Does Your Back Ever Hurt? Experts Say These 15 Little Things Can Help A Lot

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by Christina X. Wood and Cassandra Seale
Originally Published: 

Whether you slept weird and woke up with a back in knots, or have longer-term postural issues that result in chronic discomfort, we can all agree back pain has got to GTFO. When relief is in order, it’s not always feasible to rush to the chiropractor or local acupuncturist, though. So I reached out to a gamut of professionals — including physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, fitness instructors, and acupuncturists — to get the lowdown on products and practices that provide relief, and are easy for people to do at home (and that won’t break the bank).

Some are straightforward, like a squishy, ergonomic floor cushion that supports you whether you’re standing at a desk all day or doing dishes, or a sturdy foam roller to massage out tension. There are also high-tech options like a posture corrector with an app or an electronic muscle stimulator that pinpoints relief where you need it. And for immediate soothing at home or on the go, topical products containing menthol or lidocaine are also on this list.

So, before you spend another minute in frustrating discomfort, take a gander at these wide-spanning suggestions and see if anything sounds like it fits your back bill. Because, as I learned, there are many small tricks and treatments that can be done in the comfort of home that provide big-time relief.


This Knee Pillow That Supports Your Back While Sleeping

If your back pain happens at night, Stephen Light, a Certified Sleep Science Coach, suggests you invest in the Contour Legacy Leg and Knee Foam Support Pillow. “I recommend it to many of my clients who feel they need extra relief for their back pain while sleeping, or whose sleep positions are the root of their pain.” Its hourglass shape supports both your legs and knees, and the ventilated memory foam won’t raise your body temperature. “It rests between your legs while you sleep to support the proper alignment of your spine, hips, legs, and knees,” says Light. “Considering how much of our lives we spend sleeping, it’s crucial we properly cushion our bodies while they sleep, and don’t allow back pain to become a problem we only address while awake."


A Different Memory Foam Knee Pillow With Cooling Gel Linings

This knee pillow is another great option for side sleepers who might be experiencing back pain from improper alignment — especially if they get warm in the middle of the night. Unlike many other options, this cushion has two cooling gel linings within the contours which help create a chilly sensation beneath the removable, hypoallergenic case. It’s also packed with dense memory foam for comfortable support — and even though it wasn’t specifically recommended by experts, many Amazon customers wrote that they “highly recommend” it.


This Massage Roller That Gives The Best Back Massage

When your back pain has you asking around for a good masseuse and selling your valuables to pay for it, Joy Puleo, a Balanced Body Pilates instructor and teacher trainer, suggests you give yourself an effective and always-available back massage with her favorite foam roller. “What’s great about the KnotOut is its one-of-a-kind shape that reaches spots that traditional rollers can’t. You can give yourself a good massage simply by placing it under the area you want to work on,” she says. “From there, move up and down, allowing it to soothe knots and tension away."


A Beautiful Mat Because Yoga Is So Good For Your Back

It might seem counterintuitive if your first response to back pain is to rest, but Dr. Ehsan Jazini, Spine Surgeon at the Virginia Spine Institute recommends you get on a mat and do some yoga. “Yoga has long been used to promote flexibility and resilience in the spine,” he says. “It also improves joint mobility and control.” You can get started with one of these beautiful and portable, 5-millimeter-thick yoga mats from Gaiam. They even come with a free, downloadable yoga class to start you on your journey.


This Yoga Mat That’s Thick & Cushiony

If you prefer a yoga mat that’s a little squishier than the rest, this mat is a great option. The soft foam is 12 millimeters thick, providing a bit more cushion than thinner options. Not to mention, the nonslip surface is water-resistant, making it a valuable pick for heated yoga sessions. It wasn’t recommended by the pros, but many Amazon customers — over 7,000, to be exact — gave it a 5-star rating. It’s available in five colors.


The Floor Cushion That Feels So Nice For Your Feet, Legs & Back

If your back pain flares up when — or seems to be caused by — standing in your kitchen, at your desk, or in your workshop, look to your floor. A hard floor can cause foot, leg, and back pain. But it’s easy to fix by setting down this ¾ inch thick, ergonomic standing rug in the spot where you stand most often. According to Jazini, "These are designed to provide foot support with a cushion that is made for comfort.” And they feel absolutely delicious to your tired feet, back, and legs. “Once you try this out,” he says. “You’ll want one for the whole family!"


