Each year, one in three people in the UK will suffer from back pain, most cases of which affect the lower back. If you've tried pain medication and hot/cold therapy and they're not making much difference, here are six less-obvious remedies you might want to consider.
See also: Six tips to help prevent backache
See also: How to soothe aching joints and muscles
No doubt you're familiar with acupuncture – and acupressure is a very similar alternative medicine technique - but without needles.
Practiced for millennia in China, the discipline involves the application of pressure to the patient's body from fingers, palms elbow or feet of the practitioner. Special devices may also be used for some techniques.
Although many doctors are sceptical of the benefits inferred by acupressure, there is some preliminary evidence that it can aid those with lower back pain. A randomised controlled trial found that lower back pain sufferers who used an acupressure backrest on their office chair for a month were 30 per cent more likely to see symptoms improve than those who did not.
You might not think that your feet have much to do with your lower back, but some patients have reported getting relief from chronic back pain after using orthotic insoles.
They are unlikely to work for everyone, but if you have flat feet or excessively high arches then a good quality pair of insoles could be worth a try.
By improving your leg alignment and gait, orthotics could also make exercise a more comfortable experience – br preventing injuries by correcting an abnormal gait when running, for example.
Because everyone's feet are different, it's best to see a qualified podiatrist.
3. Stretch your hamstrings
Yoga and Pilates get a lot of positive press when it comes to beating back pain, but if you don't have the time or commitment for those – there is a more simple stretch which could pay dividends.
Tight hamstrings can put a lot of pressure on the lower back, so it makes sense to try to loosen things off a bit. Ideally by performing a few stretches twice a day.
Lay on your back and bring your knee up towards your chest. When it is at 90 degrees, extend the lower portion of your leg, trying to point your toes at the ceiling. Repeat with the other leg.
4. Exercise for endorphins
It's been proven that people who stay active and participate in exercise are more likely to recover from back pain. As well as strengthening muscles and shedding weight, exercise also produces endorphins in the brain which have been shown to have a similar effect to opiate-based medication in fighting pain.
So exercise really is a win-win proposition – but it's important to consult your doctor before taking up gymnastics (or any load-bearing activity).
5. Get more sleep
Lack of sleep has been shown to have a negative effect on lower back pain, making it worse for many sufferers. If you're feeling mildly sleep deprived, try turning in earlier and reading a book before bed rather than staring at a smartphone screen. And if you have more serious sleep problems, take steps to address them – by adjusting your bedroom environment, changing your lifestyle or seeing a doctor.