Back pain takes the lead among common chronic conditions. With any number of factors—including injury, illness, and inactivity—it is best to first identify the source of your back pain in order to find effective treatment. Whether you choose a regimen of alternative remedies or a more conventional approach, the ultimate goal is to reduce back pain while improving your overall quality of life.

If you frequently find yourself waking in the morning to a sore back, you may want to examine your sleep habits.

  • Position: Your preferred sleep position may be causing more harm than good. Poor habits—and unwanted pain—can be alleviated by placing a pillow between your knees.
  • Pillows: Too many or not enough pillows can put strain on your neck, because this takes your spine out of alignment.
  • Technique: Before rushing off to the shower, consider a few moments of deep-breathing and stretching in bed. When you’re ready to rise, you want to do so gently. Roll to your side, bending hips and knees, and use both hands to push your body into a seated position.

Healthy diet is important for a healthy back. Hand-in-hand with proper nutrition is maintaining a healthy weight, which puts less stress on your joints and back. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, most adults are not getting enough calcium and vitamin D, both of which maintain strong bones. A diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, energizes your body and powers your muscles. Drinking plenty of water helps reduce inflammation—the culprit of many conditions for chronic pain.

Sticking to a regular exercise routine is a good way to strengthen your core. But be careful; rigorous, high-impact exercise may aggravate back pain if you have not trained to handle such high-impact workouts.

  • Take a walk. Exercise that gets your heart pumping is good. Aim for about 30 minutes—at least three times a week—of gentle aerobic exercise like brisk walking, jogging, or swimming.
  • Practice gentle stretches. Although it may take some time, if you maintain a regular routine, the benefits of stretching will help improve the extension of muscles and soft tissues in your back and reduce stiffness and pain.
  • Go in the water. Aquatic therapy is a low-impact activity that helps ease back pain. The natural resistance from the water promotes muscle strength and reduces pressure on your bones and joints. Even if you’re not swimming, you can walk in waist-high water or perform arm and leg exercises against the resistance of the water.

Using the mind to help treat illness is at the core of healing approaches liketraditional Chinese medicine (based on restoring the flow of energy and imbalances of yin and yang) and Ayurvedic medicine (which focuses on combining the body, mind, and spirit to prevent and treat disease). Mind-body techniques include:

  • Meditation: The benefits of mediation are many—focused attention, increased calmness, coping with illness, and an overall improvement of well-being.
  • Yoga: Focusing on body awareness and conscious breath work can relieve tension and is beneficial in providing back pain relief.
  • Acupuncture: This technique involves penetrating the skin with needles, hand manipulation, and/or electrical stimulation. Acupuncture is among the oldest healing practices in the world.
  • Tai Chi: This gentle exercise is effective in reducing back pain; the slow movements provide exercise while minimizing strain on the back.