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13 Ways to Beat Back Pain

Check out these low-cost, drug-free remedies

  • Soften your floors. To reduce stress on your spine, put anti-stress or anti-fatigue mats, typically made of one-half inch layers of vinyl or rubber, wherever you stand for long periods, like in the kitchen or where you dress, suggests Silver. You can find anti-stress mats on the Internet or in big box stores.

  • Ice up. "When you have pain that's just started from the muscle, ice is generally more effective than heat," says Marcus. "Leave the ice, wrapped in a light cloth, on the painful spot for three to five minutes. Once it's numb, take the ice off and move." Ice makes the nerves fire less, reducing pain and allowing the painful muscle to move more easily.

  • Skip bed rest. "Every day in bed, you lose one to three percent of muscle strength," says Marcus. "That makes you weak and stiff. Maintaining your activity is the best thing for back pain." Skip the back brace as well — or use it only infrequently for an hour at a stretch. It too weakens muscles.

  • Flick the cigarettes. "One of the major reasons for back pain is diminished oxygen to the muscle, normally caused by lack of blood flow," Marcus says. Because smoking constricts the blood vessels, it reduces the flow of blood — and oxygen — and increases pain.

  • Shift positions. Whether you're lying, sitting or standing, shift positions often, says Silver: "Don't stay one way. Move around and listen to the voice of your body telling you when it's comfortable."

Dorothy Foltz-Gray is a freelance writer who lives in North Carolina. 

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