With so much going on this time of year, you’d hate to be sidelined by back pain. Your back affects your entire body: Bending down to pet your dog, hugging relatives at a holiday party, and even sitting to wrap presents can become grueling tasks when your back hurts. You deserve to enjoy this season without suffering. Luckily, relief is possible. There are natural ways to combat back pain and feel your very best.
You may be thinking, over-the-counter pain meds like ibuprofen have done the trick in the past — why change things now? While NSAIDs promise speedy relief, research suggests they can actually prolong pain. In fact, taking the meds regularly for three months doubles the odds of developing chronic back pain. To the rescue: natural ways to banish backaches safely.
Spoon up spuds.
Is potato soup your favorite comfort food? Good for you—and your back! A medium-sized white spud boasts 620 milligrams of potassium, a mineral that’s so essential for spinal health that a short fall can cause as much back pain as a herniated disk, says Sue Wagner, M.D. Research suggests that baking, microwaving, roasting, or boiling potatoes whole helps you get the most potassium from them.
Try ginger tea this way.
It’s no secret a warm compress can soothe a sore back in minutes. But for added relief, soak the washcloth you’re draping over your back in two cups of ginger tea. Taiwanese findings suggest that doing so for 20 minutes daily reduces back pain by 66 percent within three weeks. The spice’s gingerols and shaogols block the action of a pain-producing chemical known as substance P.
Give yourself a squeeze.
Lie on your back or sit in a comfy spot, then breathe deeply as you tighten and relax each muscle group one at a time, working from your toes to your forehead. Indian scientists say this technique (called progressive muscle relaxation or PMR) cuts back pain by 68 percent in 10 minutes, and by 80 percent if done daily. Siddartha Sen, M.D., says PMR stimulates the branch of nerves that relax tense muscles and calm nerve impulses that transmit pain.
Consider a combo.
Supplementing with a combination of curcumin, black sesame oil and boswellia calms back pain as well as acetaminophen. So say researchers reporting in Medicine, who note that compounds such as curcuminoids, sesamin and boswellic acid tamp down inflammation while upping production of pain-relieving prostaglandins. A blend to try: Terry Naturally CuraMed Acute Pain Relief (Buy from Vitacost.com, $41.56).
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