Those who suffer from chronic back pain know that it can be a struggle to experience moments of relief. Fortunately, a variety of treatments are available to relieve tension, combat muscle strain, and improve back function—including many you can implement from the comfort of your own home.

What causes back pain?

Acute and chronic back pain can be linked to a number of causes and can manifest in many places throughout the back and spine. Some types of back pain are the product of medical ailments, like scoliosis (a curved spine), osteoporosis (bone loss), osteoarthritis (arthritis accompanied by wearing of the joints), and ruptured/bulging spinal discs.

Back pain is most common in individuals over the age of 30. Many cases of back pain are also due to consistent strain on an individual’s muscles. Younger individuals who experience pain have often pulled a muscle in their back from heavy lifting, overexercising, or sudden movement.

Chronic back pain can be debilitating for those who suffer. It can impair one’s ability to move freely, to sleep well at night, and to make it through the day without experiencing pain. In most cases of recurring back pain, a daily dose of pain medication isn’t enough to manage symptoms in the long run. While more extreme measures (such as surgery) may be taken in cases where individuals struggle to respond to less-invasive treatments, there are other avenues that sufferers can take to deal with and eradicate back pain.

At-home physical therapy

Many causes of chronic back pain are linked back to how you treat your body. Whether it’s overexerting yourself or not moving around enough, back pain can sometimes be a direct result of overstressing or underworking your muscles.

Even back pain that doesn’t originate from strain can be improved by healthy movement. As a result, physical therapy (PT) is often viewed as an effective route for treating chronic back pain. Doctors or physical therapists work to identify the cause of your back pain and prescribe specific exercises that you can do daily to relieve pain and improve your mobility and comfort.

The exercises most often recommended deal with testing the limits of and relieving pain, from stretching to aerobics to retraining your posture. Many people with back pain also turn to yoga. This slower-paced, mindful exercise is highly recommended for improving function and flexibility in the back. While there are many different styles of yoga, gentle yoga that focuses on gradual movement is often most effective for back pain. This type of yoga can help relieve stress built up around your back’s pressure points without overstraining your spine or muscles.

Investing in a quality mattress

Have you ever slept the wrong way and woken up in pain? Considering that the average person sleeps for 229,961 hours in their lifetime, you can’t discount the impact of a bad mattress on an aching back. If you experience consistent back pain and can’t identify the cause, the culprit might be an unsupportive mattress. If your mattress is too stiff, too saggy, or doesn’t conform to your body, it might be time to invest in one with better support.

Memory foam mattresses are highly recommended for individuals with back pain. Although these are often expensive, they can provide long-term relief and more restful sleep for those who suffer from chronic pain. These mattresses work by contouring to the shape of an individual’s body, which helps take the pressure off of an aching back. Mattresses that don’t conform can end up applying more stress to a back’s pressure points. If you toss and turn from chronic back pain, investing in a quality memory foam mattress can help relieve pain at night and promote comfort all day.

Tandem treatments to PT

If PT isn’t cutting it, but you’re wary about undergoing a procedure, there are other research-based approaches you can take to treat back pain without surgery. Steroid injections, anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle-relaxants might be an option for those with pain that doesn’t respond well to other treatments. This is especially true for those with back pain without a distinguishable cause. However, due to the long-term side effects, most of these medications and injections should only be implemented for a short time. They are typically prescribed in tandem with physical therapy.

Along with the at-home stretching and relief that PT can provide, you may also benefit from a trip to a chiropractor’s office. These healthcare professionals receive training specific to treating neck, shoulder, and back pain and can provide relief for several weeks (or months) after a singular visit. Massages and acupuncture can also be helpful (if you can stand needles), though discussing all three options with your doctor before proceeding is highly recommended.

Additionally, there are other, smaller lifestyle changes you can make to improve your chances of success in treatment. Even reducing inflammatory foods in your diet can be an effective route in assisting relief from your back pain. Although these steps may seem small, they can make all the difference when paired with other, effective forms of treatment.