Mature man working from home. He suffers from back pain.

Ease Your Back Pain: Find the Right Treatment for You

If you’ve experienced back pain, you’re not alone. Back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the United States. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 9 out of 10 people experience back pain at some point during their lives.

Maybe you lifted something too heavy and got a shooting pain in your back, or maybe you’ve experienced constant pain for years after an accident or another injury. Either way, back pain can be difficult to manage and tolerate.

Don’t let back pain stand in your way of a happy and healthy life. Work with your health care team to create a treatment plan that works for you.

Treatment options for back pain vary depending on the type of pain you’re experiencing. What works for some people may not work for you – but there are steps you can take to strengthen your back and ease your pain.

Check out the tips below to learn more about different treatment options and what you can do to manage your back pain.

Tips for Easing Your Back Pain

  • Woman doing back stretching exercises to help improve back pain.Determine the cause of your back pain. If possible, try to figure out the “why” behind your back pain. Maybe it’s a sharp, acute pain that came on suddenly after lifting something too heavy. Maybe it’s something that’s gotten worse as you’ve aged. Or maybe it’s been years of constant pain from an old injury or health issue. Describe your pain to your health care team so you can work together to figure out the best treatment options.
  • Be patient. Figuring out how to ease your back pain can take time as many of the treatment options are not quick fixes. Whether your health care provider suggests yoga, meditation or chiropractic care, for example, you have to commit to really trying a treatment to see if it works.
  • Get regular movement. When you’re suffering from back pain, you may be afraid to make it worse by moving too much. Or you might feel like a treatment is too hard and would rather lay in bed all day. But not moving enough can actually make things worse. According to the National Library of Medicine, regular exercise and movement have been shown to reduce back pain. Talk to your health care team and see what type of movement is best for you.
  • Figure out how to continue doing what you love. You may have to make modifications to your lifestyle, but research shows that isolating yourself and not doing the things you enjoy doing can actually make it harder to cope with your back pain. If you love to lift weights, work with your health care team to work out a plan for you to continue to safely do it. If you love to garden but can’t bend over without pain, talk to your team about different ways to continue gardening without worsening your pain symptoms. Having the ability to continue the activities you enjoy can help you manage the mental stress that comes from living with pain.
  • Create an exercise routine that works for you. Work with your health care team to determine what exercises you can do to relieve some of your back pain. This might include yoga, stretching, strength training, walking, swimming, or any other exercise routine that will help you strengthen your back, fix your posture and reduce your pain intensity.
  • Think about your food choices. According to VA, evidence shows that a balanced diet of whole foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help reduce pain and inflammation in your body. Certain foods, such as foods high in sugar or trans fats that are highly processed can be inflammatory and should be avoided. Learn more with VA’s handout Eating to Reduce Inflammation.
  • Find helpful adaptations. Work with your health care team to figure out ways to adapt your lifestyle to ease your pain. For example, if you notice your pain is worse after sitting for a long period of time, be sure to take breaks or find a chair that maintains proper posture. If there’s an activity that makes it worse, such as carrying heavy groceries, how can you modify it?
  • Be sure to lift things properly. Lifting things improperly can injure your back and worsen your pain. According to MedlinePlus, there is a right way to lift things that reduces pressure on your back, such as making sure to bend at the knees without twisting or leaning forward, using a wide stance, and more.
  • Explore mindfulness and meditation. Chronic back pain can affect you emotionally, mentally and physically. According to research by VA, mindfulness meditation may play a role in helping reduce pain severity, decrease anxiety and depression symptoms, and help reduce the mental stress related to chronic back pain.
  • Quit smoking. Research by the National Library of Medicine shows a significant association between back pain and smoking. Non-smokers are less likely to suffer from back pain, so consider quitting as a way to improve your overall health and decrease your pain symptoms.
  • Create a treatment plan. You and your health care team can work together to figure out what treatments work best for you. You may have to try several different approaches to find the right combination. Your plan may consist of traditional treatments, such as physical therapy, medication, steroid injections or, in some extreme cases, surgery. You and your health care team can also explore alternative treatments that may help you, including

VA’s Whole Health Approach to back pain incorporates many of these alternative treatments. Check out A Closer Look at Alternative Wellness Techniques to learn more about how yoga, meditation, massage therapy and chiropractic care can help ease your chronic pain.

Additional Resources 

Don’t let back pain stand in the way of a happy and healthy life. Work with your health care team to create a treatment plan that works for you.

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