12 Surefire Ways to Relieve Back Pain, Muscle Spasms and Karate Chops

Today’s article is about ways to relieve back pain and muscle spasms. And I have a personal story that inspired me to write this.

I had to go to my local chiropractor, so he could undo the damage done by the 10 minute massage I had received at my local mall the day before. The massage man must have thought I’d like his elbows pressed into my spine.
So my chiropractor was testing some areas on me, but it didn’t feel too good.
At one point the doctor said to me, “Turn over my anxious little minx.”
I said to him, “Okay, I’ll do it Dr. Wicked Fingers, but stop poking my bones with your thumbs! I’ve already been sufficiently beat up!”

I’ll tell you the whole story, which actually starts the day before my trip to the chiropractor. If you don’t have a minute to read the whole thing, just scroll down to the bottom to find the 12 surefire ways to relieve back pain, muscle spasms and karate chops. For you morbid souls who find pleasure in my pain, let’s begin.

The Day Before.
I was running errands and thought I’d take 10 minutes off to rest. I went to get a massage in the open atrium section of my local mall. I go there all the time and I have two trusted sets of hands that I adore, but neither of these 2 favorite workers were present on this day, just two men whom I’d never seen before.  I simply wanted a quick pick-me-up, so I asked for 10 minutes – nothing fancy.

He Begins.
Immediately, I wonder if this a “massage” because I wince within the first minute, which unfortunately does not cue massage man in. He put his fingers into the side of my neck so hard I thought my eye was going to pop out of its socket and land on his shoe. I tried squirming in this chair  hoping my movements would portray my discomfort. I said Ouch several times. I moved his hand off with my own hand when he got too hard. It’s like he just didn’t care because I was making it very obvious that I was uncomfortable.
When the pain got to be too much, after about four minutes, I decided it was time to leave.
I stood up to go thinking to myself, “What part of ‘massage’ sounds like ‘karate’ to this man???!!!”  

He looked so sad, and said, “No, no, no, noooo… I make it soft for you now.” I reluctantly sat back down. This pleased him. He calmed down for about two minutes, and then BAM! The best way I can describe the feeling is like having a knee jammed into my lower back.  I yelled out again and this time, he had enough sense to realize I was done with him and he moved onto his next victim, motioning the other guy. I guess they work as a tag team, because these 2 men basically switched victims.

Man #2 doesn’t speak a lick of English either, so I can’t relay that Man #1 has essentially abused me.
My eyes are watery, but that doesn’t translate to words.
There’s about four minutes left to my massage now, the six so far have been a waste. I’m feeling sore at this point, but nothing major (yet). Bruising happens easily to me.  I start to imagine how I’m going to look like tonight.  Sam will surely see the black-and-blue marks and have corresponding questions for me.

I’m already preparing my response to explain what looks like a 50 Shades of Grey encounter.

Man #2 thankfully knows NOT to put his elbows into me so, I begin to relax a smidge.
Phew. Deep breath. One in. One out…

But Then…
Without warning, or permission, he decides to press his hands against my back in an unwelcome attempt to manually adjust my spine and, if you couldn’t guess, CRACCCCKKK!
He was so rough I think I tasted liver … MINE!

I Didn’t Faint.
But I wanted to. I wish I could see what he was doing behind me. I’m pretty sure he put his foot between my biscuits.
Holy Mother of Massage! These guys didn’t miss destroying an inch of me!

Like Mark Cuban from Shark Tank says, “I’m out!”

I shuffled to the register, paid, and left with 2 minutes left before the timer was due to ding. The only thing that could pick me up now would be a vacuum.

The Next Morning.
I did okay for the most part that night. But the next morning was something I have never experienced in 51 years of my life. Please understand I love bodywork. I love bodyworkers, I enjoy massage. I’m married to a bodyworker actually, and so I’ve had the benefit of massage therapy for the past 20 years, either from Sam or my favorites in Florida (Terri or Susan :-).
They knew not to give me karate chops! If your body worker has mad skills and works hard for you, take care of her/him and express your gratitude, and obviously tip nicely.

My point is I am not new to body work. But the morning after this atrium massage, I honestly felt like I had gotten hit by a truck. Perhaps two trucks! One to knock me down and the second to make me SPLAT.
You know, you might be wondering if I went back to complain, but NO I did not, because I can fast forward to the part where I know it will not matter if I complain.  This business has been in operation for years, they’re not going anywhere, besides, some people must like it rough. And also, my two favorite workers (while also foreign) are very kind and gentle, so not everyone there is a back bully.

