It’s a huge challenge to live with back pain.
This illness can affect your whole life. All activities that you do can also be affected if you’ve got back pain.
A lot of people are living with it for many years. They know firsthand how it could change your mood, sleep, and overall enjoyment of life.
Of course, you require fast relief if back pain stops you in your tracks during the day or wakes you up in the middle of the night. However, are there other things you can do aside from taking a pill?
Well, there are a lot of back pain products out there that can help.
A couple of products will work better for particular individuals compared to others. Thus, you might have to do some trial and error to find one that fits your needs.
Our handy infographic below will provide a great quick overview. If you want more details and links to the studies, you’ll find that further below.
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The Best Products on the Market for Back Pain Relief
Infographics are great, but some people want the details behind the info.
Below, you will find better descriptions, more info, and the studies that back up the information. Check it out.
1.) Posture Trainers
Good posture is crucial to a healthy spine. Numerous studies show a correlation to posture and good back health, and the whole science of ergonomics has been developed to ensure we utilize proper mechanics at work and play.
Sitting at a desk all day is one of the main culprits of back neck, and shoulder pain. This stems from bad posture and weakening/tightening of your muscles.
Standing properly can also help relieve pressure on your shoulders, neck, and spine.
Because of this, you can also lower back pain and neck pain. However, good posture can also help in other things. This includes:
- Make you look taller
- Lower your possibility of injury when doing physical activity
- Enable you to maintain proper form when working out
- Help you breathe better
- Improve your energy levels
How Posture Trainers Work?
For the most part, posture correctors are wearable devices that offer a corrective and support structure to your posture.
This will help you align your spine and develop ideally mind-muscle pathways that help you keep a healthy posture. Because of this, it can help you prevent conditions that can occur from bad posture.
Since individuals can have a lot of various posture problems that fall into different posture types, there are various forms of posture correctors available.
The most common type of posture corrector is the back brace. Typically, there combined with straps that are placed over the shoulders.
In addition to that, there are also other types that include electronic features that remind the wearer to help them establish better consciousness about their sitting and slouching positions.
There are female-specific types as well. Though normal bras might not do much to support females, there is a couple of posture correcting bras that provide women the support required while they exercise or do their daily activities.
Do Posture Trainers Work?
There are numerous studies that show a correlation to posture induced back pain:
- Bontrup C, Taylor WR, Fliesser M, Visscher R, Green T, Wippert PM, Zemp R. Low back pain and its relationship with sitting behaviour among sedentary office workers. Appl Ergon. 2019 Nov;81:102894. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2019.102894. Epub 2019 Jul 15. PMID: 31422243.
- Lis AM, Black KM, Korn H, Nordin M. Association between sitting and occupational LBP. Eur Spine J. 2007;16(2):283-298. doi:10.1007/s00586-006-0143-7
A few studies reference the use of posture training devices to help improve posture:
- Stollenwerk K, Müller J, Hinkenjann A, Krüger B. Analyzing Spinal Shape Changes During Posture Training Using a Wearable Device. Sensors (Basel). 2019 Aug 20;19(16):3625. doi: 10.3390/s19163625. PMID: 31434320; PMCID: PMC6721329.
- Cramer H, Mehling WE, Saha FJ, Dobos G, Lauche R. Postural awareness and its relation to pain: validation of an innovative instrument measuring awareness of body posture in patients with chronic pain. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2018;19(1):109. Published 2018 Apr 6. doi:10.1186/s12891-018-2031-9
It seems there is some evidence that posture trainers do work. However, it depends on the person and the product.
Trainers help you notice bad posture in an effort to correct it. The main question is if the product in question effectively changes your behavior over time.
Need help choosing? See our top posture trainer picks by.
2.) High-Tech TENS Unit
A TENS unit (short for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a battery-operated device that emits electrical currents to treat pain.
This device utilizes a low voltage electric current to get rid of pain signals in your body. You can hook the device to your belt and it’s connected to two electrodes. These electrodes carry current from the device to your skin.
TENS units might help treat a couple of symptoms. This includes:
- Back and neck pain
- Joint pain
- Postoperative pain
- Labor pain
- Period pain
They can also lower the pain that results from particular conditions. This includes:
- Spinal cord injury
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Sports injuries
However, TENS Units are not safe for everyone. Seek medical advice before using if you have :
- A heart problem, pacemaker, or other electrical or metal implant
- Pregnant or any chance you might be pregnant
How TENS Units Work?
