back, which help lift your chest and resist a thoracic kyphosis position, which is great not just for those with kyphosis, but also for anyone with an anterior pelvic tilt, swayback or forward head posture because upper back slouching tend to go hand-in-hand with all of these.


7. Exercise Regularly

A sedentary lifestyle makes you more prone to chronic back pain.

Your spine and back muscles hold a rigid posture when you’re sitting in a chair. Hours a day every single day adds up, and your muscles end up tightened and stiff over time.

Take frequent breaks when you’re at your desk working, and stick to a regular exercise routine.

Cardio exercise is great for maintaining a healthy back, as well as strength training and any exercise that helps you maintain a healthy weight and strong, balanced muscles.

Here are 3 bodyweight exercises to try for better core strength which will in turn help prevent lower back pain:

Planks

Planks for Beginners: How to do a Plank

Planks target your “core” muscles as a whole, which include the full host of muscles in your torso, in your abdominal region and your back.

They’re great for developing the stabilizing muscles around your spine that help with your posture.

  • Get on a mat in a push-up position up on your toes, with your knees off the floor.
  • Drop one arm down at a time so that you’re on your forearms instead of your hands, with your elbows directly under your shoulders.
  • Hold your torso and hips in alignment so that you form one line from your head to your heels.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat for 3 reps.

Supermans

Core Exercise: Superman

Supermans rely on your back muscles to lift your own bodyweight. Doing these regularly can strengthen the muscles you need for naturally good posture.

  • Lie on a mat on your stomach. Raise your arms overhead.
  • In one motion, lift your arms and legs and head off the floor, into a “flying superman” pose.
  • Hold for 2 or 3 seconds, and then slowly lower down. Repeat for more reps.

Bridges

Core Exercise: Bridge

Bridges target your lower back, as well as your hamstrings and glutes, which are muscles that help support your back.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift your hips and squeeze your glutes to keep your hips elevated to the level of your chest.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and then slowly lower. Repeat 3 times.
  • Instead of holding, you could also lift and lower your hips to the floor for 20 reps and then repeat for 3 sets.

8. Try Spinal Decompression

Spinal decompression is a type of therapy that helps separate the vertebrae of the spine just slightly enough to improve circulation and give the spine a stretch.

Spinal decompression is known to improve back pain and help prevent spinal problems like bulging discs. There are many different ways to try spinal decompression including techniques you can do from home.

There are also several products you can try. Here are a few of the major ones:

Inversion Tables

An inversion table straps you down to a table and then allows your body to turn to your desired degree or all the way upside down.

This lets you use your bodyweight to decompress the spine and reverse the long-term effects of gravity.

Back Stretchers

Smaller than inversion tables, back stretchers are hump-shaped devices you lay on to let your spine stretch out and decompress.

Decompression Boots

Decompression boots require you to have a chin-up bar at home. After placing on the boots, you’re able to hang upside down from the bar and let gravity pull your bodyweight downwards to decompress your spine.


9. Use a TENS Unit

TENS is a natural pain relief treatment that stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Therapy.

Using a TENS unit, you can benefit from transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which acts directly on pain nerves to reduce pain.

The electrodes can also increase your release of endorphins, which are hormones that act as natural pain relievers. You simply attach the pads onto aching or painful areas, such as your lower back.

Then, turn the device on, set your intensity level, and let it go to work. It offers rapid, short-term pain relief with no side effects, making it ideal for helping to manage chronic pain.


10. Create an Ergonomic Setup at Your Desk

Does your current desk setup look like your laptop on a table with a standard desk chair?

It’s impossible to achieve an ergonomic setup at your desk with a laptop alone, so you may need to get a keyboard you can connect it to. Make sure your desk has a keyboard tray.

Sit at an adjustable chair that can bring the keyboard at the right level so that your shoulders don’t have to creep up, creating tension in your neck and back.

You might also benefit from a short footrest under your desk to help prevent slouching and help you sit upright in your chair.

To support your lower back in your chair, add a lumbar support pillow. This way, you’re not slouching against the back of your chair with your lower back unsupported.

