14 Ways Chiropractors Get Rid of Their Own Back Pain
Even the professionals throw their backs out sometimes. Check out their at-home secrets for back pain relief.
Use a natural pain-relief cream
"I just pulled a low back muscle while pulling weeds in my yard," admits Chappy Wood, a chiropractor in San Francisco. (Docs, they're just like us.) So how does he get rid of back pain? "The first thing I always do is rub Helix, a menthol and arnica analgesic cream, where it hurts," he says. "This helps by desensitizing pain signals and decreasing inflammation." Not sure how you hurt your back? Check out these 14 medical reasons for chronic low-back pain.
Pop a magnesium supplement
Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, explains Wood. "When my back hurts, especially if it's spasming, I take a magnesium supplement and then wait for 15 minutes," he says. "Next, I lie on my back on the floor, put my legs up on a chair, and apply heat to the painful area for 20 minutes." You can try a supplement or you could have a chunk of dark chocolate—yep, it has magnesium. Or try one of these 10 home remedies for back pain relief.
Try a mobility gun
It's not as bad as it sounds: A mobility gun can provide serious back pain relief, Wood says. Here's how to get rid of back pain with it: the gun works by helping to release tight glute (butt) muscles, a common source of low-back pain, he says. "I activate my glute muscles by using a percussion massager like the Mobility Gun in the glute-hip region for ten seconds and follow with glute muscle contractions three times," he explains. "Then I repeat on the other side. This helps to restore proper chains of movement. To finish, I go for a walk."
Use a hot/cold compression therapy system
Ice and heat have been the go-to solution for back pain relief since ice and fire were discovered—and for good reason: They work to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow to soothe sore or injured backs, says Ann O. Reilly, a chiropractic physician at Grove Spine & Sports Care. When it comes to her own back pain, however, she prefers a more modern twist on hot/cold therapy. "The KT Tape Recovery + Compression Therapy System, Heating and Ice Pack is a great tool that allows you to easily swap out the ice and heat," she says. "I do ten minutes of ice followed by ten minutes of heat, repeated two times, up to four times a day depending on the severity of the pain."
Roll it out
Foam rolling is Reilly's go-to method of pain relief when her low back is aching. "I target the foam roller on thighs and buttocks as these muscles attach to the pelvis and, when they are tight, they can pull on your pelvis, causing pain," she explains. "This is common both with very active individuals (triathletes, runners, cyclists, weightlifters, and people doing Crossfit), along with those who have to sit for prolonged periods at a desk." What type should you get? She recommends this foam roller as a simple, cost-effective choice, but she also believes they're really all about the same. Try more lower back pain relief treatments that really work.
Cozy up with an electric heating pad
Ice is helpful in the "acute" phase of pain—the 24 hours after you hurt your back—but for long-term relief, heat works better, Reilly says. One of the most convenient ways to get some warmth on the right spot? Use an electric heating pad by either laying on it or getting one that can be velcroed around your body. She adds a caution not to overdo it as it can cause more pain and stiffness. "This is because all the blood moves to the area of the heating pad," she says. "This explains why if you fall asleep on a heating pad, you may wake up more stiff. Heat is therapeutic for 15-20 minutes but then can work against you. So be sure to take breaks when heating or set a timer." If you don't know exactly what caused your problem, it might be one of these 10 secret reasons for your back pain.
Schedule some gentle yoga
Yoga is a great low-impact exercise that will gently stretch tight muscles and increase your range of motion while increasing blood flow to the area. For those reasons, Reilly says, she loves it when her back is sore. Her three favorite yoga poses for releasing the low back and pelvis are warrior I, child's pose, and cat/cow pose. If that doesn't help, don't ignore the pain. Make sure you know these 8 signs that your back pain is actually an emergency.
Install this posture-correcting software
It's not just the sitting that's the problem, it's the way we sit in front of computers—slouched over the keyboard, leaning forward to see the screen, or propped up on the bed. These positions can ruin your back, says Packard. If you can't take a break, you can still improve your sitting posture. He recommends Brightday: It's software you install on your computer that acts as a personal posture trainer. Every day you complete posture training sessions and then when it senses you're slouching again, it gives you a gentle reminder—helping you prevent back pain before it starts. Back pain isn't the only reason to try this: Check out 9 sneaky ways bad posture is affecting your health.
Schedule regular standing breaks
"A major reason that back pain is a problem for so many people, and that people are experiencing it at ever younger ages, is that we spend more time sitting at computers than ever before," says Dallan Packard, a chiropractor in Grass Valley, California. "I know that I can be guilty of sitting at the computer for hours and realizing that I'm sitting in a way that's making my back ache." His solution for how to get rid of back pain? Take breaks every hour to walk around or at least stand up. Many smartwatches and phone apps can be set to offer reminders.
Shrug your shoulders—the right way
A lot of upper back pain stems from hunching over to read our phones, e-books, and tablets, Packard says. To fix this issue and reset his posture, he does several sets of "shrugs" every day. "Start by standing up straight and looking straight ahead. Shrug your shoulders up, then, once maximum height is reached, roll your shoulders back. Once they are as far back as they'll go, roll them down as far as possible. Up, back, down. Now hold it for five seconds. Release and repeat five times total," he says. For more physiotherapy solutions, check out these 5 exercises guaranteed to reduce back pain.