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Why OTC Pain Pills Don’t Always Work for Back Pain (and 5 Ways To Relieve it Naturally)


Your favorite sunny day hobbies are calling. The hitch: Back pain flare-ups can spike this time of year due to big changes in weather.

While OTC pain pills sound like an easy fix, a study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases showed that neither acetaminophen nor NSAIDs provide significant back pain relief. In fact, only one in six people experienced a meaningful reduction in pain after taking an OTC medication.

Why aren’t drugs as helpful as we once thought? Oftentimes, they don’t address the root of the problem. If the pain is caused by arthritis or inflammation, NSAIDs could be helpful. But if the pain is caused by sciatica (ie. it’s nerve related) or a herniated disc, NSAIDs won’t do much.

If pain pills aren’t doing much for your back, it’s time to try some natural remedies. Check out these fixes that send pain packing!

Note: Always check with your doctor before trying a natural remedy. A doctor may be able to diagnose the source of your back pain and suggest a treatment plan.

Rub on comfrey.

Research shows that folks who apply comfrey cream — derived from a purple flowering plant — to their backs three times daily for five days in a row can significantly reduce their back pain intensity. The reason? Comfrey root’s allantoin and rosmarinic acid calm pain-transmitting nerve impulses while speeding tissue healing.

One to try: Terry Naturally Traumaplant Comfrey Cream (Buy on Amazon, $20.76).

Savor potatoes.

The spuds are rich in potassium, a mineral crucial for spinal health. In fact, potassium supplements correlate with less arthritis pain. Eating one cup of potatoes daily may help block back pain flare-ups.

Strike a pose.

According to Harvard Health, gentle daily yoga stretches are some of the most helpful remedies for back pain, and often help from the very first stretch. Plus, they prevent future backaches and improve flexibility and mobility as effectively as physical therapy.

Tip: One of the best-known poses, downward-facing dog, instantly relieves painful pressure that can build up in the lower spine. You can also try this three-minute stretch routine as soon as you jump out of bed!

Take a citrusy soak.

Relaxing for 20 minutes in a warm bath infused with 10 drops of bergamot oil can ease back pain! Bergamot’s volatile oils and the warm water rev circulation and flush away pain-triggering toxins. Otherwise, just dab a little bergamot on the inside of your wrists for pain relief.

Consider devil’s claw.

This Amazonian plant extract may have a strange name, but it may be more helpful than pain pills for back pain. Research suggests that it’s an effective treatment for pain and can improve physical functioning.

“The active ingredient, harpagoside, is a powerful pain reliever and anti-inflammatory,” says Earl Mindell, PhD., author of Earl Mindell’s New Vitamin Bible (Buy on Amazon, $9.99).

Invest in a massage gun.

Massage guns help stimulate sore and tight muscles in the lower back, which helps them relax. Running a massage gun over sore areas of your back may therefore help alleviate back pain. One we like? the iLive Portable Cordless Massage Gun (Buy from iLive, $69.99).

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

Related: Best Posture Corrector Bras

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