 And finally, I was nervous about going back, what if one of the two Natzi reincarnates were to spot me? Surely, they would likely finish the job and twist my head off 😉

Then all of you would be without your favorite pharmacist.

So instead, I’m making lemonade out of lemons. Here’s what I learned:

1. A bad massage therapist can actually hurt you. Know when to get up and leave. And leave.

2. “OoOoOoWWWWW” is not a universally understood word.

3. Neither is $*&i%h%#t!!!

4. Don’t pay for services that don’t deliver what they promise. And certainly don’t tip! 
(I’m an idiot).

5. Find a good massage therapist that you trust and stay loyal because it isn’t worth the trauma if you get it wrong.


1. An NSAID like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). These should be taken with food to minimize stomach upset. If you take ibuprofen, the dosage is anything from 200 to 800 mg taken two or three times daily.  For naproxen, it’s usually 275 or 550 taken once or twice daily. If you can’t tolerate an NSAID, you can try Acetaminophen, 500 to 1,000 mg taken every 8 hours. As a natural alternative, Curcumin or Boswellia could be used, these are sold at health food stores.

2. Coffee, latte or yerba mate which provides caffeine. Caffeine is a great pain reliever. I actually took my Advil with coffee because studies show that the combination of an NSAID with caffeine works better than either one alone.

3. Bed rest. Sometimes you just gotta be a noodle. Luckily I can run my company, and perform a heart transplant if I felt so inclined, all from my iPhone. My phone is kind of amazing. There’s an app for everything. I’d like to write Apple and create a taser app so that I could use it on those who deserve a little spark in their lives, for instance, a rough massage therapist.

4. An epsom salt bath, and don’t you be timid about the salt. Dump the entire 5 lb bag into the tub if you have a big tub. One cup like they suggest is like spitting in the ocean. Dump at least half the bag in a regular tub and the whole bag if you have one of those luxurious big tubs. Simmer in the warmth for 15 to 30 minutes. This give your body a therapeutic dose of magnesium and the warmth will instantly relax tight muscles. Mmmmm sweet relief.

5. Magnesium supplementation by mouth, but use a magnesium that goes through your gut. Most of you believe that magnesium oxide and citrate are the best but these are not so great for muscle health. If you’re trying to get the magnesium OUT of your gut and INTO your muscles, the magnesium oxide and citrates aren’t enough. Those forms stay ‘in the tube’ of your gut, and never get where you really want them. When I say “the tube” I mean your mouth to anus tube. That’s where most magnesium stays, in the tube. You might even like to upgrade your magnesium to mine, it is easy on the tummy, it’s chelated and I offer it in two forms. MagFocus which is a powder (easy to guage your dose) and it lasts 3 months OR a capsule form, both of my types of magnesium are “stearate free” and they leave the tube so they get into your bones, heart, brain and muscles.

6. Vodka.  I’m only kidding. If you want to know the inside joke on that, click here to watch how “I got over the flu in 22 hours.”  I’m seriously joking about the vodka, drink too much and you’ll fall down and have MORE back pain!

7. Use an ice pack on areas that feel hot or bruised. 

This can feel instantly amazing and if nothing else the cold serves as a distraction.  (Same with a heating pad, which was what I preferred.  I alternated packs from hot to cold).

8.  Have someone nice rub a cream on you. The cream almost doesn’t matter, it’s the gentle touch that provides some sense of grounding. If you want a cooling sensation (which I recommend) then pick a cream or gel with some menthol in it.  If you think you want something warming, use a cream that contains “capsaicin” and apply it to a small area first (don’t do your whole back without testing an area). Wait about 20 minutes to see how it feels on you when it  warms up on your test area.

You may find that you are happy you tested and do not wish to put it all over. Contrarily, you may like the heating sensation, in which case you can proceed with another area of soreness. It’s not always right to warm things up and basically ‘light the fire’ on your whole back with a warming cream, so again, test first. Wash your hands really well if you use something with capsaicin (chile pepper). If you’d like to read more about chile pepper creams and how beneficial they are, click here.

9. A quick warm shower in the middle of the day can quickly relax my muscles.

10.  Cat cow position if you do yoga.  Child’s pose, or sphinx pose.  Try all of them. A restorative or “yin” yoga class might be okay, especially if you’re not too sore. If you can drive yourself to a class (as well as contort into an array of positions), it might loosen sore muscles.