A TENS unit works by sending minor electrical impulses via electrodes. These electrodes have adhesive pads to attach to the skin of an individual.
These electrical impulses will flood the person’s nervous system. Because of this, it lowers the ability of the nervous system to send pain signals to the brain and spinal cord.
A TENS unit has controls that enable individuals to manage the suitable level of pain relief. They can do this by changing the duration, frequency, and intensity of the electrical current.
Duration is the number of microseconds that the electrical impulses enter the skin for during every pulse.
The frequency refers to the number of electrical pulses every second. Low-frequency (LF) pulses rangers from 1-20 cycles per second. They’re appropriate for treating chronic pain. On the other hand, high-frequency (HF) pulses range from 80-120 cycles per second. They might help control acute pain.
Intensity is a dial that enables the person to change the intensity of the electrical stimulation.
Knowing how to properly use your TENS machine will help you avoid hurting yourself.
TENS is a non-invasive approach for getting rid of the pain. If you’re experiencing pain relief with the help of TENS, you might be able to lower your intake of pain medications. A couple of these pain medications cause negative side effects or can be addictive.
Also, a TENS unit is extremely convenient since they’re discrete, portable, and small. You can clip the unit onto your belt or carry it inside your pocket. Thus, you can have immediate access to pain relief.
Do TENS Units Work?
There is not an abundance of high-quality medical research and/or clinical trials that support TENS unit therapy in a major way. In fact, many studies are inconclusive with some saying it does not work, some saying the study was inconclusive, and some studies saying it does work.
A 2011 study, showed that TENS and Interferential current (IFC) showed reductions in pain compared to the control group, but found no statistically significant reduction between TENS and IFC.
Another review showed that low frequency TENS therapy did a better job of treating pain than low frequency TENS therapy.
- Facci LM, Nowotny JP, Tormem F, Trevisani VF. Effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and interferential currents (IFC) in patients with nonspecific chronic low back pain: randomized clinical trial. Sao Paulo Med J. 2011;129(4):206-16. doi: 10.1590/s1516-31802011000400003. PMID: 21971895.
- Vance CG, Dailey DL, Rakel BA, Sluka KA. Using TENS for pain control: the state of the evidence. Pain Manag. 2014;4(3):197-209. doi:10.2217/pmt.14.13
Further research is needed.
While medical literature does not conclusively determine TENS Unit efficacy, many users report positive results. This could be attributed to a placebo effect, or you may find a real benefit.
Need help choosing? See our top TENS Unit picks by.
3.) Percussion Massager
A percussion massager is a new device that you can commonly find in the fitness industry.
A lot of people say that it’s a game-changer.
This device is almost the same as a drill. It utilizes soft and rapid blows over a short time to shock the fibers of your muscle. These fast taps help muscles bring blood flow to the area and release tension. This relaxes the muscles and enables them to heal.
The device’s deep vibrations affect the soft tissues of your body. There are a couple of excellent benefits you can get from percussion massagers. This includes:
- Help avoid delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Lower muscle tension and soreness
- Break up scar tissue and other adhesions
- Relax the muscles
- Pushes out fluid from the muscles and into the circulatory system
- Lower inflammation
How Does a Percussion Massager Work?
A percussion massager is a type of massage that offers fast bursts of pressure into the muscle tissue of your body. It has a rubber head that rapidly oscillates back and forth.
Traditionally, massage therapists utilize a series of light strikes from the wrists or hands to the given muscle group to relieve pain.
However, a percussion massage allows people to get the same benefits in the comfort of their own houses. Unlike myofascial massaging tools, a percussion massager can hyper-target a particular problem area.
If you use it cautiously, a percussion massager can greatly help with your chronic back pain, back stiffness, muscle strain, arthritis, and much more.
Do Percussion Massagers Work?
In a 2014 study, vibration therapy was shown to be equally effective at combating delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as massage therapy, in a group of untrained women. This study also shows an improvement in range of motion (ROM).
Furthermore, studies published in 2011 and 2014 propose that vibration therapy can increase blood flow which can lead to reduced inflammation and reduced muscle tension.
- Imtiyaz S, Veqar Z, Shareef MY. To Compare the Effect of Vibration Therapy and Massage in Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). J Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(1):133-136. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/7294.3971
- Herrero AJ, Menéndez H, Gil L, Martín J, Martín T, García-López D, Gil-Agudo A, Marín PJ. Effects of whole-body vibration on blood flow and neuromuscular activity in spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord. 2011 Apr;49(4):554-9. doi: 10.1038/sc.2010.151. Epub 2010 Nov 2. PMID: 21042329.
