Understand Your Back & Muscle Pain

Chances are your active lifestyle will occasionally be interrupted by back and muscle pain. In fact, the unexpected burden of back pain is perhaps more common than you might think. While our backs are generally strong and supportive, they’re also one of the body parts that are most vulnerable to pain. The good news is that, more often than not, relief for minor back pain can be found within the comforts of your own home using these simple self-care tips.

Aleve back and muscle hero



What’s going on back there?

Back and muscle pain is a common occurrence for individuals of all ages. Truth be told, as much as 80% of individuals will experience back pain during our lifetime. It’s one of the most common reasons for doctor visits and work absences, and is one of the leading causes of disability around the world.

Thankfully, for less severe muscle pain, there are steps you can take on your own to remedy the discomfort and even help prevent future episodes from interrupting your life. With simple home treatment and proper body mechanics, your back pain should be resolved within a few days or few weeks, depending on the severity. If your pain is severe, worsens with treatment, lasts longer than 10 days, or if you have any questions about your condition, please consult your doctor right away.

As many as 80% of us will experience back pain, but most of the time you can put it behind you.


Common symptoms of back and muscle pain

Aches and pain anywhere on the back, neck, shoulders and even down in the buttocks and legs is a not-so-subtle sign of back pain. Neck and lower back muscle pain are more common than upper and middle back muscle pain due to the fact that the bones do not flex as much in this region, but pain can still be an issue with the muscles themselves. Frequent overall back and muscle pain indicators include:

  • Aching muscles
  • Sharp or stabbing pain
  • Dull pain
  • Pain that resonates down to your legs
  • Muscle tightness or stiffness

The 2 causes of back and muscle pain

Acute pain is the most common type of back and muscle pain, which can develop quickly and last for a duration of six weeks or less. This is generally the result of mechanical issues or soft-tissue damage like muscle strains. Some of the most common causes for acute back and muscle pain include:

  • Poor posture (i.e. hunched over a smartphone, tablet or PC)
  • Prolonged sitting (places more pressure on the spine than standing or walking)
  • Lifting improperly
  • Heavy backpacks
  • Muscle sprain or strain
  • Injury / trauma
  • Obesity

Chronic back pain is uncommon, but can generally last for a duration of more than three months. If your pain is severe, worsens with treatment, lasts longer than 10 days, or if you have any questions about your condition, please consult your doctor right away.


Finding relief at home

The majority of minor lower back pain occurrences can subside with careful attention and at-home remedies. A bit of rest, applying a heat compress or ice pack, and over-the-counter medications like Aleve will most likely have you comfortably back on your feet within a few days. Some of the frequently recommended home remedies include:

illustration of a bed
The road to recovery involves more sleep

Although it’s recommended to keep your body active on a regular basis, opting for quality bed rest is instead more helpful for treating back and muscle pain. Be mindful, however, to limit rest to a few hours, and no more than a couple of days at a time.

illustrated bottle of aleve
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medication

In addition to any of these home remedies, over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medication such as Aleve can help to alleviate back and muscle pain by targeting it at the source. Aleve is suitable for a temporary relief of muscle pain when used as directed. Make sure to always check with your doctor before taking any medication.

the top half of a snow flake and the bottom half of a sun illustration joined in the middle
A tale of two temperatures

Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the area of your back which experiences pain can help prevent and/or reduce swelling. Subsequently, applying a heating pad or hot water bottle approximately 48 hours after pain is experienced will help to soothe and relax the muscles, and increase blood flow to the affected area.

an illustrated bottle of aleve inside a yellow circle
Exercise and stretch your way to a stronger back

Strong, flexible muscles are less susceptible to injury. As such, regular physical activity can help to alleviate the pain, and prevent you from aggravating your back muscles. Alternatively, you should also avoid movements that can further exarcebate your back and muscle pain.

Good posture can help with back and muscle pain management
Sit upright to prevent back pain

Poor posture can make back pain even worse, particularly if you remain seated for long periods of time. Try to sit upright, with your shoulders relaxed, and your body supported against the back of your chair. Also, try not to hunch over your keyboard, and make sure that your feet remains flat on the floor.

illustrated person standing inside a yellow circle
Stand more frequently than usual

Sitting for lengthy periods of time can place stress on your spine, hence why it’s important to switch up your routine by doing things in a standing position more frequently instead.


Chill first then turn up the heat

TIP 1 OF 4

To help reduce pain and swelling, apply ice wrapped in a towel early and often to the sore area for up to 20 minutes at a time, several times per day, for the first 48 hours. Avoid applying ice for more than 30 minutes at a time. Once swelling has gone down, apply heat to help relax muscles, relieve pain and reduce stiffness. Consider a warm bath as well.

Take a load off

TIP 2 OF 4

For the first 72 hours, take it easy on your sore back. Getting adequate and taking an over-the-counter (OTC) medication like Aleve can help to relieve minor pain and discomfort. Should your pain persist or worsen, contact your physician immediately.

Practice proper pillow position

TIP 3 OF 4

Pay attention to your pillow position as your head and spine should be aligned while sleeping. If your pillow elevates your head to the point that it becomes misaligned with your spine, then it might be time for you to change your pillow. If you snooze on your back, you do not want your chin pressing into your chest. If sleeping on your side, you don’t want your chin pointing toward your shoulder.

Unload the extra cargo

TIP 4 OF 4

If you regularly carry a heavy backpack, purse, briefcase or extra body weight, this additional load (which your body was not designed for), can certainly place a burden on your back. Even sitting on an overstuffed wallet can cause spine and muscle misalignment and unnecessary pain. If this sounds like you, consider dropping the unnecessary baggage right away.