How to Relieve Lower Back Pain: The Ultimate Guide (2023)

You want to know how to relieve lower back pain – and you are not alone. 

Millions of people suffer daily from this painful, frustrating ailment.

One minute you are dancing around your kitchen. The next minute you have debilitating pain in your lower back and can barely move.

Why? It doesn’t seem fair. You don’t have the time or energy for this!

But don’t despair. Depending on the cause of your lower back pain, there are many simple at-home treatments that can reduce or eliminate your suffering.

Let’s start by looking at the types and causes of lower back pain.

Lower Back Pain Causes – The Painful Truth

Lower back pain has multiple causes and can last for a few weeks to months or even years.

Some common causes of lower back pain include:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Bending or turning incorrectly
  • Injuries
  • Congenital spinal irregularities (eg: scoliosis or spina bifida)
  • Degeneration or inflammation (eg: spine degeneration or arthritis)

There are two main types of lower back pain – acute and chronic.

  • Acute lower back pain lasts a few days to a few weeks and tends to resolve on its own without any long-term, permanent damage. It is usually caused by strains or sprains.

Fortunately, most lower back pain is acute.

  • Chronic lower back pain is defined as pain that lasts over 12 weeks. Acute pain turns into chronic back pain in 20% of the population, despite diagnosis and treatment. Spinal degeneration and arthritis increase as we age, and are often the cause of chronic lower back pain.

Lower Back Pain Treatments at Home – No Doctor Required

There are many at-home treatments that can provide relief for lower back pain.

Over-the-counter medications, like NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) reduce inflammation and provide fast pain relief. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are effective NSAIDS.

Medicated creams, rubbed directly into your sore back, help to numb the pain.

Finally, the old stand-by that your parents have been using for your boo-boos since you were a kid – ice or heat packs. Or, if none are available, bags of frozen vegetables!

But which one to use? Ice or heat?

The short answer is – whichever works best for you. Generally, ice is better for inflammation. A heating pad or warm bath will help you relax and improve blood flow. Both ice and heat will help the pain. If using an ice pack or heating pad, it is recommended that you limit your time to 20 minutes per session.

The Best Lower Back Exercises at Home

Although the last thing you feel like doing when your back hurts is exercise, this might be precisely what you need.

Exercise can loosen your muscles as well as strengthen your core and back.

The best type of exercise is the one you will actually do – and continue to do. So pick what gives you joy. Walk, run, swim, bike, dance. Just don’t overdo it, or put excessive strain on your back.

A strong core will help to support and stabilize your back, so add core-strengthening exercises like abdominal crunches, planks, and glute bridges to your daily routine.

Abdominal Crunch

abdominal crunch

Start by lying on your back, knees bent, and hands behind your head. Keeping your head relaxed, tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold for two seconds. Do two or three sets of 12 repetitions.


plank exercise

Planks are one of the best exercises for strengthening your core, including your middle to lower back, abdominals, and gluteal muscles. The goal is to keep your body straight as a plank as you hold this position for 30 seconds or more.

Glute Bridge

The glute bridge targets your gluteal muscles but also works the hamstrings, lower back, and abdominal muscles. It supports your spine and reduces lower back pain. Do two or three sets of 12 repetitions.

Stretch From Your Back to Your Booty

Yoga, pilates, and tai chi all involve stretching, help relax your muscles, and are effective in relieving lower back pain.

5 Feel-Good Stretching Exercises

These five yoga stretches are excellent for lower back pain and will get the blood flowing from your head to your tippy toes!

1. Cat-Cow Pose

yoga cat pose

yoga cow pose

Alternating between stretching like a cat, and looking straight ahead like a cow the cat-cow is a feel-good spine stretch.

2. Downward Dog Pose

The downward dog is an invigorating full-body stretch, which elongates and strengthens your spine.

3. Cobra Pose

The cobra pose is a back bend stretch that is effective in reducing lower back pain.

4. Child’s Pose

child's pose yoga stretch

A relaxing, calming stretch, the child’s pose lengthens the spine and relieves tension in your lower back.

5. Knee to Chest Pose

knee to chest yoga stretch

The knee to chest pose stretches out the lower back and relieves tension. It also massages the abdomen and internal organs. Gently rocking side to side in this pose also gives you a nice back massage.

