16 Lower Back Pain Treatments Experts Swear By
Chiropractors and physical therapists reveal their go-tos.
Raise your hand if you deal with lower back pain. When faced with tension or aches in that all-too-common hotspot, you tend to do whatever you can to find relief — you know, so you can move without wincing. The thing is, there are so many causes of this discomfort and even more remedies to pick from that it can be tough to figure out the best lower back pain treatment.
Physical therapist and Bright Heart Yoga Studio owner Jackie Fenton, PT, DPT, 200 RYT says there are a few factors — what she calls a “perfect storm” — that lead to pain in the area. The first is not moving enough throughout the day. “This doesn't mean you need to do an extremely hard workout,” she says. Instead, try to incorporate more movement: Walking is great, as is getting up to bend and stretch at regular intervals, especially if you sit at a desk for work.
The second contributing factor for lower back pain is stress, Fenton says, and the third is a sudden increase in activity after you’ve been sedentary for a while (think attempting a sport on the weekend after spending the previous five days in a desk chair). Add it all up, and your lower back is bound to hurt.
To prevent back pain, it helps to move around and shake things off. But if the stiffness and achiness have already set it, that’s when you might want to pop into a physical therapist’s office for advice, Fenton says. Or you can snag a lower back pain treatment to use at home — below, experts tell Bustle the products they recommend for relief.
Jackie Fenton, PT, DPT, 200 RYT is a doctor of physical therapy and owner of Bright Heart Yoga Studio. She has a specialty in pain science and has been treating patients' lower back pain for 10 years.
Dr. Shalini Bhat is a chiropractor and functional medicine practitioner based in Toronto.
Dr. Karena Wu has been practicing physical therapy for 15 years in New York City. She is the owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in NYC and India.
Kristina Kehoe, PT, DPT is a physical therapist who is board-certified in women’s health physical therapy. She is also a yoga teacher.
Simona Di Tucci is a Pilates master and owner of EHPilates by Simona.
Dr. Kevin Lees, DC is the manager of auditing and quality at The Joint Chiropractic, the nation’s largest provider of chiropractic care.
Dr. Lisa N. Folden is a licensed physical therapist and owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants in Charlotte, North Carolina.
1. Use A Foam Roller
Dr. Karen Wu recommends using a foam roller on your glutes, IT bands, hamstrings, and glutes as a way to relieve lower back pain. Rolling helps to loosen up tight muscles that can pull on your pelvis, and in turn yank on your lower back.
This particular foam roller is solid and easy to use. Get down on the floor whenever back pain strikes to roll around and work out your knots, and chances are you’ll feel better. Its uneven texture and triple grid 3D massage zones are meant to mimic the finger, palm, and thumb of a physical therapist’s hands.
- Pros: Penetrates deep into your tissues, improves flexibility, increases blood flow
- Cons: Can be slightly painful at first
Review: “I've only used this once so far, so I can't comment on how well it holds up,” one reviewer said. “But holy crap, I think it's gotten knots out I've had for 10 years. Using it was absolute heaven.”
Dimensions: 5.4 x 5.3 x 12.7 inches
2. Roll The Bottom Of Your Feet
Another quick trick is to roll one of these balls under your foot for a minute, says Dr. Shalini Bhat. Doing so should help release the fascia, or connective tissue, that’s under the skin and travels through your entire body — including your lower back. These lacrosse-style balls are easy to use while sitting in a chair or lying on the ground. Roll whenever, whether you’re at home, at work, or in the gym.
- Pros: Gives a great myofascial release, affordable, easy to use
- Cons: Can be slightly painful at first
Review: “I can't recommend this product enough,” writes one reviewer. “Absolutely effing amazing.”
