Back pain is the leading cause of visits to the doctor. 🏩
So it's safe to say that it's pretty common and something most people will experience.
We agree, there is a fine line between trying home remedies and going to the doctors to see if it's anything more serious.
We’ve provided you some home remedies to help ease any lower back pain.
We also think it's equally as important to know when to quit self help and seek medical attention. 🚨
So if you’re suffering from lower back pain, wanting to know its potential causes and remedies - keep reading!
This one’s for you. 😉
Here's an overview of what's to come:
Lower Back Pain Causes
If you’ve ever had lower bad pain, the first question that’s probably come to your mind is “Will I make it through the day?”.
The second question is probably “What is causing this pain?”. 🤔
There are many reasons as to why you could potentially have lower back pain.
Causes can range from congenital (diseases from birth), injuries, degenerative issues, nerve/ spinal cord issues and to many other reasons.
Lower back pain is probably something that most people will experience at some point in their life.
We’ll take a brief look at the causes of lower back pain and see just how common they really are.
There are many injuries that could potentially cause lower back pain.
Firstly, sprains, strains and muscle spasms can have an impact on the lower back.
These type of injuries generally cause aching pain. 😖
This type of aching pain can prevent you from standing up straight or at all.
Traumatic injuries from sports, car accidents or even a fall can also have a direct link with lower back pain.
Injuries can severely injure tendons, ligaments and muscles… ouch!
These kinds of severe injuries may also compress the spine and cause disks to rupture or herniate.
Obviously in these instances, you’d have a fair idea of the cause of your lower back pain!
Bulging Or Ruptured Disks
Before my father had surgery to help his lower back pain, I had no idea what disks were. 🤷🏽♀️
Disks act as the cushion between the gaps in your spine (vertebrae).
Sometimes, the soft cushion in the disk can rupture causing severe nerve pressure, in some instances making it almost unbearable. 😫
However, it should be noted that ruptured disks do not always result in back pain.
Waking Up With Lower Back Pain?
If you are waking up with lower back pain then the likely cause could be one of two options.
Sleeping Positions 😴
If you are consistently waking up with a sore lower back, then your bad posture during sleep could be the culprit.
Poor sleeping positions can cause the natural curve of the spine to flatten by putting pressure on the spine.
Sleeping with poor posture can also place unnecessary and uncomfortable pressure on your joints.
So… we’ve just told you how you shouldn’t sleep. 🙅🏻♀️
Okay, let's check out the best way to sleep to improve your spine health.
Doctors generally advise the best way to sleep is on your side.
If you’re not a side sleeper, and feel that the only way you can possibly get a good night’s sleep is on your back, try popping a pillow under your lower back or pelvis for support. 🛏
These positions will help take the pressure of your back.
If your sleeping posture seems up to scratch, it could very well be that your mattress is what’s causing you that lower back pain.
Changing up an old mattress for a new one can greatly improve your sleep quality. ✅
According to research, changing mattresses that are over nine years old can drastically improve your sleep quality.
It can also reduce back discomfort and overall symptoms of stress.
Before choosing your next mattress, check out the mattresses we recommend for bad backs!
Lower Back Pain Early Pregnancy 🤰🏾
Lower back pain is arguably one of the most common complaints from women who are pregnant.
Many women complain from lower back pain as early as 8 weeks of pregnancy.
At 8 weeks the baby is the size of a large raspberry!
Despite this, most women will complain of lower back pain during pregnancy between the fifth and seventh month.
Pregnancy causes strain on the lower back muscles and after sleeping for a long period of time, muscle stiffness and tightness can be an issue.
There are a few things doctors advise to help alleviate some of this discomfort:
- Regular stretching (pregnancy friendly of course), 🙆🏼♀️
- Standing up using your legs rather than your back and
- Applying a warm compress
There are a number of other conditions that can cause lower back pain.
Arthritis which is an inflammation of the joints, can result in stiffness and lack of flexibility in the spine.
Apart from lower back pain, this can result in issues with straightening the back or turning the neck.
Roughly 49% of people with fibromyalgia experience lower back pain.
Fibromyalgia is considered to be long-term pain in the tendons, muscles and joints.
Whilst it may not be the case now, traditionally, lower back pain was one of the symptoms doctors looked for when diagnosing fibromyalgia.
