Sore back? 4 soothing tips to help the healing

Taking care at home can ease pain and speed recovery

If you have a sore lower back, you want one thing: relief.

You might think that an imaging test, such as an x-ray or MRI, could help show what’s causing the pain. But most cases of lower back pain are minor injuries or strains. And testing — which can be costly — may not help you heal any faster.

The good news: Low-back pain usually goes away on its own in a few days or weeks.

When you’re hurting …

Try these four simple steps to help soothe your back — and help the healing process along:

  1. Keep moving. It may be tempting to head to bed when your back hurts. But gentle activity, such as walking and light stretching, may help. It keeps blood and nutrients flowing in the affected area, which aids healing.

    For a faster recovery, get back to your normal routine as you feel better. At the same time, listen to your body — and don’t overdo it.

  2. Sleep comfortably. Relieve pressure when lying on your back by tucking a pillow or rolled towel under your knees. If you usually nod off on your side, curl up with a pillow between your knees.
  3. Chill — then heat. For the first couple of days, use cold packs on the sore area, for up to 20 minutes several times a day. This may reduce inflammation and pain. A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel can do the trick.

    After those early days, switch to warmth. Help relax muscles with a heating pad, electric blanket, or warm showers or baths.*

  4. Mind your meds. Over-the-counter pain relievers can ease swelling and discomfort. But certain pain medicines shouldn’t be taken too often or for too long. Some products might also interfere with other medicines. So follow your doctor’s advice for medicine use — and ask any questions you have.

What to do next

Know how to lift with care. On moving day — or any day — lifting properly helps protect your back. Learn all the right moves with this six-step guideOpens a new window.

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*Treatment with cold or heat may not be advised for people with diabetes, circulation problems or loss of feeling.