Material: 100% solid rubber
3. Set A Timer For Movement Breaks
While you can always use the clock app on your phone, it might help to have a designated timer on your desk that serves as a reminder to get up and move around. Bhat recommends setting it for 20-minute intervals so you remember to get up and stretch. This visual analog timer features a colorful countdown display so you won’t be surprised when it goes off. And it’s super quiet, so you don’t have to worry about distracting ticking sounds.
- Pros: Perfect visual cue
- Cons: Requires batteries
Review: According to one review, this timer is “really cute” and easy to use.
Colors: Blue, Black, Orange, Gray, Green, Red, Pink, Purple, Yellow
4. Drink More Water
Another way to ensure you get up and move around? By drinking more water, suggests Fenton. Not only will it help you stay hydrated so your body functions more optimally, but drinking more means you’ll eventually have to get up to use the bathroom — so it’s a sneaky way to add more movement to your day. “You’ll have no choice but to move,” Fenton says.
This particular water bottle comes in a variety of colors so it’ll look really good on your desk and maybe encourage you to sip more throughout the day. It’s made of odor-free, stain-free glass and has a no-slip-grip silicone sleeve. It also comes with a handy straw.
- Pros: BPA- and BPS-free
- Cons: Not microwave safe, cap is not dishwasher safe
Review: One reviewer noted this tumbler is light, cute, and easy to clean, adding that it “moderates temperature, too.”
Materials: 100% Borosilicate Glass, Real Wood Lid, Silicone Sleeve
5. Do A Few Yoga Stretches
If you feel back pain coming on, Fenton recommends unrolling your yoga mat to do a few stretches like cat-cow, child’s pose, and half-kneeling hip flexor stretch. “These all help to move the spine gently and create a sense of safety in the brain,” she explains. “When the brain feels safe, pain decreases.”
This mat is made of eco-friendly, non-slip material, so you don’t have to worry about slipping mid-downward dog. It’s flexible and crack-resistant, too. You can choose which thickness to get, depending on how much cushioning you prefer. And it also comes with a carrying bag for easy toting.
- Pros: Made of eco-friendly material
- Cons: One reviewer notes it slides easily when placed on a rug or carpet
Review: “I was worried that this was going to be too hard,” one reviewer wrote. “But I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be a good mix between cushioned and firmness.”
Dimensions: 72.05 x 24.02 x 0.24 inches
6. Try Deep Breathing
When was the last time you took a nice, deep breath? According to Bhat, when you take deep breaths you effectively stretch the diaphragm, a muscle that’s in the same vicinity as your hip flexors. Loosening the hips is another nifty way to relieve lower back pain, she says. Deep breathing is also a good way to calm down, which helps with pain management. Grab a book like James Nestor’s The New Science of a Lost Art to learn more about the power of breathwork and how it can help everything from body aches to mental health.
- Pros: Interesting historical info on breathwork, New York Times bestseller
- Cons: Long read
Review: One reviewer wrote that they hadn’t experienced the mid-afternoon slump since buying this book and learning certain breathing techniques. “This book is well researched, a great read story-wise, and contains valuable exercises.”
7. Ice The Area
Feeling achy? “If it’s an acute onset of back pain — aka you did something like lift a heavy box and pain immediately started — I recommend using ice,” Fenton says. “There may be an inflammation process at play and ice can be helpful to decrease the sensations from inflammation.”
This gel pack is made with the thickest viscosity gel and remains pliable even after you put it in the freezer. The neoprene material is flexible so you won’t feel uncomfortable when wearing it over or under your clothes.
- Pros: Long-lasting cold, contours around back, for warm or cold use
- Cons: N/A
Review: As one reviewer wrote, “This was perfect for my sore back. It comes with two inserts, which is nice because I was able to keep one in the fridge and the other to warm up in the microwave. The belt they go in works great for lower back pain — I could wear it at work when my back was bad.”
8. Apply Heat
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can try an electric heating pad like this one, which comes with over 100,000 positive reviews. Heat comes in handy for chronic back pain, Fenton explains. “This tends to help relax the muscles and relax the person, decreasing the levels of pain they may be experiencing.”