Another potential cause of lower back pain could be spondylitis.
Spondylitis is an inflammatory type of arthritis affecting the spine and large joints.
Signs of spondylitis may include pain and stiffness in the lower back, particularly after periods of inactivity.
Neck pain and general fatigue are also common.
The good news is, it can generally be treated by medical attention. 👍🏼
Spondylosis is (generally) an age related change of the disks and vertebrae.
Whilst age is generally the cause of spondylosis, the rate of degeneration and and the location of the condition are specific to the individual.
Other conditions that could be related to lower back pain include:
- Kidney and bladder problems,
- Pregnancy, 🤰🏿
- Ovarian cysts,
- Uterine fibroid and
Disclaimer: before you diagnose yourself, it's important to consult a medical professional.☝🏽
Lower Back Pain Exercises and Stretches
How to Fix and Relieve Lower Back Pain
Any time I complain of any bodily pain, the first thing my husband says to me is “have you stretched”. 🙄
At first, I had no idea what he was talking about, but after some time… it kinda made sense.
The more research I did, the more I learnt about how much of an impact exercise, and particularly stretching has on our bodies (lower back pain in this case).
Okay, so we’ve established that lower back pain is super common.
We’ve also established that my husband may know a thing or two. 🙊
The good news is that there are many different exercises and stretches that can help ease that lower back pain!
Yoga for Lower Back Pain
So whether you have an injury, chronic back pain or just want to strengthen your lower back to avoid pain, yoga can definitely help. 🧘🏽♂️
Firstly, what exactly is yoga?Yoga is a 5,000 year old practise that aims to join the body and the mind, based in ancient Indian Philosophy.
Whilst yoga is rooted in Hindu religious practices, for the purposes of our discussion it is a combination of:
- Physical postures,
- Breathing techniques,
- Mediation and
Research indicates that yoga can be especially helpful to strengthen the muscles that support the back and spine.
Yoga can help strengthen key muscles in the lower back, including: 💪🏻
- Paraspinal muscles (the three muscle groups that support the back),
- Multifidus muscles (muscles that stabilise the lumber of the spine) and
- Transverse abdominis (stabilises the entire lower back and core muscles)
It's probably a good idea to recognise if you’re new to yoga, try a class with an instructor before going solo.
This will help ensure you have correct posture and positioning, ensuring you get maximum benefit.
Oh, and we should also probably mention that the benefits of yoga go beyond conditioning. 😉
The focus on breathing and slow movement help alleviate the emotional causes of back pain (stress, anxiety and depression).
Core Strengthening Exercises For Lower Back Pain
Glute bridges work the obvious, your glute muscles! 🍑
The gluteus maximus is the largest and most outer muscle of the three muscles that make up the glutes.
Keeping your gluteus maximus strong will help support the lower back.
So, how do you perform a glute bridge? 🤷🏼♀️
We’ve included a short video to help make it easy for you to complete this core strengthening exercise!
Knee-to-chest stretches help elongate the back.
Elongating the back will help relieve any tension and pain you may have.
Also, we can all agree that one of the feelings is giving your back a nice long stretch when it's feeling some tension.
So, how do you perform this stretch?
- Lay on the floor on your back,
- Bend your knees and keep them flat on the floor,
- Use both hands and bring one knee toward the chest, 👐🏽
- Hold your knee against your chest, tighten your core and keep your spine pressed to the floor,
- Release the leg and complete the same process with the other leg
- Repeat with each leg 2-3 times a day ✌🏽
Lying Lateral Leg Lifts
These leg lifts work the hip abductor muscles.
In turn, strengthening these muscles support the pelvis, reducing strain on the back.
What does this have to do with reducing lower back pain?
Keeping these muscles strong help you maintain your balance and improve upon mobility.
In order to do these, you need to:
- Lie one side with your legs together,
- Keep the bottom leg (one closest to the floor) slightly bent,
- Tighten your core muscles,
- Raise your top leg about 30cm, keeping it straight
- Hold the position for 2 seconds, and repeat ten times on the same leg,
- Turn on to your other side and repeat this set 3 times
This one is super easy, but super helpful.
As we’ve established, one of the reasons for lower back pain is poor posture.