- Johnson PK, Feland JB, Johnson AW, Mack GW, Mitchell UH. Effect of whole body vibration on skin blood flow and nitric oxide production. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2014;8(4):889-894. doi:10.1177/1932296814536289
Vibration therapy seems to have good scientific backing based on medical literature. Does this translate specifically to percussion massagers? Many athletes, trainers, and therapist believe so and use percussion massagers in their routines.
This also correlates to the explosion in percussion massager sales in lieu of seeing a massage therapist.
4.) Over-The-Counter Medications
You can always purchase over-the-counter medications that can help relieve back pain. For those who don’t know, these are pills you can purchase off the drugstore shelf. The most popular ones are Naproxen and Ibuprofen. These pills can lower inflammation, swelling, and pain.
What Are NSAIDs?
NSAIDs are short for Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. They’re most prescribed medications for treating illnesses, such as back pain and arthritis.
They’re more than simply pain relievers. They can also help lower fevers and inflammation. They can stop blood from clotting as well. This is great on a couple of occasions. However, they’re not so advantageous in others.
How Do NSAIDs Work?
These types of drugs work by stopping an enzyme from performing its task. This enzyme, also known as COX, is a protein that activates changes in your body.
This enzyme has two forms. The first form protects the lining of the stomach from harmful digestive chemicals and acids. The second form is produced when joints are inflamed or injured.
Traditional NSAIDs stop the jobs of both COX1 and COX2. That is why they can ease inflammation and pain, but cause stomach bleeding and upset.
These types of drugs come in various formulas and strengths. A couple might work better for you compared to others. A medical professional can help you determine the right medication and dose for you. In general, you’ve got to take NSAIDs with a glass of milk or food.
What is a Topical Pain Reliever?
Another form of over-the-counter medication is topical pain relievers.
These are the ones that you rub directly over the skin to ease muscle pain and improve blood flow. They come in gels, ointments, or creams.
How Do Topical Pain Relievers Work?
Most of the time, topical pain relievers include methyl salicylate (commonly called oil of wintergreen).
This ingredient provides topical pain relievers the minty smell and produces a cool feeling when you use it on your skin.
Oftentimes, methyl salicylate is used as a counterirritant. Essentially, it acts as a distraction to pain points.
These rub-on treatments might also contain NSAIDs. This depends on the product and other ingredients in it.
Do NSAIDS work?
Many studies have been published on NSAIDS’s effectiveness. However, we recommend you speak with your Doctor before taking any medication.
5.) Hot and Cold Packs
Cold packs or even bags of frozen vegetables can lower swelling and numb the pain.
You can apply them to your back for around 30 minutes a couple of times a day. As soon as you feel pain, you should apply a cold pack right away. This will help relieve pain.
Try to switch to heat after 2-3 days. This will help enhance blood flow and relax tight muscles. Hot pads and heating lamps all generate this effect.
You can also try a hot bath and add some products for back pain. However, you’ve got to be careful not to fall asleep with a heating pad if you don’t want to get burnt.
Cold treatment can help in a lot of cases. This includes:
- Irritation in the tendons after an activity, also known as tendinitis
- A recent injury
On the other hand, heat treatment can help in a lot of cases as well. This includes:
- Relieving spasms or pain relating to back or neck injury
- Warming up stiff tissue or muscles before activity
- Sprains and strains
How Does Cold Therapy Work?
Cryotherapy, commonly known as cold therapy, works by lowering blood flow to a particular area. This can greatly lower swelling and inflammation that causes pain.
This is particularly true around a tendon or joint. Cold therapy also lowers nerve activity temporarily. This can also help relieve pain.
There are a couple of various approaches to apply cold therapy to your back. This includes:
- Ice baths
- Ice massage
- Coolant sprays
- Frozen gel packs
- Ice packs
How Does Heat Therapy Work?
This type of therapy works by enhancing blood flow and circulation to a certain area because of the increase in temperature. Increasing slightly the temperature of the affected spot can increase the flexibility of the muscles and soothe discomfort.
Heat therapy can soothe muscles and relax tissues. They can also heal damaged ones.
Unlike cold therapy, there are only two forms of heat therapy. This includes moist heat and dry heat.