Place this extra-large pad on your lower back and lean into it until you feel a bit better. It offers multiple heat settings, including moist and dry options, and don’t worry... its auto protection feature will keep it from overheating.
- Pros: Large size, heats quickly
- Cons: It’s warm, so don’t leave it unattended
Review: “This heating pad sure hits the spot,” one reviewer noted. “Been having chronic pain in my lower back for too long now. This pad definitely offers significant relief!!”
9. Use A Lumbar Support Pillow
According to Dr. Lisa N. Folden, another common cause of lower back pain is poor posture. “Over time, our back muscles are simply unable to continue supporting the entire trunk alone and as a result, they become strained and achy,” she tells Bustle.
One of the simplest ways to fix the issue is by sitting in an upright, neutral posture by wedging a lumbar support roll behind your back. “Placing this in your work chair or car seat will help give you the feedback needed to maintain normal spinal curves when you’re sitting for several minutes or hours,” Folden says.
This top-selling option is recommended by physical therapists and chiropractors, and is made of high-quality foam.
- Pros: Moisture-wicking materials, ensures proper alignment of your spine, supports lower back region
- Cons: Might feel uncomfy at first as it works to correct your posture
Review: “At first, this was kind of uncomfortable, but it really helped me work on my lower back, especially while driving,” a reviewer said. “After moving it around and getting the hang of it, I can now get out of a vehicle after driving for varying lengths of time with no pain whatsoever.”
Dimensions: 11 x 4.75 x 4.75 inches
10. Adjust Your Workstation
Chiropractor Kevin Lees, DC agrees that it’s important to pay attention to how you sit, especially while at work. “If you have a desk job, make sure your workstation is set up properly,” he tells Bustle. “Your chair should support your lower back and be at a height that allows your feet to rest flat on the floor. Monitors should be at eye level and keyboards should sit slightly below resting elbow level.”
One of the easiest ways to make your office setup more ergonomic is to buy a laptop stand. This one is made out of aluminum and is adjustable so you can ensure your computer screen is at eye level. The end result? Less slouching over your laptop to see what you’re doing.
- Pros: Adjustable, sturdy, portable
- Cons: You may need to purchase a separate keyboard and mouse for easier navigation on a laptop
Review: According to one review, this stand has saved them desk space and made a huge difference in their posture. “Having my computer on a stand and a separate keyboard and mouse has made a world of difference for my wrists while working on the computer,” they wrote.
Size: The width can be adjusted to fit laptops and tablets between 10 to 15.6 inches
11. Train Your Core
For yet another way to help keep your lower back happy, consider focusing more on ab workouts to build strength in your core. Folden recommends doing moves like the dead bug and planks, both of which can be very helpful to regain your core strength and protect your lower back. You could also invest in an ab roller, the TikTok-approved fitness tool that adds an extra challenge to your core workouts. Simply scroll through the hashtag #abroller on the video platform (or check out YouTube) for an exercise regimen that’ll target every muscle within your abdomen so you’ll have an easier time holding yourself upright.
- Pros: Sturdy, quiet, portable, comes with a mat for knee protection
- Cons: Requires assembly, can be tricky to use if you’re a beginner
Review: One user says this product is their go-to tool for training their abs. “I specifically like this roller because the wheel is thicker, which makes movement more stable,” they wrote.
Size: 3.2 inch-wide wheel
12. Take An Epsom Salt Bath
If your back hurts after a long day or you accidentally pulled something, try slipping into an Epsom salt bath for a little relief. “Epsom salt baths help to lower inflammation,” says Simona Di Tucci, a Pilates pro and owner of EHPilates by Simona. And the warm water doesn’t hurt, either.
These salts from Dr. Teal’s are made with pure Epsom salt and natural essential oils to ease aches and soreness. Simply pour two cups into a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes two times a week. Pro tip: You can create a muscle-relaxing paste by dissolving a teaspoon of the salt soak into a cup of hot water and rubbing it onto your lower back.
