Tip No. 1: Find the root cause of your pain.
Newsflash: Just because it hurts right there doesn't mean the source of trouble isn't elsewhere. Adrian Miranda, a physical therapist and director of clinical residency education Touro College in New York City, says it's crucial to consider other contributors to a painful area, beyond the area itself. Tight calves can trigger heel pain, for example, and inflexible hips can make knees ache. Follow whole-body stretching programs to find the source of your trouble, says Miranda. "Take headaches: A lot of times headaches can come from muscle 'knots' known as trigger points, which can be found in your neck or head," he says. "If you have a headache, move your neck forward back, bring your ear down to your shoulder, and turn your head left and right. Find the direction that seems tight and stretch into it," he says. "Many times we forget to move gently when we're in pain, and this begins the process of tightness, which leads to pain if left untreated."
Tip No. 2: Assess your desk.
Got nagging pain that seems to less on weekends and to disappear on vacations? According to Danielle Weis, a physical therapist in New York City, "Many people develop acute and chronic low back and neck pain due to poor habits performed throughout the day," says Weis, "and all too often, the culprit is bad posture while sitting at work." So, make sure your workstation has a good ergonomic setup:
Your computer and keyboard should both be on the desk in front of you, with the top of the computer screen in line with your eyes.
Your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle, and wrists should sit in neutral alignment.
Your hips and knees should both be bent to approximately 90 degrees, and your feet should rest comfortably on the floor. (Add these 6 stretches to your daily routine if you have a desk job.)
MORE: 6 Simple Moves To Ease Sciatica
Tip No. 3: Bite your tongue.
Bite your tongue
No, we don't mean clam up—this weird technique is actually proven to help ease musculoskeletal pain, says Zoe Fackelman, PT, a physical therapist in Canandaigua, NY. When the ache kicks in, stick out your tongue, relax it, then gently bite down on it; next, use your thumb to irregularly tap the soft spot under your chin. This is a technique based on the Primal Reflex Release Technique (PRRT). "PRRT is based on the premise that over-stimulation of the body's primal reflexes creates pain and keeps painful patterns occurring long after the triggering event has passed," says Fackelman. "This technique works because it creates muscle confusion and relaxes the jaw muscles—which tighten when we're in pain."
Tip No. 4: Snag plenty of sleep.
Getting the proper amount of shut-eye each night is crucial when it comes to helping your body fight inflammation, which plays a big role in pain, says Josh Sandell, a sports medicine specialist in Minneapolis. "Research shows that people who get less than six hours of sleep a night—or those who have disrupted sleep—have higher levels of C-reactive protein in the body, which is linked to inflammation," says Sandell. (See how tart cherry juice can help.)
Tip No. 5: Avoid pushing through the pain.
Often with a new or nagging injury, people turn to yoga to "stretch it out," says Jacon C. Chun, a board certified sports clinical specialist in Fremont, CA, or they foam roll the sore spot to work out the muscle. This can add insult to injury, he says. "When pain first hits, what you really need is rest," says Chun. "And if your symptoms don't clear up in a few days with rest and modifications in your activities, it's time for a professional evaluation."
Tip No. 6: Take a salty soak.
Take an epsom salt bath
For her patients with sore muscles and fibromyalgia pain, Cathleen Bender, PT, a physical therapist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center recommends combining 2 cups of Epsom salt, 1 cup of baking soda, and 1/3 cup of hydrogen peroxide into a bath of hot water. There may not be a lot of research evidence for the pain-relieving properties of Epsom salt, but Bender's patients find the bath soothing and relaxing.
Tip No. 7: Get moving.
When you're stiff, it's common to immobilize the area to protect it and prevent further injury or pain. This can be necessary for healing at first—or with serious injuries, says Chun. But stopping movement for too long can have detrimental effects, he explains. "Inactivity leads to muscles getting short and tight, and joints get locked up and become stiff. Moving helps lubricate joints, stimulates circulation, and keeps muscles mobile and strong." If you're too uncomfortable to do mild exercise, you might try getting in a pool, says Chun, which reduces the pressure of gravity and can help you move with less pain.
Tip No. 8: Load up on anti-inflammatory foods
Fight inflammation with cherries
What you eat has a direct impact on increasing or decreasing pain-promoting inflammation throughout the body, says Sandell. Foods that promote inflammation include red and processed meats, sweets, and refined grains. Anti-inflammatory