15 Ways to Practice Self-Care When You Have Back Pain

Find out how to give yourself some extra TLC when your back pain flares up

Self-care. It’s a term that’s gained steam in recent years as a way people can give themselves much-needed attention in the midst of overbooked, overwhelming schedules. It’s never been more important in the midst of a global pandemic that has fundamentally altered daily life around the world.

Back pain self careGiving yourself some extra care can be beneficial for back pain, too.

Even just a few minutes a day devoted to yourself and your physical and mental health can make a difference. “Self-care allows us the ability to self-regulate and meet our ever-changing needs on a daily basis,” says Jaclyn Bacon, MSN, FNP-C, a nurse practitioner and online health consultant. “Regular self-care is crucial if we want to show up as our best selves in the many roles we fill in our lives.”

As it turns out, giving yourself some extra care can be beneficial for back pain, too. Bacon explains that pain can be emotionally and physically taxing on our bodies. Self-care can encourage a feeling of mental and emotional balance, “which is particularly helpful when one has a condition that may cause pain,” Bacon adds.

The connection between self-care and chronic pain has been increasingly studied over the years. Bacon shares, “Several studies found that individuals who participate in self-management practices in addition to their typical medical care have significant reductions in pain levels and small to moderate decreases in their disability.”

So, whether you’re looking to alleviate back pain or you simply want to carve out a few minutes of your day that act as an oasis in the chaos, these self-care tips are for you.

Take a Hot Bath

Studies have proven that hydrotherapy—otherwise known as a stress-busting hot bath—can provide pain relief. Bacon particularly enjoys Epsom salts for these baths, saying, “The magnesium in Epsom salts help relax you and your muscles.”

Try Self-Massage

If you aren’t able to go get a massage due to the pandemic, one effective self-care activity is self-massage. Apply gentle pressure to the painful spots or use items like foam rollers and tennis balls to massage away the pain. Read our tips on how to do it safely.

Turn to Music Therapy

Music can be a surprisingly-effective way to ease back pain. Research suggests that music therapy can be a helpful complementary treatment when addressing chronic pain. Bacon cites music therapy as a form of self-care when you’re experiencing back pain along with a low mood, and says, “When you are down, balance your mood by listening to something uplifting.”

Get Quality Sleep

Poor sleep has been proven to lead to increased back pain, which means getting those ZZZ’s is an excellent form of self-care. As Bacon recommends, “Focus on good sleep hygiene and healthy bedtime routines—this significantly helps with your body’s healing and mood.”

Back pain self care sleepYour back will thank you for getting enough sleep.

Do Some Yoga

Yoga is a great way to relieve and even avoid back pain altogether. By doing poses like the cat/cow, triangle, and child’s pose, you’ll gain some relief and a bit of Zen in the process.

Eat Nutritious Foods

An overwhelming number of studies suggest that good nutrition can alleviate many health woes—specifically, diet and lifestyle factors have been proven to reduce inflammation, which in turn can cause chronic low back pain. Bacon echoes this finding, advising, “Focus on whole foods that are minimally-processed so you can help reduce inflammation contributing to pain.” Additionally, keeping a healthy weight and body mass index is good for your back, and a sensible diet is the single most important factor in weight loss.

Connect with Others

Experts believe that loneliness is a risk factor for the development of pain over time, along with depression and fatigue. Another way to practice self-care is simply reaching out and connecting with loved ones, something that could soothe away back pain. “Isolation can exacerbate pain,” Bacon says.

Be Mindful

More and more doctors are turning to mind-body therapies as a method to treat pain, which has been confirmed in several studies. One 2015 study suggests that participants who practiced only eight meditation sessions reported significantly lower pain than patients who solely received traditional medical care.

If sitting down and meditating sounds daunting, Bacon shares a simpler way to practice mindfulness: “Engage your senses and be present in what you are doing and your surroundings—try not to get lost in your pain.”

Drink Plenty of Water

You may not think that drinking enough water every day is a type of self-care, but it really is. Studies suggest that hypohydration (not enough water) can increase pain sensitivity, which is just one among many good reasons to drink up.  

Back pain self care waterPotentially less back pain is just one of the many benefits of proper hydration.

Stretch It Out

Stretching can decrease pain levels, and you’ll practice mindful self-care at the same time. Whether you choose to do it first thing in the morning, over lunch, or right before bed, Bacon says that “stretching and core abdominal exercises are particularly helpful for back pain.” She advises getting a doctor’s approval first. Once your doc signs off, start with this beginner stretching video for back pain.

Spend Time Outdoors

Many of us know that getting out in nature feels good mentally and physically, and it can actually relieve pain, too. One 2016 study showed that forest therapy, the Japanese practice of mindfully walking in forests, improved psychological and physiological symptoms of chronic pain. Bacon agrees with this conclusion: “Connecting to nature has tremendous benefits for your health and mood.”

Apply Heat

Applying a heating pad can feel soothing to your mind and your back, making it an all-around effective form of self-care. Just be sure to check with your doctor before trying any type of heat therapy.

Take Breaks

Taking breaks can be beneficial to your mind and stress level, which can lead to lessened back pain. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, stop what you’re doing to take time for yourself. Bacon says, “Take physical and mental mini breaks throughout your day. Set a timer on your phone every hour if it’s helpful.”

Check In Regularly

Bacon says, “Regularly ‘check-in’ with yourself throughout day. Rate your stress or pain level from zero to 10 so you can self-intervene earlier before it reaches high levels.”

Back pain self care check inTake a moment to check in and listen to what your back pain is telling you.

Go Easy On Yourself

This could perhaps be the most important form of self-care—simply put, go easy on yourself. If your back pain is intense, take a day off from a strenuous workout or say “no” to an obligation. Rest is essential when you’re dealing with pain, so be sure to slow down whenever you feel the need.

Need more self-care ideas? Treat yourself to a new office chair. See our recommendations for every budget.   

Updated on: 07/20/20
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Is Chronic Back Pain Stressing You Out? Here’s How to Deal

When back pain comes with stress, anxiety or depression, it can make coping even harder. Learn how to manage both pain and mental health.
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