In order to maintain good posture a person needs strong back extensors.
The back extensors are attached to the back of the spine. These muscles allow us to stand and lift heavy objects. 📦
Weak back extensors reduce spinal and pelvic support.
BUT… doing this exercise can help strengthen these muscles. 💪🏿
Interested in knowing how to do it? Check out the below video. 👇🏾
Cat Stretches 🐈
This stretch, not only feels soooo good - but also helps lengthen the back making it stronger and easing any tension it may have.
And yes, it feels as good as it looks. 👌🏽
So, how to complete this feel good stretch:
- Get on your hands and knees, with your hands lined under your shoulders,
- Arch your back and pull your belly button up towards your spine,
- Gently relax your muscles and let your abdomen turn back to the floor,
- Return to starting position,
- Repeat 5 times daily
Pilates for Lower Back Pain 🧘🏻♀️
Pilates is one of those things, that people kinda sorta know what it is, but don’t really know what it is.
If you think pilates is similar to yoga in its slow, low impact nature then you’d be absolutely correct. ✅
BUT, you’d be incorrect if you’d assume it's the same as yoga.
Pilates is a low impact exercise that aims to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility, posture and core alignment.
What differentiates pilates from other low impact exercises, is that it generally focuses on the core.
Sonja Herbet, pilates instructor and founder of Black Girl Pilates says:
“It strengthens and stablises your core body, which is your foundation, so that you can move efficiently whilst improving your posture, flexibility and mobility”.
Pilates is an especially beneficial exercise for those with lower back pain.
As stated, the main purpose of pilates is to strengthen the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, which are crucial for adequate back support.
There has been a direct link established between pilates and the reduction of chronic back pain.
Similar to yoga though, it is important to do pilates under the supervision of a qualified instructor.
Depending on the cause of your lower back pain, each person will have different aggravating and alleviating positions.
A qualified instructor will modify different moves to ensure any injury or pain is not further aggravated.
A good example of this would be someone who has back pain due to a bulging disc.
The pain may be made worse by sitting and bending positions, whilst extension exercises may be helpful.
For the next person with back pain, the opposite may apply. 😖
This is why we cannot stress enough, to make sure you begin your pilates journey under the care and supervision of a qualified instructor!
Weight Training For Lower Back Pain 🏋🏽♀️
Stop.✋🏻 Don’t skip this section.
Just hear it out and give it a chance.
Still with me? Great. 😆
Too often weight training has been associated with body building, bulking and anything in that kind of arena.
What many people don’t realise is that weight training is actually fantastic for toning, losing weight and developing overall strength and stability.
Studies have shown that weight training can be an effective way to manage lower back pain.
There are a few benefits of weight training in easing lower back pain.
- Increasing the function and mobility of muscles in your back and core,
- Improving muscle strength (especially core and lower body),
- Increasing lean muscle mass,
- Increasing your range of motion, particularly in your spine,
- Decreasing body weight. 📉
However, before you join up to a gym and start making your way around the weights section, there’s a few things you should consider. ☝🏽
Consider The Nature Of Your Injury
If your injury is serious in nature and originates from a previous spinal injury, tumour or nerve damage - weight training may not be for you. 🙅🏼♂️
Weight training may not also for you, if your lower back pain is accompanied by neurological symptoms. 🧠
This is why it's really important to consult your doctor before you undertake any weight training.
Your doctor will be able to help you decide whether weight training could be beneficial in your recovery.
Begin With Guidance From A Trained Professional 👩🏼🎓
A trained physical therapist or even a qualified personal trainer will suffice in this regard.
If you have any familiarity with weight training, you will have heard about how important form is when using weights.
This is not only because form impacts how your muscles are shaped, but it can also affect what muscles are being worked.
Additionally, incorrect form can also aggravate an injury instead of helping it.
A trained professional can also help provide guidance on the types of exercises, technique and frequency.
Beginning your weight training under the supervision of a professional will drastically reduce the risk of further injury to your back.
Starting Of With Lower Weights And Building Progressively 📈
Starting your weight training with lower weights, and slowly building will ensure you don’t overload your spine.
You may even find it helpful low-load motor control exercises (simply using your body weight) and progressively adding weight.
Exercise machines may also be a better option in providing a safer level of resistance to your exercises.