11. California Poppy liquid extract. This is a natural flower extract comes from stunning orange flowers and it’s helpful for pain. You can buy it over the counter. Pharmaceuticals put it through a dozen reactions and turn it into something very potent called Oxycodone, but the natural extract is a gentle herbal relative and it’s a good pain reliever, especially if taken at night. I have it in my cupboard, but I didn’t try it,  so do let me know (in the forum below) if you try it and how well it works.

12.  Frankincense or Boswellia. this is a relatively fast-acting anti-inflammatory herb, that can help with pain, even joint pain. You could take it with either acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Based upon its pharmacokinetics, it should begin helping within 2 hours. If you have an interest in this herb, you can read my other article here.

13.  This is really the 12th option, because #6 (the vodka) was just a joke.
A chiropractor. A good one though.
Lord knows you don’t need any rough adjustments, but chiropractors have big vibrating devices for your back, and they have muscle stim and tables that can stretch you out gently.  Go to a chiropractor that you know who for sure is gentle… and not going to shake salt onto your wound. I went to mine. Instead of bouncing into his clinic like normal, I took little painstaking steps and hobbled in only to have him announce, “Hey, hey, look what the cat dragged in!”

Doc could see something was wrong with me. I adore my chiropractor (and his wife). His name is Randy.
He’s become a friend.  He is very skilled, highly intelligent and caring with his patients. I like joking around with him, and I think he finds me … well … pleasantly annoying. 

He could see the pain I was experiencing. Randy uses this thumbs a lot, he poked around trying to figure out exactly which areas were referring my pain since all I could muster was “It hurts all over.”   

His poking hurts me today, remember, it’s the day AFTER Man #1 and Man #2 already had their way with me.

It hurt me to move. It hurts to even breathe and with every poke I’m like a Mexican jumping bean. My long hair is hanging off his table, my limp body like a rag doll, and my face pressed so deep into the slit in the table that I’m practically slobbering. After about two minutes of him poking around and me whining and jumping, Dr. Randy grins without mercy and says, “Turn over my anxious little minx.”

And I say, “ “Okay, I’ll do it Dr. Wicked Fingers, but stop poking my bones with your thumbs! I’ve already been sufficiently beat up!”

Have a story of your own? Or a remedy for back pain? Write it in the comment section below.



  1. Kam March 31, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    I’m sorry to laugh at your pain, but your description of the whole event was so funny. It also read like some really bad bedroom scene, LOL. I would have been like you and tipped. I’m sure the guy meant well but just really REALLY lacked training.
    And wonderful advice in your article, as always :).

    • Andy Wood March 31, 2016 at 6:01 pm

      Suzy, you do have some adventures.
      This will appear self serving, I work for a leading, Class IV laser company. The fact is, many thousands of Chiropractors, PTs and sports teams are using high power laser light to treat back pain, spasm and assorted sports type injuries. The amount of published studies has increased, and it is now considered an evidence based modality. Your readers may want to ask their practitioner if this is an option that may be right for them. Non-invasive, side effect free, and, best of all, in the right hands, highly effective.

      • Suzy Cohen April 1, 2016 at 2:25 am

        Thanks Andy. Do you sell them to consumers? What brand or website?

        • Andy Wood April 1, 2016 at 7:25 pm

          Thanks Suzy, hope you are feeling better.
          Sadly the higher power (sometimes called Class IV) lasers are restricted for sale to ‘licensed practitioners’ only.This is an FDA regulation. Many PT / Chiropractic clinics have these lasers. Also thousands of veterinarians too, but that is another story.
          Anyone interested in finding out more, may go to http://www.litecure.com, a wealth of solid information there, along with a page that will tell which practices have one in your Zip Code.
          Of course I think LiteCure is the best, but there are others, and they can work well too

  2. eric aragon March 31, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Hey Dr. Suzy, sorry to hear about your massage nightmare. If your ever in the Monterey/Salinas area be sure to look me up. Eric

  3. Dani March 31, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    I ADORE my chiropractor! Took awhile to find her but it was well worth it. The previous ones I tried didn’t do much for me and kept assuring me I needed to be seen several times a week … it was obviously a total scam as I had no major issues … was going more as a preventative thing. My current chiro has on several occasions helped me when I did in fact have some terrible muscle spasms and I now only go every 6-8 works for adjustments. Chiropractors (the good ones, that is) are life savers!!!