- Convection heat, commonly known as moist heat, includes sources such as hot baths, moist heating packs, or steamed towels. Most heat might be a bit more effective. They also need less application time.
- Conducted heat therapy, commonly known as dry heat, includes sources such as saunas, dry heating packs, and heating pads.
So, what’s best for helping with back pain? Hot or cold? Understanding when to use heat therapy and cold therapy will greatly improve the treatment’s effectiveness. A couple of cases will need both.
Does Hot/Cold Therapy Work?
Numerous studies show a benefit to hot and cold therapies reducing pain. A study among athletes also showed the benefits of contrast water therapy, which is alternating hot and cold water showers/baths to reduce exercise induced muscle damage.
- Dehghan M, Farahbod F. The efficacy of thermotherapy and cryotherapy on pain relief in patients with acute low back pain, a clinical trial study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(9):LC01-LC4. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/7404.4818
- Bieuzen F, Bleakley CM, Costello JT. Contrast water therapy and exercise induced muscle damage: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e62356. Published 2013 Apr 23. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062356
Hot and cold therapy is among one of the most recommended therapies by medical professionals and physical therapist. It is virtually free, low risk, and can reduce pain.
Need help choosing? See our top heating pad picks by.
6.) Spinal Decompression Device
Non-surgical spinal decompression is a form of motorized traction that might help relieve back pain. This therapy includes stretching the spine with the help of a motorized device, such as a traction table.
The goal of this therapy is to relieve leg pain and/or back pain.
These devices utilize the same basic idea of spinal traction that you can get from osteopaths, chiropractors, and other health professionals.
A lot of people use non-surgical spinal decompression devices to treat several conditions. This includes:
- Diseased or injured spinal nerve roots
- Worn spinal joints
- Herniated or bulging disks or degenerative disk disease
- Sciatica or neck/back pain
How Does a Spinal Decompression Device Work?
This type of therapy works by stretching your spine gently.
This process will change the position and force of your spine. Because of this, the pressure is taken off the spinal disks. For those who don’t know, the spinal disk is a gel-like cushion between the spine’s bones.
As a result, herniated or bulging disks might retract. This takes off pressure from nerves and other structures in the spine.
Spinal Decompression Pull-up Bar
If you’ve got a chin-up or pull-up bar, it’s an excellent workout to help reap the advantages of spinal decompression.
This workout is literally exactly what it sounds like. You’ve got to hang your body from a bar and pull it up. If you do this, it will enable you to decompress your spine and help lower symptoms of back pain.
Spinal Decompression Inversion Table
The concept behind an inversion table is that if you invert yourself so that your feet are above your head, it’s possible to reverse gravity’s effect on your body.
Gravity causes bones, joints, and muscles of the back to compress the spine over time. This contributes to back pain.
Inversion tables allow you to securely hang upside down with your back resting on a bed. You need to know how to use inversion tables in order for you to use them properly.
Does Spinal Decompression Work?
Our search shows dozens of articles and studies supporting spinal decompression therapy’s ability to reduce back pain. They are well cited by back pain specialists and chiropractors.
- Decompression Reduces Chronic Back Pain: A four year Study; R. Odell M.D., D Boudreau D.O., Anesthesiology News March 2003
- Long-term Effect Analysis of Spinal Decompression Therapy in Low Back Pain, July 2005, C. Norman Shealy, MD, PhD; Nirman Koladia, MD and Merrill M. Wesemann, MD
- Management of Low Back Pain with a Non-surgical Decompression System Case Report, European Musculoskeletal Review
However, the study below shows the limitations in several of these cited studies due to the methods used, for example, issues in reporting, low number of subjects, biased and/or paid marketing.
- Daniel DM. Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy: does the scientific literature support efficacy claims made in the advertising media?. Chiropr Osteopat. 2007;15:7. Published 2007 May 18. doi:10.1186/1746-1340-15-7
Many chiropractors and medical doctors seem to support the use of spinal decompression therapy even though the medical literature still seems in doubt.
Our research of product reviews, also shows hundreds of users of spinal decompression inversion tables reporting decreases in back pain.
Need help choosing? See our top inversion table picks.
7.) Acupressure Mats
Acupressure mats are made to generate the same effect as acupressure massage.
For those who don’t know, acupressure is a method utilized to release blocked energy across the body. Once you get rid of these blockages, the pain might be totally alleviated or lowered.
Acupressure mats include tons of plastic points that apply pressure to a lot of points in your back.
