Whether you threw out your back at the gym or strained a muscle while stretching, you probably know that back pain can be extremely debilitating. Back and neck pain is responsible for an estimated one-third of all missed work days and sends 52 million Americans to the doctor each year.
“A lot of people have been living with back pain before they see a doctor,” says Anand Joshi, MD, MHA, a physiatrist at Duke Spine Center. “They go when the pain becomes distracting or starts to get worse.”
The good news: There are plenty of ways to treat back pain at home—without prescription medication, according to the 2017 guidelines from the American College of Physicians(ACP)
“For all of the various advances and progress that have occurred in medicine,” says Joshi, “the treatment and prevention of back pain come back to some very basic things.” One of those things, he says, is exercise. The ACP supports this advice: According to their guidelines, people with chronic lower back pain should try treating their condition with exercise, including Tai Chi and yoga.
Looking for more ways to ease the ache? Here are some of Prevention’s top picks for relieving back pain.
1ThermaCare Lower Back & Hip Heat Wraps
Best Heat Wrap
Applying superficial heat to your back can boost blood flow and circulation to the injured area, which is thought to help ease the pain, says Joshi. We like the wraps from ThermaCare because they fit around your hip and can be worn on the go.