  4. Ken March 31, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    As Suzy said, if you don’t like the service, don’t tip. I apply that to every service.
    And in such a case, I would argue the fee. Alternatively, good service gets rewarded.

  5. Sue March 31, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    I think you should have had unknown masseusse #1 work on #2, then switch. I don’t think these two have ever hurt like what they did to you.

    I had a chiropractor do trigger point release on me at his suggestion. The next day, I felt like I had the aching body from flu along with multiple wasp stings on my back. What a way to take a college algebra exam!

    • Suzy Cohen March 31, 2016 at 6:00 pm

      Ha ha, you are crafty! Let the two snakes get into the same pit!
      I ‘feel’ you girl!

  6. BILL LYONS #21 (Ret.) March 31, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Dear Suzy: I’m really sorry to read your story of the two massage? persons, & their treatment to you, But I’d like to inform you of something I learned from my deceased mother, and also my deceased wife, whom I was a care giver for, for 8 years. Both Mom & my wife suffered from osteoporosis, and they both suffered from back pain. My Mom discovered two products that helped her and the back pain, and passed on the information to me for my wife Laurie’s back pain. The products were bought out in Arizona at her Walgreen’s store, and I bought them here in Florida, at either CVS or Walmart’s stores.
    The two miracle items that stop back and muscle pain are: 1. Walmart’s (“Equate” Brand) ultra Strength Pain Relieving Cream, with Camphor, Menthol, & Methyl Salicylate. It’s a Non-Greasy Creme, and is compared to the Brand ingredients of Bengay.
    #2. product is called “Stopain”, a pain relief spray. It has a Stop Sign on it’s label.
    Suzy, these two products help both my mother, as well as my Wife tolerate their pain till death took them, from age and related medical problems. I was so Thankful for these products that I’ve been telling all my friends and relatives about them, to relieve their pains. I hope you’ll look into these two products, for I want you around for many more years to assist us uninformed people when it comes to holistic medicine. Yours Sincerely, Bill Lyons, (Ret. Police Officer/Military)

    • Suzy Cohen March 31, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      Hi Bill thanks for posting this. Good to hear from you sir 🙂

  7. J J March 31, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    When I was a young girl and always had cramps at that certain time of the month, my mom would heat salt and put it into a cloth bag ( no microwaves then) to place on my abdomen. That was the best thing I have ever found to do the job. It was soothing and took the pain away. From then on for any kind of pain or muscle strain I would use the hot salt bag. It still works for me and sometimes I don’t have to take any pain reliever. I put in the microwave now for a few seconds. I actually like it better than the rice bag. It stays warm longer.

    Just a thought.

  8. Mia March 31, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    Hi Suzy,

    Thank you for sharing your massage disaster/trauma story with us.

    I have a couple of questions for you:

    1) which form of magnesium gets into muscles? Presently I am taking Magnesium glycinate by Pure Encapsulations. I have terrible muscle spasms that need to be controlled and magnesium is one of the minerals I need to take (I have chronic LYME & CPN infections).

    2) does your store ship to Canada? If yes, do you have border duty free arrangements?

    Thank you. Feel better soon!!!

  9. Cynthia April 1, 2016 at 5:20 am

    My doc-hubby uses DMSO for everything (well, almost ) – rub it on joints and soft tissues and see if the pain doesnt subside.

  10. Evelyn April 1, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Suzy, I LOVE your stories! You definitely have another career if you choose! Best selling authoress! I laugh at your way of saying things just like I did when reading, “Hank the Cowdog” or Junie B. Jones, to my kids! Thanks for lightening my load! (: Evelyn

  11. Donna Goodpaster April 2, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Some back pain could be caused by muscles contracting/cramping on one side pulling vertebrae out of place. If you use magnesium gel (I like Bioinnovations) directly on the muscle that’s contracted, it relaxes and stops pulling on the vertebrae. This has helped many family members and friends. This of course applies to the spine, but it helps on most areas where the muscles are cramping. Applying the magnesium gel directly on the cramped muscle first, helps to relieve the pain quicker. Then take a magnesium capsule. The ebsom salt bath is usually next if the first two aren’t working quick enough.

  12. Donnis April 2, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Suzy, I take magnesium to sleep. I’m taking Olympian Labs Magnesium Citrate 400 mg x 3. This doesn’t have a bad laxative affect as other magnesium formulas did. What would you recommend I take for sleeping. I need something to “turn off” my brain. It likes to work all night !!!

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