Acupressure mats are usually used to relieve a couple of conditions. This includes:
- Fibromyalgia pain
- Tension and stress
- Stiff or tight back muscles
- Sciatica pain in the leg and back
- Neck pain
How Does an Acupressure Mat Work?
As the name implies, an acupressure mat works the same way as acupressure therapy.
However, you can do this in the comfort of your own house. The many needles that are scattered evenly throughout the mat will connect with your skin and apply pressure to points.
As your muscles relax around the needles, the painless and gentle pressure stimulates your muscles.
Aside from pain relief, the stint on your acupressure mat will leave you an energy burst, a sense of calm, and happiness.
Do Acupressure Mats Work?
Acupressure is well researched and has been used in ancient Chinese medicine for 100’s of years. Some studies show material improvements in pain while others offer that it similar to a placebo.
Limited medical research exists on acupressure mats. The studies that do exist have their limitations.
- Hohmann C, Ullrich I, Lauche R, et al. The benefit of a mechanical needle stimulation pad in patients with chronic neck and lower back pain: two randomized controlled pilot studies. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:753583. doi:10.1155/2012/753583
The study above does report positive outcome of 82 participants using acupressure mats reporting significantly reduced back pain. However, the author admits that some of the participants also utilized other therapies during the study.
User reviews are very positive – reporting both feeling more relaxed and decreased pain.
Some users have reported discomfort as the acupressure points are quite sharp. However, this pain seems to go away after a few minutes.
8.) Massage Chairs
An excellent massage can do a lot for relieving back pain and tension.
Unfortunately, therapeutic massage isn’t always available or convenient.
Though it is still ideal to get a massage from a professional, you can now get a massage chair that can work as an electronic substitute.
An excellent massage chair is made to offer some measure of relaxation and pain relief. However, you don’t have to worry about person-to-person interaction. You can get a massage in the comfort of your own house.
How Does a Massage Chair Work?
The most basic massage chair works using vibration motors. You can typically find these motors on your smartphone. These motors have a weighted gear or wheel.
It produces a vibration whenever it spins. This helps to offer a massage to your muscles.
There are also some chairs that utilize rollers that move in particular patterns. These rollers are made to mimic the movement of human hands.
Do Massage Chairs Work?
A number of interesting studies have shown the positive benefits of massage chairs.
One 2020 study showed in a randomized control trial that massage chairs and physiotherapy were effective for pain control. While physiotherapy was more effective, the massage chair therapy was more cost effective at 60% of the cost of physiotherapy.
A 2019 study showed that massage chair sessions had a favorable effect on nurse’ perceived level of stress, blood pressure, and heart rate when they installed a massage chair and offered 20 minute sessions within an ambulatory care setting.
Another 2020 study showed an increase in pain threshold among music students through exercise and chair massage. The study concludes that both exercise and chair massage benefits can be seen in as little as two weeks.
- Kim SK, Min A, Jeon C, Kim T, Cho S, Lee SC, Lee CK. Clinical outcomes and cost-effectiveness of massage chair therapy versus basic physiotherapy in lower back pain patients: A randomized controlled trial. Medicine (Baltimore). 2020 Mar;99(12):e19514. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000019514. PMID: 32195952; PMCID: PMC7220115.
- Hand M, Margolis J, Staffileno BA. Massage Chair Sessions: Favorable Effects on Ambulatory Cancer Center Nurses’ Perceived Level of Stress, Blood Pressure, and Heart Rate. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2019 Aug 1;23(4):375-381. doi: 10.1188/19.CJON.375-381. PMID: 31322619.
- Cygańska A, Truszczyńska-Baszak A, Tomaszewski P. Impact of Exercises and Chair Massage on Musculoskeletal Pain of Young Musicians. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jul 16;17(14):5128. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17145128. PMID: 32708600; PMCID: PMC7400366.
There does seem to be conclusive evidence that massage chairs effectively reduce pain and provide good old relaxation.
It does seem that not all massage chairs are the same. Some rely only on vibration, while higher end models utilize multiple massage techniques.
While a massage chair may not be as good as seeing a certified massage therapist, a massage chair can help provide relief or even significantly extend the time between sessions.
Need help choosing? See our top massage chair picks.
These are just some of the products that you can use to alleviate back pain. Keep in mind that the effects differ from one person to another. Thus, you might have to try some of these products before you can find the right one for you.
Have you used one of these products? Did it help? Please let us know in the comments.
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