Machines will help provide your body with a higher level of support than free weights will.
Combining A Weight Program With Regular Walks
Combining weight training with regular walks can be a killer combo in aiding back pain.
Walking stimulates blood flow through the body.
Whilst the blood is moving throughout your body, it brings with it essential nutrients to the muscle and soft tissue in the back.
This will reduce stiffness and promote healing. Perfect. 💜
Lower Back Pain Treatment (Home Remedies)
Okay, so we’ve established that lower back pain is something that many people will have come across in their lives.
So surely there are some home remedies to help ease the pain?
Definitely. There are. 👍🏿
There are different sleeping positions, support aids and stretches/activities that can help ease the lower back pain you may be feeling.
Sleeping Positions For Lower Back Pain 🛏
There are 5 main sleeping positions that doctors recommend when it comes to supporting lower back pain.
1. Sleeping On Your Side With A Pillow Between Your Knees
Sleeping in this position will help align your hips, pelvis and spine.
So, the first thing you need to ensure is that you lie completely on one side (we recommend the right).
The next thing that’s important, is placing a soft pillow between your knees.
Nothing fancy just a good ol’ pillow.
And that’s it! 😎
But… if you have some room between your waist and mattress, adding an extra pillow there could provide some extra support.
2. On Your Side In The Fetal Position
Curling your torso in this position helps open the space in the vertebrae.
Sleeping in this position will help avoid nerve pain, weakness and other issues caused by herniation.
To sleep in this position, you should lie on your side and slowly tuck your knees to your chest, and curl your torso to your knees.
This position is going to be particularly helpful for those who have a herniated disc.
3. Sleeping On Your Stomach With A Pillow Under Your Abdomen
Rumour has it that sleeping on your stomach may be bad for your back. 🤫
Well, my father always says “Where there’s smoke there’s fire”.
So this rumour, is in part true. Sleeping on your stomach can add extra strain to your neck.
However, some people find it most relaxing to sleep on their stomach, so if you find this is the only way you can sleep - no problems.
Try placing a pillow under your pelvis/ lower abdomen.
This will help relieve some of the pressure and strain from your back.
If this feels too propped, you may want to try placing a pillow under your head for extra support.
This position will help relieve any stress that may be placed on the space between the discs in your back.
4. Sleeping On Your Back With A Pillow Under Your Knees
Side and stomach not for you?
We’ve found a way for you to relieve lower back pain, sleeping on your back. 😄
Actually, when you sleep your weight is evenly distributed across the largest part of your body.
What does this mean?
It means you’ll place less strain on your pressure points. This position will also help spine alignment.
So, the first thing you need to do is lay on your back.
The next step is important. You need to ensure you place a pillow under your knees.
This is going to ensure that you keep your spine neutral, helping keep its natural curve.
If you don’t feel this is enough support, you may want to place a small rolled up towel underneath your lower back also.
5. On Your Back In A Reclined Position
This position may be beneficial because it creates an angle between your thighs and the core of your body.
Reduced pressure on your spine. Perfect. 👌🏽
We should mention that sleeping in a reclined may not generally be the best thing for back pain, but it will be really helpful if you have isthmic spondylolisthesis.
Isthmic spondylolisthesis is a condition whereby one of the vertebrae’s slip on top of one of the one’s beneath it.
To be able to sleep comfortably and consistently in a reclined position, you may want to consider investing in a reclinable bed. 🛏
Ice or Heat for Lower Back Pain
When it comes to treating lower back pain, it can be confusing to navigate when to apply heat and when to apply ice.How to treat lower back pain with heat or ice, and what to treat it with can be potentially confusing to navigate.
Below are three types of lower back pain and what could be the best option in treating it:
- Acute back pain (less than 4 weeks)
- Chronic or subacute back pain
- Muscle soreness after exercise
1. Acute Back Pain
When back pain is acute (less than 4 weeks), the best thing to try first is cold therapy. ❄️
Lowering the body temperature will help reduce swelling, constrict the blood vessels and will induce a numbing effect.
Once the inflammation of the affected area has subsided, its time to switch over to heat therapy. 🔥
Applying heat will improve the flexibility of soft tissue, muscle movement and overall functioning of the area (back in this case).