Your Mother Was Right! Posture Matters

posture matters

Poor posture throws your spine out of alignment, puts pressure on your lower back, and increases the risk of pain or injury.

So, your mother was right! Posture matters, whether you are sitting, standing or walking.

Sit Up Straight!

Most of us spend hours a day sitting. Although this may be a requirement of our jobs there are steps we can take to reduce the impact that prolonged sitting has on our backs.

Most of us spend hours a day sitting. Although this may be a requirement of our jobs there are steps we can take to reduce the impact that prolonged sitting has on our backs.

  1. When sitting at a desk, make sure you have an ergonomic chair, and your monitor and keyboard are positioned correctly.
  2. Every 30-60 minutes stand and stretch.
  3. Avoid sitting for extended periods of time. Every 60-90 minutes take a break and go for a short walk, even if it is just around your office or home.

Keep Shifting

Human bodies are not designed to be stationary for long periods of time. If you have to stand in one place for hours make sure you stand on an anti-fatigue mat. These mats encourage subtle movements of the legs and feet, increasing circulation, and helping absorb the shock of a hard floor.

Are Your Shoes Damaging Your Back?

Although we are selective about our sports shoes, many people don’t give much thought to their everyday footwear. But most people spend more time standing and walking than they do in formal sports or exercise. Wearing ergonomic shoes provides support and cushioning of the foot, and helps keep your spine in alignment. A good pair of orthotic insoles – over-the-counter or custom-fitted – will often do the trick

Physical and Alternative Therapies: What Works in 2023

physical and alternative therapies

Many hands-on physical and alternative therapies profess to reduce lower back pain. But do they? The following therapies have been successful in reducing pain and increasing mobility.

Physiotherapy (aka Physical therapy)

A physiotherapist helps relieve your lower back pain with hands-on therapy, devise a treatment plan, and teach you exercises you can do at home yourself between treatments, to strengthen your back and increase mobility.


Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical technique that has been used for thousands of years. It is based on the belief that energy flows through 12 meridians in the body. Hair-thin needles are placed along these meridians to release energy blockages. There is some evidence acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, releasing endorphins, opioids, and immune system cells, reducing the brain’s normal pain response.

Chiropractic Treatment

Chiropractors use spinal manipulation to treat lower back pain. They use their hands or specially designed devices to apply quick, controlled thrusts to the joints of your spine, to improve alignment, restore movement, and reduce pain.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is the manipulation of the soft tissues – muscle, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and skin – by a trained, certified massage therapist. It is effective in relieving lower back pain by improving blood circulation and range of motion, and increasing endorphins – the feel-good chemicals which help manage pain.

Food Is Medicine: Strong Bones and Anti-Inflammation Diet

food is your medicine

Most people tend to discount the impact food has on our health. But Hippocrates was right when he said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Chronic inflammation can cause or aggravate low back pain. A whole-food plant-based diet is anti-inflammatory. Eat the colours of the rainbow – green leafy and cruciferous vegetables, sweet potatoes, berries, beans, nuts, and seeds. 

Chia seeds and flax seeds are high in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. Adding a tablespoon or two to your cereal or smoothie is a healthy way to start the day. 

Calcium is necessary for strong bones. Green leafy vegetables, soy foods, and lentils and beans are all excellent plant-based sources of calcium. Contrary to popular belief, dairy products are not good sources of calcium. Not only do humans not have the same nutritional needs as a baby cow, there is evidence that consuming milk can increase the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. 

In order to efficiently absorb calcium we also need vitamin D3, which our skin produces when exposed to the sun. In the winter you might need to take a vitamin D3 supplement. The recommended dose is 600 IU daily for adults under 70, and 800 IU for adults over 70. 

How to Relieve Lower Back Pain While Sleeping

woman sleeping on side

Lower back pain can make it difficult to sleep, but your sleep position and mattress can aggravate your pain. If you wake up feeling worse than when you went to bed, you might be doing something wrong.

Lower back pain can make it difficult to sleep, but your sleep position and mattress can aggravate your pain. If you wake up feeling worse than when you went to bed, you might be doing something wrong. 

Are You Aggravating Your Lower Back Pain When You Sleep?

Sleep position can have a big impact on lower back pain. The trick is to make sure your spine is in a neutral position when you sleep.

