One of the great things about chilly weather is spending more time cozied up indoors with a good book, fun game or new knitting pattern. But extra sitting time can cause back pain flares, thanks to compressed vertebrae, pinched spinal nerves, or strained muscles. Thankfully, these study-proven strategies erase the ache fast.
Wake up with a bed stretch.
A 10-minute morning stretch cuts back pain by 62 percent in three days and halves the risk of future flare-ups. Gentle motion boosts the flow of nutrient-rich blood to tight back tissues, explains pain researcher Christine Wiebking, PhD.
Bonus: Boston Medical Center scientists say stretches can ease pain even more effectively than physical therapy if you first remind yourself that it’ll yield great results! To do: Before getting out of bed, stretch out your arms and legs, then move them as if making a snow angel.
Cook a colorful spud.
Sweet potatoes are rich in potassium, a mineral that’s so essential for spine health that a shortfall can cause as much pain as a herniated disc, says surgeon Sue Wagner, MD. No wonder Australian scientists say eating one cup of sweet potatoes daily wards off winter backaches and cuts your healing time in half if you’re sore right now.
Press into your lower back.
Once each hour, stand up, make two fists and press them into your lower back, just above your tailbone (with your palms facing away from you). Apply light pressure for 60 seconds while taking slow, deep breaths. Finnish researchers say this simple trick instantly loosens tight shoulder blade and back muscles, plus helps reset sitting posture so your spine stays in proper alignment. Make it a daily habit, and researchers say you’ll curb winter back pain by 60 percent.
Taking 250 milligrams of boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, twice daily could banish back pain and stiffness by up to 70 percent in one week, say doctors at Connecticut’s Manchester Memorial Hospital. Thanks go to the herb’s boswellic acids, which raise pain threshold and tamp down inflammation as effectively as drugs like Advil do.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.