Also… as a general rule, applying heat to any area will help stimulate blood flow.
This brings nutrients to the affected area, helping to heal it.
2. Subacute And Chronic Back Pain
If you have had a subacute or chronic (longer than 4 weeks), it will be best to apply heat through a constant medium.
This can be a little tricky with a heat pack or staying in a bath. 🛁
So you may want to try keeping a warm blanket wrapped around your lower back.
Alternatively if this seems inconvenient you may want to try a commercial adhesive wrap that sticks to the back that provides several hours of heat to the lower back.
This approach will help stimulate healing by providing consistent and closed heat to the lower back.
Although we shouldn’t have to mention it, but we will… make sure you follow the package instructions to prevent skin damage. 📑
3. Muscle Soreness After Exercise
If you work out, or partake in regular exercise this one may be for you.
One of the most common causes of lower back pain can be from extensive workouts, trying a new exercise and excessive walking. 🏃🏾♀️
Soreness from exercise can set in from the first day, but if you’re no stranger to working out… you’ll know it typically peaks around day 3.
This is called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and can cause serious inflammation in your lower back.
Immediately after working out, applying a cold compress will help to reduce tissue damage, inflammation and pain.
Then, after the first 24 hours - applying heat therapy will encourage tissue healing.
But don’t let DOMS deter you from working out or trying new exercises! 🕺🏼
The pain you feel after the first time trying any new exercise, will most likely be the most intense time you feel it.
After that, it's much smoother sailing.
Essential Oil Blends
If you’re not familiar with essential oils, someone you know has absolutely mentioned them at some point.
Before we let you in on the 3 best essential oils for back pain, we should probably explain what they are, and what they are not.
Essential oils are the oils extracted from seeds, leaves, flowers, fruits and the barks of different plants. 🌿
They can be applied, used in diffusers or used in aromatherapy.
And yes, research has indicated that with the right oils - various pains can be alleviated through the correct use of high grade essential oils.
So, what are the best oils to use for lower back pain?
Possibly my favourite of all the oils.
It has borderline miraculous effects when it comes to healing pain and aches (speaking from experience).
Peppermint is one of mother nature's most potent pain reliefs.
Peppermint has at least 44% pure ethanol content, which has been widely used for pain relief.
Lavender Oil 💜
Lavender oil is one of the most widely used and popular oils on the market.
Its no secret that lavender oil has multiple uses, one of the most common being for relaxation.
However, according to one study Lavender oil is also helpful in alleviating headaches and muscle pain.
Fun fact: it takes approximately 1.6kg of lavender plants to make just 15ml of lavender essential oil! 😱
Sandalwood is a class of woods from trees in the genus Santalum.
Its also one of the most expensive woods in the world. 💰
So, why is it helpful for lower back pain?
Sandalwood contains anti-inflammatory properties which are perfect for lower back pain.
Studies have indicated that the effects of sandalwood can be likened to over the counter pain medication.
Depending on the cause of the lower back pain, reducing inflammation in the area could greatly assist with lower back pain.
How To Apply The Essential Oils
Once you’ve found the essential oils you want to use, the next steps are relatively easy.
Firstly you need to find high grade essential oils, ensuring you’re going to be using pure oils.
This is important not only for ensuring maximum pain relief, but also avoiding any added nasties that cheap manufacturing may include in the process.
There are various ways you can use essential oils.
But for the purposes of easing lower back pain, you may want to try:
- Applying them topically,
- Inhaling them throughout the day through the use of a diffuser or
- Take an essential oil infused bath 🛀🏼
It's important to note that before you decide how you would like to use your chosen oils, you should follow the guidelines and instructions on how to do so.
This will ensure you get maximum benefit and don't aggravate the injury and affected area further.
Bath And Bath Salts 🛁
If you don’t have a bath, you may want to skip this section.
We didn’t want to say it infront of those who don’t have baths.
But.. apart from the fact baths are luxurious and one of the best forms of self care 💆🏻♀️ - it turns out they’re also great for lower back pain.
Donald S. Corenman recommends for his patients with spinal ailments, hydrotherapy (a bath).
“Hot baths are muscle-relaxing… they open the muscles… allow blood flow… they make tight muscles relax”.
