Looking for back pain relief? Back pain causes significant limitations in the daily routines and lives of those who experience it. Sometimes, people feel a sharp, shooting pain. Other times, it can appear as a burning sensation. Whether, it’s low back pain and radiculopathy, or sciatica, back pain accounts for a large number of medical complaints and appointments.
So, when Eat This, Not That! Health reached out about some common back pain relief strategies, we were excited to share some insights. We’ll link to the article here, and we’ll also include the content of the interview below:
1. Why does back pain happen?
Let’s start with pain. Take a look at the official definition of pain according to the International Association for the Study of Pain: “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.” Simply put, our sensory system (like our brains) create the sensation of pain to protect us from tissue damage or the threat of tissue damage. So, if our brain thinks something could potentially cause damage, we can still feel pain.
How does this work? Normally, our pain response results from acute tissue damage 
. For example, touching a hot stove causes pain because the burner damages the skin and other tissues. The heat from the stove stimulates nerves that send a signal to your brain, and your brain says “Oh, this is causing damage. We need to get out of this.” So you get the feeling of pain, and that’s usually enough to get you to jerk your hand away from the stove. There was a threat. Your nervous system put out the alarm. And your body responded. And so, you save your hand from burning to a crisp. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.
So, in the instance of back pain
, it may be a result of lumbar spinal stenosis, sciatica, or some other musculoskeletal imbalance.
2. When is it time to seek medical treatment?
I typically tell patients that the time to seek treatment is when the pain is when the pain is affecting your daily routines. If it begins affecting the amount or quality of sleep, ability to complete self care tasks, household tasks, or if you experience decreased mobility or motion, it’s time to seek out some help.
Share 3-5 Back Pain Relief Strategies
Below are 3 evidence-based methods and strategies for relieving back pain. While these strategies may not be a cure-all or work for everyone, they are supported by the research. Before trying any at home strategies, it’s always recommended to seek the guidance of a licensed medical professional.
1) See a good Physical Therapist for Back Pain Treatment
Research suggests that early referrals to physical therapy for acute onset low back pain or sciatica improved disability and other outcomes when compared to usual, wait-and-see care 
. That means, if you’re experiencing back pain, peaking with your doctor about a physical therapy referral, or reaching out for a back pain assessment, may help reduce pain and improve function more quickly than other methods.
Current research also suggests that physical therapy treatment should include exercises to reduce pain and discomfort, techniques for improving functional spinal movement, walking and dynamic posture, and manual therapy and cardiovascular exercise . Look for a clinic or clinician that takes a biopsychosocial approach, and takes the time to individual care to each patient.
2) Flexion-based Exercises for the Back
Stretches and exercises involving spinal flexion can help with back pain relief, if the symptoms are a result of spinal stenosis. A simple exercise is the common “floor touch” stretch. Stand up with your apart. Slowly bend forward, reaching towards to floor. Hold for several seconds. Slowly return to the upright position.
This helps restore some normal mobility, and also works to help retrain the nervous system about safe movement. As mentioned in the pain section above: pain is the nervous system’s alarm signal. Sometimes, especially in instances of low back pain (which is a common cause of chronic pain
), safe, controlled movement is the best pain medication there is. It improves motion while also teaching the nervous system that movement is ok, safe, and not a danger.
3) Get in the pool for Back Exercises and Aquatic Therapy
has been shown to reduce pain and increase physical function in patients with low back pain 
. The physical properties of water (buoyancy, laminar flow, hydrostatic pressure, and heat) can allow people to participate in exercises and activities
that they might not be able to do on land. It can be a great way to start off with some early movement, in an environment that reduces the stress on the back and also begins building the strength and endurance you’ll need to begin setting the stage for long-term relief from low back pain.
At the end of the day, we were excited to share some insights for that article on back pain relief, and hope that some of the information in this post helps if you experience back pain. While no single pain relief method works for every single person, the strategies suggested here are supported by research and our current understanding of how to best treat back pain. Again, it’s always a good idea to seek the guidance of licensed medical professionals in your area. Don’t just read an article on the internet and think you’ve got it figured out. A good clinician can help guide you with selecting treatment strategies that are the most appropriate for you and your situation.
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 Fritz JM, Lane E, McFadden M, Brennan G, Magel JS, Thackeray A, Minick K, Meier W, Greene T. Physical Therapy Referral From Primary Care for Acute Back Pain With Sciatica : A Randomized Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2021 Jan;174(1):8-17. doi: 10.7326/M20-4187. Epub 2020 Oct 6. PMID: 33017565; PMCID: PMC7856080.
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 Shi Z, Zhou H, Lu L, Pan B, Wei Z, Yao X, Kang Y, Liu L, Feng S. Aquatic Exercises in the Treatment of Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review of the Literature and Meta-Analysis of Eight Studies. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 Feb;97(2):116-122. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000801. PMID: 28759476.