Skip to main content

Get help relieving lower back pain

Published: December 13, 2022

Written by: Hallie Levine

A young woman, in bright yellow top and floral yoga pants, kneels on an exercise mat outdoors in the grass among mature trees, in order to do a back stretch that involves reaching for the sky.

About 4 out of 5 adults will have some form of back pain in their lifetime. Learn some ways to help get relief and support.  

In this Article: 

Almost 40 percent of all American adults in 2019 had experienced back pain in aprior three-month period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While even the young and healthy can get an achy back—in fact, nearly 30 percent of people from 18 to 29 reported back pain in the prior three months—the risk increases with age as the usually rubbery pads known as intervertebral discs wear down and lose their cushioning ability. Ways to help support relief depends on whether your pain comes on suddenly (acute) or if it’s been a nagging companion for a while (chronic).  

Acute lower back pain and how to help reduce it 

Maybe you helped your kid haul boxes for her move to college or were perhaps bending down too much while gardening, and then, the next morning, you woke up wincing in pain. “Any time you injure tissue, your surrounding muscles spasm to act like a splint,” says David Hanscom, MD, an orthopedic complex spinal deformity surgeon in Seattle, Washington, and author of several books including Back in Control: A Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain.

Not every back injury is minor, and your physician will know whether a medical visit is appropriate. But in the case of some less serious injuries, here are some tips that may help you get mobile again.

Stay active

“A lack of movement can sometimes cause back pain to hang around longer than it would have,” says Neel Anand, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery and director of Spine Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Once you’re able, take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood. This will help provide the necessary oxygen and blood flow to sore back muscles, which can speed up healing, Dr. Anand adds. Of course, before resuming activity after a back injury, it’s best to consult with your provider.

Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever

If you’re really uncomfortable, your doctor may recommend you take either ibuprofen or acetaminophen, says Dr. Hanscom. Note that some people may have medical reasons not to take OTC pain relievers. In any case, never take more than what’s on the label, because high doses can lead to stomach or liver damage.

Do some light stretches

Gentle stretches may make you feel better, says Dr. Hanscom. Keep them simple: Lie on your back and bring each knee to your chest or lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended. Avoid any stretches that involve bending or twisting, which can worsen the pain. To help with that, Dr. Hanscom recommends using a lumbar corset for just a few days to get you through the most painful phase, but he cautions against long-term wear, because that could lead to a counterproductive weakening of your abdominal muscles.

Chronic lower back pain and how to help reduce it 

Most cases of back pain are acute and will resolve within a few weeks. But if you’ve been living with consistent, untreated back pain lasting for at least three months, you likely need to see a back pain specialist, says Dr. Anand. This is because chronic pain is actually a complex condition and is largely neurological, says Dr. Hanscom, which is why a multifaceted treatment plan is usually called for.

Some of the recommendations you may hear include:

Apply warm heat

Heat dilates blood vessels, allowing more blood flow to the area and loosening muscles while enhancing flexibility, explains Dr. Anand. He recommends that you apply heat before exercise to avoid injury due to stiffness. Just don’t apply it for longer than 20 minutes, and moist heat is more effective than dry heat, he adds. Try these ThermaCare Advanced Back Pain Therapy Heatwraps. Wear one up to 8 hours at a time for up to 16 hours of heated pain relief support.

Do yoga

The stretches and poses may help lengthen your spinal vertebrae as well as strengthen the spine and protect it from future injury, says Dr. Anand. A 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people with chronic lower back pain who did 12 weekly sessions of yoga reported improvements in physical function and pain reduction and were less likely to need to take painkillers after a year. Yoga may be as effective as standard physical therapy in treating moderate to severe lower back pain.

Refresh your diet

You can support spine health with anti-inflammatory foods, such as lean and plant-based proteins, veggies, whole grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and healthy oils, says Dr. Anand. And you can help promote good bone health with reliable sources of calcium, such as low-fat dairy products as well as egg yolks and saltwater fish for vitamin D. 

Test your blood

You may also want to talk to your health care provider about getting your vitamin D levels tested, because low levels have been associated in certain populations with chronic pain, such as lower back pain. Lower magnesium levels may also correlate with chronic pain. If you are deficient in either, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement, such as CVS Health Vitamin D Softgels.


Very rarely, back pain can require surgery but typically only in cases of fractures, tumors, infections or what Dr. Hanscom calls “gross instability.” Other considerations include pain due to nerve involvement at the base of the spinal cord, if your back pain is causing incontinence or you have unrelenting pain that isn’t improved by any other measures.

*This content is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Consult with your health care provider before taking any vitamins or supplements, and prior to beginning or changing any health care practices.

*FOR VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.