There are also a few helpful hints that will help get you get the most out of this simultaneously luxurious and beneficial lower back pain remedy.
Epsom Bath Salts
Epsom bath salts are made from both magnesium and sulfate.
Magnesium absorption is the biggest benefit of a salt bath.
A study has found that the benefits of salt baths were not limited to improving muscle pain, such as:
- Softer skin,
- Easing muscle soreness and pain,
- Aiding ingrown toenails and
- Magnesium balance
Whilst some of these benefits can be attributed to warm water and the obvious benefits of self care, bath salts will not cause any harm!
However, if you’re pregnant you should avoid bathing in bath salts unless you have consulted your doctor first. 🤰🏼
15-20 Minute Soak
When trying to aid lower back pain, Dr Corenman recommends staying in a bath for around 15-20 minutes. ⏰
The temperature is really up to you, however he recommends around 40-41 degrees celsius.
He also says it's completely fine if you need to cool down if it gets a little too toasty.
However a 20 minute soak 3 or times a week can be extremely beneficial in improving back pain.
Tighten The Core
At this point, you probably have the message that a strong core is important in supporting your spine.
Doing this in the bath is a convenient time when you’re already in the position to do a little core work.
All you need to do to tighten your core is to contract your back muscles, the side muscles and the front muscles.
Yep, all from inside the bath!
Do Some Stretches 🙆🏻♂️
Don’t attempt to stretch in the bath.
It's a safety hazard and just overall not safe. Don’t do it.
So, when should you do it?
Stretching after a bath is optimum time.
The heat causes the muscles to loosen, making it easier for you to have a good quality stretch.
Yoga after a bath is also a good idea because the range of motion your spine will be able to achieve, will be better than before the bath.
Holding a stretch or pose for a few breaths will feel delicious after a bath.
Trust me. 😉
When To Seek Professional Help
Whilst it could be possible that your lower back pain isn’t anything too serious, we like to go by the rule “If in doubt, get it checked out”.
Pain in itself is inflammation occurring in your body. ❌
Inflammation can be as a result of many different things.
Minor back pain can be treated with as little as some rest and ice. 😴
Whereas a more serious condition or injury will need medical attention.
So, when should you seek medical attention?
Pain That Won’t Go Away
It's difficult to put a time on how long is considered to be “pain that won’t go away”.
However, we’d place it at probably a week. 🗓
If you have had consistent back pain for a week that isn’t easing with home remedies, you should probably see a doctor.
Pain That Extends Beyond The Back
If you are experiencing back pain, accompanied with other types of pain, it's definitely time to make a trip to your local GP. 🏢
Particularly if you are experiencing shooting pain down your legs, it's imperative you see a doctor.
Lower back pain, accompanied by other pain could indicate something more serious than a strained muscle.
Pain After An Accident
If your back pain began after an identifiable incident, it's time to see your doctor.
Whilst it may be a simple strain, or something non serious there’s absolutely no harm in checking.
If you experience any redness or swelling in your back after an injury, you should definitely see a doctor.
Back Pain Accompanied By Other Symptoms
There are some other symptoms you should keep an eye out for:
- Numbness, tingling and weakness,
- Problems with bowels or urination,
- Unexplained weight loss,
- Fever 🤒 and
- Pain that is worse at certain times
In general, back pain should not be ignored.
With any pain, it's important to diagnose the underlying medical condition causing the pain.
With back pain, like any pain really, if the underlying cause isn’t treated it can worsen and cause more serious issues.
If you ignore the pain, and the pain is sensed for a long enough time it can develop a new normal and lessen your pain sensations.
This means the body will adapt to a lower level of functioning, which can cause pain in other areas of the body.
If you are experiencing any other pains and its been longer than a week... or you’re even contemplating wether you should go and see your doctor, you probably should.
Lower Back Pain In Summary
There are many causes of lower back pain, some hereditary and some as a result of life’s happenings.
For just as many causes, there are just as many home remedies. 🏠
What’s important about treating lower back pain yourself is to be sure you know what you’re doing.
If you’re unsure, always consult a medical professional first.
Another good time to consult a medical professional is if your lower back pain is lasting longer than a week, and accompanied by other symptoms.
Whilst in many circumstances, the cause is likely nothing serious - it's always better to be safe than sorry! 👍🏼