More than half of Americans report struggling with chronic back pain at some point during their lives. Back pain can make life virtually intolerable, radiating up to your head, down to your legs, and making even mundane tasks feel unbearable. If you struggle with chronic pain, talk to your doctor, but know that medicine has done little to find relief for this common problem. Lifestyle remedies, though, can make a surprising difference in your pain level.
1. Yoga and Mobility Exercises
Hundreds of studies have found that yoga may be the single best option for people struggling with chronic pain. Not only are the postures easy even for someone in chronic pain; they also allow gentle stretching, improve blood flow, and help you steadily develop the muscle strength that can help you fight back against pain.
2. Strength Training
If you're like many people with chronic pain, you don't yet have the strength to do intense strength training. By starting with yoga, though, you'll steadily build the strength you need. As soon as you're able, begin lifting weights, and working to target any problem areas. For instance, if back pain radiates to your shoulders, bench presses, shoulder presses, and even bicep curls can help you build the strength you need to offset the pain. Take it easy and avoid pushing yourself, but don't shy away from progressively more challenging workouts, either.
A simple massage can make a world of difference in your health, especially if you commit to daily massage sessions. Don't have a willing partner? Try getting a massage cane and working on your back and neck yourself. Focus on attacking muscle knots, a common source of pain. The massage should be intense and a bit uncomfortable, but not excruciating, so keep working till you find just the right level of pressure.
4. Foam Rollers
If you've never heard of a foam roller, you just might be about to meet your new best friend. Foam rollers offer steady, low-level pressure for aching muscles, and they also encourage you to work your joints and build strength. Try rolling back and forth on a foam roller, targeting the tensest portion of your back. If you're not sure where to begin, a host of foam roller companies offer video tutorials, so don't be intimidated by this new—and surprisingly effective—exercise tool.
5. The Right Diet
If you want to feel good, then you need to fuel your body with the right stuff. Excessive reliance on packaged foods, refined sugars, and soda can all add up to endless pain. Consider going on an anti-inflammatory diet instead. Even just 30 days on one of these diets, which encourage you to limit refined grains, dairy, and sugar, can make a huge difference to the health of your muscles.