Instead of slouching against the back of your chair, you’re supported at the lower back, so that the rest of your torso has a balanced and aligned foundation to sit on. This can help you work on your posture while you sit.


11. Manage Your Stress

There’s no doubt that stress is connected to pain. Stress management practices like meditation, taking a walk, or taking time for yourself to do something alone that you enjoy.

In order to manage stress effectively, you need to plan for blocks of time to relieve stress on a daily and weekly basis. Every day, you should spend at least 10 minutes to de-stress in the morning and 10 minutes to de-stress at night.

What it involves will depend on you. You might like yoga, meditation or spending some time doing self-massage therapy. Every week, you should spend a larger chunk of time doing something just for yourself that you enjoy, when you detach from work and other responsibilities.


12. Try Yoga

Through a combination of stretching, strengthening and relaxing the body, yoga can help with back pain. In fact, research on people with chronic lower back pain has found that yoga practice does counter back pain [4].

Yoga helps ease back tension you may commonly hold in your lower back, especially when you do poses that focus on your back.

Here are some examples of yoga poses that help decompress the lumbar spine and relieve lower back pain:

Child’s Pose

  • Sit on your knees on a mat and then fold your torso forward onto your knees. Spread your knees open to give your torso room to get down as low to the mat as possible.
  • Stretch your arms forward as far as they can go.
  • Let your head relax on the floor as you feel the stretch in your lower back.
  • Hold for 1 to 3 minutes.

Reclined Pigeon Pose

Hip stretch (reclined pigeon) – We Are Wellness

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross your left foot over your right thigh and open your left knee out to the side so that your left hip opens.
  • Hold the back of your right thigh, pulling your knees in toward your chest.
  • Hold for 1 to 3 minutes, then do the opposite side.

Standing Forward Bend

How to Do a Standing Forward Bend

  • Stand with your legs straight and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend at the hips and let your torso hang down and relax.
  • Keep your neck long, letting the crown of your head extend down toward the floor so that your head helps pull your spine into a decompressive stretch.
  • Hold for 1 to 3 minutes.

13. Wear Lower Heels

High heeled shoes can cause or exacerbate an excessive inward curvature of your lower back [5]. This can be a source of lower back pain in women, which is easy to fix by wearing lower heels.

In fact, wearing lower heels can help prevent serious, painful spinal problems for you down the line, such as sciatica, spondylolisthesis, foraminal stenosis and more [6]. Wearing high heels causes your lower back to contract, and the higher the heels, the more the lower back muscles contract.

When you take off the heels, it’s likely your lumbar erector spinae back muscles will still be contracted, which causes the pelvis to tilt and the upper back to hunch in compensation.


14. Lose Weight or Maintain an Optimal Weight

If your body mass index is higher than it should be, then your spine is taking on extra weight. With the compression put on your spine, being overweight does cause you to be at a higher risk for back pain.

In a meta-analysis of 10 studies that all looked at obesity and lower back pain, medical researchers reported that being overweight or obese are significant risk factors for lower back pain in both men and women [7].

Losing weight could cause you to feel lighter, as the weight will be lighter for your spine. Simply put, losing weight happens when you burn more calories than you consume each day.

By burning more calories with exercise and switching to foods that are lower in calories, you can lose weight.

Of course, you need consistency to see the results you want, so adding in a rewards system that works for you can help you meet your weight loss goals and milestones.


15. Strengthen Your Back Muscles

In addition to your overall exercise regimen, you should also take time regularly to do strength training exercises that target all your back muscles. If you’re slouched forward with bad posture, the long muscles along your back get lengthened and stretched out, while their opposing muscles in the chest and abs get excessively tight.

This muscle imbalance allows bad posture to persist by locking the spine into place as the muscles get “stuck” in their unnatural positions.

Strength training your back muscles with weight resistance exercises forces your overstretched back muscles to contract and get tight again. After doing some strength training for your back muscles, you may notice an instant lift in your posture right away for this reason.

Here are 3 exercises to get you started:

Dumbbell Shrug

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  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Stand up tall and lift your chest. Look straight ahead.
  • Inhale and shrug, lifting your shoulders up as high as you can.
  • Slowly and with resistance, bring your shoulders back down.
  • Repeat for more reps.

