- Stay flexible. Yoga, Pilates and tai chi, a gentle form of martial arts, strengthen core muscles that support the spine and also increase flexibility, says Silver: "Decreased flexibility can throw your back out of alignment, causing pain." According to a 2011 Australian study of tai chi, 18 forty-minute sessions over 10 weeks reduced troubling back symptoms by almost 20 percent and pain by 13 percent. And a 2011 study at the University of Washington found that yoga reduced back pain, although no more than other stretching exercises.
- Practice relaxation. Anything that lessens stress is also likely to tamp down pain, says Perlman. Even something as simple as deep breathing — focusing on the breath coming in and out — can reduce the release of stress-related hormones like cortisol and help you relax. Meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and biofeedback all accomplish much the same thing. According to a small 2009 University of Pittsburgh study, 81 percent of adults 65 and older with back pain who meditated one-half hour a day five days a week for four months felt their pain and daily function had significantly improved.
- Overhaul your posture. Poor posture strains your spine and puts added pressure on the nerves. Ideally, keep a slight inward curve in your lower back and at your neck, and an outward curve in your upper back, says Silver. She suggests asking someone to photograph you at your desk or doing household tasks. Share the photos with a doctor or physical therapist who can address posture problems.
- Opt for massage. Therapeutic massage is relaxing, increases blood flow and may lessen inflammation, says Perlman: "Start with a weekly massage for a month to see if it makes a difference." In a 2006 study by Perlman and his colleagues, massage for knee arthritis lessened pain and benefits lasted at least eight weeks.
Next: Try an anti-fatigue mat to reduce stress on your spine. >>