This Calf Stretcher That Improves Posture

Tight muscles in your legs can contribute to back pain, according to Jazini. “Sedentary lifestyles can contribute to tight hamstrings,” he explains. “Stretching the foot can help relieve the pain in your calves while alleviating lower back pain.” He recommends using this simple calf stretcher, which is ergonomically designed so that a gentle rocking motion of the foot gently and evenly stretches those tight calf muscles. “This rocker design can reduce foot pain by encouraging proper posture," says Jazini.


A Seat Cushion To Take Pressure Off Your Lower Back

Sitting can be so hard on the back, especially if the seat is hard. “These cushions can go on office chairs or in your car,” says Jazini. “They’re soft but firm and that helps take pressure off your back, waist, hips, and thighs.” This not only feels good while you’re sitting but can also improve the health of your back. “Less pressure on your back may improve your posture,” he says. He recommends putting it everywhere you sit. “They’re lightweight and easy to move from one sitting spot to another.”


This Support Pillow That Attaches To The Back Of Your Chair

Although this pillow wasn’t recommended by experts, it offers a different kind of cushion that attaches to the back of your chair (instead of the bottom). It can also be used on various types of surfaces — including desk chairs, kitchen chairs, car seats, and more — offering comfortable support for your lower back wherever you clip it into place. It’s even packed with squishy memory foam that’s wrapped in a breathable mesh lining.


This Foam Roller That Mimics The Hands Of A Masseuse

When muscle pain in your back is the cause of your discomfort, Carly James, a certified fitness instructor and nutritionist, suggests that you use a foam roller to work it out. “The 321 STRONG Foam Roller will help with any type of muscle pain, including back pain,” she says. It’s light, strong, waterproof, and covered in a variety of 3D massage zones that feel like the hands of a masseuse on your back. And it’s very easy to use. “The manufacturer even provides an exercise booklet and online videos with detailed exercises," says James.


The Ball Chair That Engages Your Core While You Work

“Sitting on a chair with a less solid base forces you to engage your deep core and stability muscles,” says Jenny Lee, an orthopedic physical therapist. “Strengthening these muscles can help offload some of the force going through your lower back.” For this, she recommends this Gaiam backless balance chair. “Ball chairs can get very pricey for no particular reason,” she explains. “This model is the one I recommend for all my patients. It’s cheap, but gets the job done.” The ball sits on a rolling base so you can scoot around your desk the way you would in an office chair and the ball is easy to remove so you can use it for your workout, too. It comes in five colors.


This Wobble Cushion That Sits On The Desk Chair You Already Have

If you don’t have enough room in your office or home gym for a giant yoga ball, this wobble cushion is a great alternative. It’s designed to sit right on top of your desk chair, which can promote better posture and help ease back soreness. It even has a nonslip surface and is available in five colors. While no experts have directly recommended this product to Bustle, it still has a 4.4-star rating — and one customer wrote, “My office chair was creating unnecessary pain in my back and I could never get comfortable until I invested in this. It’s been a tremendous relief! It has forced me to focus on my posture and alleviated most of the pain, with intermittent stretching I feel much better.”


An Inflatable Yoga Ball That’s Available In 5 Sizes

Similar to the yoga ball recommended by Lee, this ball — which was not recommended by the pro — is nonslip and provides an unbalanced surface for you to sit on, helping to ease back pain, work muscles, and improve posture all at once. This particular ball, however, is available in five sizes ranging from 45 to 85 centimeters. There’s even an on-page chart to suggest which size you should purchase for your desk setup, and it even arrives with an air pump for easy inflating.


A Durable Yoga Ball Base That Isn’t On Wheels

If you prefer a yoga ball base that’s a bit sturdier (and not on wheels), this stand is a great choice. It hasn’t been specifically recommended by experts, but thanks to its useful design, it can hold your yoga ball in place while you sit — whether you’re working at your desk or working out your muscles. It’s suitable for various yoga ball sizes, and one customer wrote, “Absolutely love my ball base. I bought it for work as sometimes my lower back hurts and sitting on the ball allows me to stretch. The base adds stability and slides across my linoleum floor so it’s perfect!”


This Posture-Correcting Back Brace That Helps Prevent Problems

Lee also recommends a posture-correcting back brace like this ComfyBrace. “Wearing a posture corrector,” she says, “even for only a couple of hours a day, can help relieve tension in certain areas of the spine and reduce the chance of developing tight muscles from compensation.” This device is simple and adjustable. “It’s just a few straps,” says Lee. “But it gets the job done."


