We love so many things about spring from the longer days, to the warmer weather, to all the fresh blooms. But the change of seasons can sometimes have a negative effect on our bodies. Follow these simple strategies to outsmart seasonal ouches.
Nixes neck pain: Midday motion
Tackling that first big yard cleanup makes neck pain flare for 56 million of us every spring. Thankfully, studies suggest that heading outside midday for a 15-minute stroll loosens tight neck muscles to reduce pain by as much as 50 percent the first day, plus cut healing time in half if you make it a habit. Neurologist Andrew Moore, MD, says combining gentle motion with bright midday UV light prompts the release of muscle-relaxing serotonin and boosts circulation of nutrient-rich blood to neck tissues.
Heals a headache: A pebbly path
Warmer weather is a boon for our moods, but adjusting to spring’s erratic temperatures and humidity fluxes makes you 36 percent more likely to suffer fun-killing headaches, Harvard researchers say. For speedy relief: Stand barefoot and rock from side to side on a bumpy or uneven surface — like a pebbly path, stone walkway or mulch in your garden. Swedish researchers reveal that the trick stimulates acupressure points in your soles that trigger the release of painkilling endorphins, cutting headache pain in half in two minutes.
Calms achy knees: A quick coconut rub
Thanks to a sudden uptick in outdoor activities, our risk of knee stiffness, swelling and pain peaks in spring. Ouch! Thankfully, British researchers say massaging achy knees for two minutes twice daily with a palmful of coconut oil can cut your symptoms by 60 percent in 48 hours. Credit a rare group of healing coconut oil compounds — medium-chain fatty acids — that block the production of pain-triggering hormones called prostaglandins, relax spasming muscles and help to quickly flush inflammatory wastes out of tender knee joints.
Halts sinus pain: A spicy bite
Soggy ground this time of year means a surge in mold counts that can trigger sinus congestion and pain. But biting into a hot pepper–laced meal can drain clogged sinuses as fast and effectively as decongestant nasal sprays, say scientists at Connecticut’s Manchester Memorial Hospital, cutting sinus pain by 55 percent in two minutes. Thanks goes to the peppers’ capsaicin, which spurs the production of painkilling endorphins and opens and drains sinuses.
Ends head-to-toe pain: Holy basil
Your back hurts, your neck is tight, your knees are bothering you… if you feel like your whole body could use a spring tune-up, taking 450 mg. of holy basil daily could help. Australian scientists say this Ayurvedic herb prompts the release of a pain-taming hormone (dopamine), plus it reduces your production of the tissue-damaging stress hormone cortisol, cutting allover stiffness and pain by as much as 73 percent in one week.
Soothes a sore throat: This honey
If you’re prone to scratchy, sore throats when pollen fills the air, here’s a sweet rescue: manuka honey! Columbia University researchers say 1 Tbs. soothes a sore throat in as little as 60 seconds, and enjoying it twice daily can cut your risk of future throat pain in half. Explains microbiologist Thomas Henle, PhD, manuka contains a rare germ-killing compound (methylglyoxal) that also reduces tissue inflammation and calms irritated, overactive pain nerves.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.