The following sleep positions will keep your spine aligned and reduce the pressure on your lower back:

Sleep on your side with your knees bent and a pillow between your knees

side sleeping with pillow between knees

Bent knees relieve pressure on your back, and the pillow will help keep your back in alignment.

Sleep on your back with a towel or pillow under your knees

back sleeping position

Sleeping on your back keeps your spine in alignment and distributes your weight evenly. Putting a pillow under your knees, and a small pillow or rolled-up towel or under the small of your back gives extra support and helps to maintain the curvature of your spine.

Size May Not Matter – But Mattress Firmness Does!

The perfect mattress needs to be firm enough to support your back and neck, and keep your spine in alignment.

Generally, a medium-firm mattress is the best, but this also depends on your sleeping position and personal preference. Like most things, one firmness does not fit all.

If your current mattress is too soft, you can try placing plywood under it to give additional support. If it is too firm, a memory foam topper may be the perfect solution.

How to Get More Restorative Sleep

We all know sleep is important, but we tend to sacrifice it on the altar of our busy lives. But sacrificing sleep comes with a high cost in terms of physical and mental health.

Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep per night for their bodies to rest, recharge and heal. Sleep trackers are excellent for tracking your sleep time as well as the time you spend in light, deep, and REM sleep, all of which are important for your well-being.

If you have trouble falling asleep deep, slow breathing helps to slow down your heart rate and ease you into slumber. If that doesn’t work, natural sleep aids such as melatonin, valerian, or L-theanine might work as a short-term solution

Brain-Pain Connection: How to Use Your Mind to Reduce Pain

man meditating

Our experience of pain is a result of our actual physical injury or trauma and how our brain interprets it. We can harness the power of our minds to manage pain. Here are a few simple techniques.

Mindful Meditation

Sitting quietly in a darkened room and meditating for 10-20 minutes helps to release endorphins and reduce pain.

If you haven’t meditated before, try the following. Close your eyes. Breathe in for six seconds. Pause. Breathe out for six seconds. Repeat until your breathing slows down naturally.

Repeating a phrase or mantra helps you focus.

Guided Imagery

Another relaxation technique is guided imagery.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a scene that is peaceful, or brings you joy. For example, walking on a beach on a sunny day. Picture the sounds, sights, smells, and physical sensations. Guided imagery can reduce stress hormones, distract your mind, and reduce pain.

Laughter Yoga

The old cliché is true. Laughter is the best medicine, especially when you are not laughing alone. It increases blood circulation, oxygen levels, and endorphins – our natural painkillers. If you need more laughter in your life, check out the laughter yoga movement!

Preventing Lower Back Pain

woman stretching as she wakes up

Treatment and prevention are two sides of the same coin. Here are some practical steps you can take to prevent lower back pain.

  • Keep active. Find a low-impact exercise you like and do it several times a week.
  • Stretch daily and do core strengthening exercises several times a week.
  • Protect your back when lifting. If you need to lift heavy objects, keep your legs hip-width apart, bend your knees, and keep your back straight.
  • Sleep on your back or side, using pillows for additional back support
  • Invest in an ergonomic desk chair and good walking shoes!

When You Should See a Doctor for Your Lower Back Pain

woman consulting with her doctor

Not all lower back pain is treatable at home. Sometimes you need to see a medical doctor. It is important to seek medical advice if your pain:

  • Is a result of an injury
  • Doesn’t improve after two to three weeks
  • Radiates down your leg or to other parts of your body
  • Is debilitating

Also seek medical help if you experience signs of infection (eg: fever, chills, vomiting, weakness) or urinary problems.

Kick Lower Back Pain to the Curb

Ugh! What started as a twinge has now spread and your back feels like it is being squeezed by a vice grip.

You try to ignore it, but you can’t. It hurts to move, and you can’t even stand up straight.

All you want to do is hide under the covers until your pain goes away. But that won’t help.

Instead of hiding, there are practical steps you can take to ease your agony.

Our ultimate guide will show you how to relieve lower back pain, including many simple at-home remedies.

Are you ready to stretch, strengthen, and kick your lower back pain to the curb?

Medical Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional before starting any exercise program. Stop immediately if experiencing pain or discomfort.