A Different Posture Corrector That’s Available In 3 Sizes

This posture corrector wasn’t specifically suggested by experts, but it still has all of the features that make it worth buying. The straps are adjustable, and the fabric it’s designed with is breathable (making it easy to wear underneath your clothes). What makes this pick different is that it’s available in three sizes so you can pick the one that’s best for you. Like many other wearable posture correctors, this one is designed to train your muscles into sitting in a comfortable, upright position to help ease back pain.


The High-Tech Posture Corrector With An App

"For high tech individuals,” offers Lee. “Posture correctors can come in the form of an app. The app is connected to a wireless posture monitor you place on your upper back. If it catches you slouching, it lightly buzzes to remind you to sit up straight. You can then track your posture throughout the day, and find out when you slouch the most."


These Epsom Salts That Help Back Muscles Relax

Aaron Hartman, Functional and Integrative Medicine Doctor at Richmond Functional Medicine, recommends a tried-and-true soak with epsom salt to ease back tension. "Using anywhere from four cups to six cups and a hot bathtub can be great for back muscles,” he says. “First, the heat in the bathtub water can help relax spasming muscles and increase blood flow. The magnesium sulfate and high doses can penetrate the superficial tissues, helping to calm the muscles down."


A Roll-On Lidocaine Treatment That Relieves Pain Fast

Applying a topical treatment can soothe aching back muscles with a quickness, and Dr. Venessa Walker, DC, MDNC, and founder/director at Walker Chiropractic and Wellness Center, recommends this roll-on lidocaine lotion by Workvie. She says, “I prefer this lidocaine roll on since it doesn't have any parabens, dyes, or harsh chemicals because it's important to me what my patients put on their bodies. It numbs pain fast and doesn't irritate the skin of my patients and it's also very convenient for applying on the back.”


This Pair Of Therapy Balls For A Deep, Effective Spinal Massage

Lijana Shestopal, a licensed acupuncturist at her Sports Acupuncturist practice, likes the pain-relief benefits of a deep spinal massage, which can be achieved with a simple set of tune-up balls. “For spinal health, put these balls in a mesh cloth that [they] came in, set them on the floor, and lay down on it, with the two balls being on each side of your spine in your lumbar area. Let it sit there for about 10 seconds before moving on up to the next vertebral section. You can do this from the lumbar area all the way up to your neck.” This method, she shares, “relaxes the deep spinal muscles so they are not pulling on the spine, which can cause pain.”


An Inflatable Yoga Ball That Can Help Support Your Lower Back

Unlike the previously mentioned yoga balls, this pilates ball made with PVC is inflatable and covered in tiny massage-worthy spikes. It’s also a bit larger, coming in at 9 inches in diameter, and can be used to help provide lumbar support if used properly while sitting in a chair (however, some customers also recalled lying on top of it). This pick wasn’t recommended by any pros Bustle spoke with — but according to the brand, it’s been recommended by physical therapists. One customer even wrote, “I love this ball! I purchased it to continue my physical therapy exercises at home and it is perfect for that. I have also found it works to massage my lower back and feels wonderful!”


A Muscle Stimulator That Relaxes Muscles With Precision

Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, physical therapist/osteoarthritis specialist and founder of Keep The Adventure Alive, recommends a TENS unit, which “helps to relax lower back muscles that feel tight, knotted, and painful.” To use it, place the pads right where you’re experiencing pain. Choose the intensity level you prefer, and the device then emits electronic pulses to the pad. Says Dr. Kuhn, “It essentially allows for the muscles to contract and relax, allowing them to relax in a state that is much less painful. You can use these when at work, sitting watching tv, and even when lying down. This device has a longer battery life than some others on the market and high-quality pads, extending its use."


These Quick-Relief Patches With Cooling Menthol

If you’re in need of pain relief and aren’t able to lay out for a full-fledged massage, Biofreeze cooling gel patches come recommended by Dr. Sapna Sriram, chiropractic physician and CEO/Co-Founder of Integra Health Center. Dr. Sapna says it’s “great if you’re in an acute episode of back pain and need quick relief but can’t necessarily get to using ice or if you’re on the go.” They continue, “Be sure to check for skin sensitivity before using.” These patches are infused with menthol, which Dr. Sapna says “can be effective for a cooling effect in the area that can provide temporary relief of pain.”

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