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.
Talk it out
Sometimes back pain is purely a physical issue—and sometimes it’s because of stress, says Jason Deitch, a chiropractor with AmpLIFEied Living. “Our back represents our body’s core structure and when we are emotionally stressed, it’s not uncommon for the symptoms to show up as back pain,” he explains. “When my back starts to hurt I try to listen to what I’m really feeling about my current situation. If I am stressed out about something, I correct that first.” He adds that while many people dismiss the emotional connection at first, he’s seen his patients get better when they address the stress. “Remember, pain is our body’s way of getting our attention.”
Meditate for five minutes a day
Since stress and back pain are linked, you may want to add destressing methods like meditation to your stretching regimen, says Deitch. “When my back hurts, I’ve learned to stop and become physically present to the moment,” he says. Meditate in any position that feels comfortable to you. Some people prefer to use an app or guided meditation, while others like to simply sit quietly and focus on their breathing. It doesn’t matter how you do it—only that you find a method that works and you do it daily, he adds. Don’t think you’re the “meditating type”? Try these 10 tiny ways to sneak meditation into your day.
Make your own pressure-point massager
Some back pain responds really well to pressure at certain trigger points along the spine. You can pay a lot of money for a massage or a special self-massaging tool—or you be like Wood and use a sock and two tennis balls. “To release the tension in my mid-back and activate the glute muscles, I position a sock that holds two tennis balls on either side of my mid-back spine, avoiding the low back area of pain,” he says. “I rest on the balls, then move them up gradually an inch or two every 30 seconds.”
Elevate your legs
“Years ago, when I had back pain, I learned how to do an exercise called ‘static back’ that relaxes the muscles of the lower back and opens the thoracic spine,” says Jeff Blanchard, a chiropractor in Morro Bay, California. “To get in position, I lie on the floor and rest my calves on the seat of a chair, positioning the edge of the seat tight against the back of my thighs with my knees directly above my hip joints. Then, I relax there for 30 minutes.” This position places the shoulders in the same plane as the hips and allows the muscles of the low back to release gradually and passively, using your own body weight and gravity, he adds. The best part? All you need is a chair and 30 minutes! Next, find out the pain symptoms you should never ignore.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.