Overhead Barbell Shrug

My Favourite TRAP Exercise: The OVERHEAD SHRUG (Hypertrophy + Mobility)

An overhead barbell shrug, which can also be done with dumbbells, works your upper traps to help bring your upper back to an upright posture.

  • Hold a barbell above your head with an underhand grip about twice shoulder-width. Straighten your elbows and keep them locked.
  • Shrug your shoulders so that they move upward toward your ears. Hold for 2 or 3 seconds.
  • Slowly lower back down. Repeat for more reps.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

How to Do a Dumbbell Row | Back Workout

Single-arm dumbbell rows strengthen your lats, rear deltoids and rhomboids.

  • Hold onto a bench or chair with one hand. Pick up your knee on the same side and place it on the bench.
  • Pick up a dumbbell in your other hand, and bend that arm to a 90-degree “L” at your elbow.
  • Lean forward so that your back is almost parallel with the floor. Squeeze your back muscles and use them to pull your L-bent arm upwards.
  • Slowly release, then repeat for more reps.

16. Create an Ergonomic Driving Setup in Your Car

Even if you feel like you’re in a comfortable chair when you’re driving, the position you’re in could be contributing to back pain. Holding your hands up at the steering wheel can create tension in the muscles between your neck and shoulders, since they’re shortened when your arms are raised.

Here are some tips for creating a more ergonomic setup in your driver’s seat:

  • Hold the steering wheel at a lower position, such as at 8 o’clock and 4 o’clock.
  • Adjust your seat to a level so that your knees and hips are in a straight line.
  • Move your seat forward or backwards so that you can comfortably reach the pedals.
  • Set the back of the chair to a reclined angle of 100 to 110 degrees. This takes spinal disc pressure off your lumbar spine.
  • Adjust your mirrors so that you can see through them while you’re sitting up with correct posture. Once you can’t see through your mirrors properly, you’ll be reminded of your posture. [8].

Whenever you have a long drive, be sure to take frequent breaks where you get out and stretch your arms and do some twists and bends in your back.


17. Herbal Pain Remedies

Did you know that the pain medicine aspirin originally came from a natural plant known as willow bark? Certain herbs lower inflammation and have an analgesic (pain-relieving) effect in the body. Most herbs can be taken internally or applied externally to your lower back as a topical cream.

Here’s a look at 2 natural plant-based medicines that have been studied in medical settings and found to have astounding pain-relieving effects:

Willow Bark

Inflammation is at the root of pain, and willow bark can help relieve pain by lowering inflammation. It modulates the immune system’s inflammatory response mechanism, suppressing the body’s signal to trigger inflammation in an area.

Often, lower back pain is caused by muscle strain and spinal stress, whether a disc in your spine is under too much stress, or your lower back muscles are overly contracted. This triggers the body’s natural inflammation response, which, in turn, triggers the pain you feel.

Willow bark, which can be taken in capsules or brewed as tea, is a herb that lowers inflammation, reduces pain and even lowers fever, similar to the way that aspirin or ibuprofen work.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a root herb used as a spice in Indian food. It’s become well-known for its ability to lower inflammation through its active compound known as curcumin.

In fact, you’ve probably even seen curcumin sold in capsules at your local grocery store, because it’s being used as a natural painkiller. The curcumin in turmeric works in a way similar to willow bark by modulating the immune system’s inflammatory response.

It inhibits the release of inflammation-triggering signals to stop swelling and reduce pain. Turmeric or curcumin pills, as well as incorporating turmeric into food, could potentially help you manage your lower back pain [9].


Never Ignore Lower Back Pain

If you chronically suffer from lower back pain, it’s important you take steps to address it now. Naturally, not all cases of lower back pain can be relieved through lifestyle changes alone.

Be sure to consult with a medical professional if your low back pain is in any way interrupting your everyday activities or affecting your sleep quality.

Ignoring lower back pain in the long term could raise your risk for more serious back and spine conditions, like a slipped disc or sciatica. Addressing back pain typically means addressing a posture misalignment and improving your posture, so be sure to identify your postural issue and address the two problems in tandem.

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