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How to Relieve Back Pain in 10 Steps

For anyone who’s ever suffered from back pain (80 percent of you will have some type of back problem, according to the American Chiropractic Association), beating it seems like a giant job that only a powerful dose of meds can handle. While popping a pill may give you a break from the aches, it won’t cure the cause of your chiropractic cricks. But you don’t need to hobble around in discomfort, either. Here’s how to relieve back pain (no prescription needed!)—we’ve got your back.

Fight the Hunch

Think about all the times you’re huddled over something—your phone, your computer, your tablet. It’s bad news for your back. When you wake up in the morning, before you go to bed, or after a workout, lie back on a large exercise or physio ball for two minutes, advises Todd Sinett, DC, a chiropractor in New York City and author of Three Weeks to a Better Back.

Ease Up on the Cocktails

It may be time to grab a sparkling water over your favorite fizzy alcoholic drink. “Alcohol raises the cortisol levels in the body, which leads to inflammation,” Sinett says. And inflammation is a leading cause of back pain. Try cutting out alcohol for three weeks and see if you notice a difference in your pain level.

Take a Walk

When you’re in the midst of a full-on ache-fest, taking a walk around the block may sound like a bad idea. But going for a stroll actually serves two pain-busting benefits: “Stress creates tension, which can have an effect on your back,” Sinett says. Giving yourself some time to clear your head can be a natural soother.

Pay Attention to Your Breathing

You’re hurting. Nothing’s working. Stop for a minute and take a deep breath. “There’s a 15-second breathing technique that can help alleviate back tension which leads to pain,” Sinett says. “Sit in a comfortable position, take a nice, slow deep breath for five seconds, hold it in for five seconds, and then release it slowly for five seconds.” Do this for two minutes.

Add Ice (Not Just to Your Back)

Back pain is often caused by a muscle spasm due to digestive upset. If you’re in severe pain, ice your back and the area between your navel and right hip, Sinett says. You can ice for up to 15 minutes at a time (no more than that) and it can be repeated a few times throughout the day.

And Heat, Too

If you’ve been icing for two to three days and the pain is still lingering, you can turn up the heat (literally). Add a hot compress to the throbbing area for up to 15 minutes at a time. The warmth can help loosen up tight muscles and increase circulation. (As a general rule, use ice at the initial pangs of pain, and heat if it persists later on.)

Sip Turmeric Tea

Inflammation and back pain are best friends, but you can break them up by adding some turmeric to your diet. The herb has been shown in studies to reduce inflammation. Mix two heaping teaspoons of dried turmeric into a cup of water and steep for 10 to 15 minutes, three times a day.

Try Willow Bark

Willow bark is known as Mother Nature’s aspirin, so it can be a good remedy for persistent pain. Always talk to your doctor before introducing an herbal supplement into your daily routine, but a typical dosage is 500 mg, three times daily.

Hit Up a Yoga Class

Stretching out those sore, tender muscles during a yoga class feels oh-so-good for back pain. In fact, people had less pain when they took a weekly 75-minute yoga class over the course of 12 weeks, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Try these yoga poses for back pain.

Rub On Capsaicin

Capsaicin might sound like a med-fueled fix, but it’s actually an herb that comes from hot chili peppers. Applying some of the topical cream to areas of the skin where pain seems to be pulsating from has been shown to reduce the amount of a chemical that causes inflammation and pain. Expect to see results within three to seven days.