It happens without warning: After a long, hard day of work, you lean over to pick up a box or object, and then suddenly the tinge of a stinging pain radiates throughout your upper back.
Or perhaps after weeks over overtime with little rest, you feel the effects of stress creeping up on you–the muscles of your upper back screaming in pain.
At some point in our lives, upper back pain is a reality, but medical treatment doesn’t necessarily want to make friends with our wallet.
But with the economy in a slump–and budgets growing increasingly tighter–going to the doctor isn’t the cheapest solution.
Instead, choose a cheaper solution: Go natural instead. Here are 7 natural cures that can ease upper back pain in a jiffy.
7 Natural Fixes for a Painful Upper Back
Got a sore back? Instead of asking your doctor for support–or worse yet, taking pills manufactured in laboratories–here are seven cures that can ease pain safely and naturally:
1. Mind your weight. Being overweight or morbidly obese can put undue strain on your back muscles, making upper back pain a common reality.
Your solution: Keep your weight under control by eating a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and exercising regularly. If you have trouble maintaining a healthy weight on your own, a dietitian can help formulate the best diet plan for your specific needs.
2. Cushion the pain away. An ill-fitting car seat, office chair, or recliner can only take hours to cause or worsen back pain, due to how it compresses your spine. For temporary relief, a chair cushion designed to relieve back pain–usually called orthopedic or lumbar support cushions–is the cheapest solution for eliminating pain while you work.
3. Opt for magnesium instead of ibuprofen. While studies show ibuprofen can help ease the symptoms of a painful, sore back, other research suggests that a more natural alternative could too: Magnesium.
Physiologically, we need magnesium for innumerable functions, from having strong bones to a healthy immune system. And a recent study also found that people with back pain who took magnesium supplements felt less pain, so it’s a great way to fuel your system.
4. Make sure you’re lifting the right way. Back pain often happens suddenly–usually when you lift a heavy object or lift objects carelessly. To avoid aggravating further injury, remember to lift with your legs first, not your back. Your legs should move up and down to move heavy objects–not your back.
5. Try swimming. It feels great during a sweltering summer day, but swimming also packs a double whammy–it both strengthens your back while soothing sore muscles. Swim hard enough and you’ll also reap the benefits of an endorphin rush, which can help further alleviate back pain and make you feel cheerier too.
6. Consider capsaicin cream. The name capsaicin probably doesn’t ring a bell, but you’re definitely familiar with it: It’s the chemical in spicy foods that causes that burning, sweating sensation that sets your senses on edge.
Oddly enough, that bad, burning sensation is also incredibly soothing for sore muscles–research shows people who used capsaicin topically felt less back pain. Your best bet: To soothe a sore back, apply capsaicin cream to the affected area up to four times a day for immediate relief.
7. Buy white willow bark. A native medicinal plant of Europe and Asia, white willow bark has been shown to contain salicin, a compound that acts like a natural aspirin once digested. The result: Less inflammation and pain, without the nasty side effects of aspirin to boot.
Make sure to keep your garlic and ginkgo consumption low while using white willow bark, however–these herbs can increase your risk of bleeding in combination with white willow bark.
Still not feeling okay?
If all else fails, don’t forget the easiest way to heal: Change your mind. Research shows most people exaggerate their pain just by thinking about it.