- Pros: Helps relax muscles, smells great, comes in a resealable bag
- Cons: Might be messy to use outside the bath
Review: “This salt is very fine and dissolves quickly in the bath,” writes one reviewer. “Perfect for relaxation and to ease muscle pains.”
Active Ingredients: Magnesium Sulfate, Essential Oils
13. Apply Kinesiology Tape
Kinesiology tape is something you may have seen on Olympians. According to Wu, “The continuous nature of the tape on the skin reduces your perception of pain because it stimulates the mechanoreceptors in the skin which block pain. This modality is a great adjunct as it sits on your skin 24 hours — during sleep and in the shower — so it can help reduce your pain perception quickly, which then allows your muscles to activate more quickly and more easily.” This tape from SB SOX is made of breathable, moisture-wicking, and non-irritating material so you can leave it on for however long you need.
- Pros: Latex-free material, waterproof, easy to cut fabric, strong adhesive
- Cons: May take a while to apply properly
Review: “This stuff is professional grade with amazing hold,” one reviewer noted. “It helps to reduce the spasm reflex in my back.”
Colors: Black, Green, White, Yellow, Blue, Beige, Red, Pink, Purple
14. Apply A Soothing Balm
Biofreeze gel uses cooling menthol for fast-acting pain relief. “I find that Biofreeze seems to be the most effective and best at penetrating sore low back muscles,” says Kristina Kehoe, PT, DPT, a physical therapist. It works by overriding the pain signals to the brain. As a perk, this three-ounce tube is perfect for on-the-go use.
- Pros: Cruelty-free, portable
- Cons: Gel can be messy
Review: “It’s very good to help pain,” one reviewer said.
Active ingredients: Menthol
15. Sleep On Your Side
If you tend to have lower back pain after waking up, it may help to place a pillow between your knees while you sleep. According to Kehoe, sleeping with your top knee slightly elevated will keep your spine in a neutral position throughout the night. This highly-rated pillow will do the trick. It’s made of comfy, lightweight memory foam and comes with a washable cover.
- Pros: Extra-wide to cradle both legs comfortably
- Cons: It’s contoured, but still might move as you sleep
Review: “My knees have found their new pillow,” one reviewer said. “No more fights with my pillow, and no more waking up with sweaty legs!”
Dimensions: 10 x 5.5 x 8 inches
16. Use A TENS Unit
TENS, which stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a non-invasive treatment for low back pain, Kehoe says. “These units work by interacting with nerve endings and decreasing pain perceived by nerves that send pain signals to the brain,” she adds. “So it's not really a massage, but actually tends to feel like a mild pins and needles sensation and sometimes even a bit of a numbing sensation.” This highly-rated option from MEDVICE is rechargeable and offers 16 different massages and 20 strength levels, including kneading, knocking, cupping, and tapping options.
- Pros: FDA-cleared, extra sticky pads, rechargeable
- Cons: It might take a minute to figure out where to stick it
Review: “I am consistently living with severe back and neck pain,” one reviewer said. “I’ve been researching products and decided to purchase this one because of the 5-star reviews. I’ve had this unit for about an hour, used it for 30 minutes, and I can already tell a huge difference.”
Csepregi, E. (2022). Effects of Classical Breathing Exercises on Posture, Spinal and Chest Mobility among Female University Students Compared to Currently Popular Training Programs. Int J Environ Res Public Health. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35329415/
Dehghan, M. (2014). The Efficacy of Thermotherapy and Cryotherapy on Pain Relief in Patients with Acute Low Back Pain, A Clinical Trial Study. J Clin Diagn Res. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4225921/
Kripa, S. (2021). Identifying relations between posture and pain in lower back pain patients: a narrative review. Bull Fac Phys Ther 26, 34 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43161-021-00052-w