Back pain is common. And there are many causes for back pain, from a simple muscle strain to more serious medical emergencies. Acute back pain refers to pain in your back that has been around fewer than 4 weeks. For many people, acute back pain that a musculoskeletal problem causes often gets better without medications or other treatments. But some people aren’t as lucky. In certain cases, back pain can become chronic (long term).
Best over-the-counter pain relievers for back pain: NSAIDs are the best over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers for back pain. When you notice pain in your back, your body’s inflammatory system is active in that area. NSAIDs work by lowering inflammation, which in turn decreases back pain. If you have acute back pain that is affecting your life, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), with or without muscle relaxants, help people the most.
Best for fast back pain relief: Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
Best for all day/night back pain relief: Naproxen (Aleve)
Best for back pain relief if you can’t use NSAIDs: Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Best topical back pain option: Diclofenac gel (Voltaren gel, Aspercreme gel)
There are other safe and effective natural back pain relievers. Here are some to consider.
Home exercise: Moving your body at home can help with back pain symptoms. A home exercise regimen is a safe way to try to improve back pain on your own, without needing someone else’s help. It may be more helpful for back pain that has been around for over a month.
Heat or ice: It may help to apply heat to your back in the area where you feel the pain. And this may be more beneficial when the pain is new and not severe. You can also use cold, like an ice pack. There’s better evidence for heat therapy than ice.
Spinal manipulation: Spinal manipulation can improve pain and function in some people with back pain. Different types of practitioners can do spinal manipulation, including chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, and physical therapists. The therapist moves the affected joint(s) in different directions as far as they can safely go.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture involves placing small needles in specific points of your skin and body. It’s based in traditional Chinese medicine. And it’s very safe. Some studies have shown that acupuncture can help chronic low back pain.