There's an old song from the 1970s: "Haven't Got Time for the Pain."
And while I'm pretty sure that song is about heartache, the truth is that when you're in pain, it's almost impossible to get work done. (My personal experience with this: neck pain. Thankfully, I figured out that if I used a standing desk, it got a lot better.)
I was glad to come across a series of YouTube videos that Amy Rushlow, then of Prevention magazine, created explaining how to make several common discomforts disappear. Some of them are pretty cool, and they seem to work. Here are her eight quick fixes:
1. Cure a stress headache with a pencil.
Got a stress headache? It's quite possibly charged by unintentional flexing of the muscles between your jaw and your ear. According to Rushlow, the trick therefore is to consciously relax those muscles.
Here's how: Grip a pen or pencil lengthwise with your mouth, but don't bite down. Balancing it will require you to relax your jaw muscle, which should ease the headache after a minute or so.
2. Cure a sinus headache with peppermint oil.
You'll need to plan ahead for this one, but if you're prone to sinus headaches, it makes sense. Rushlow advises mixing a few drops of peppermint oil--you don't need much, because it's highly concentrated--with a small amount of another, unscented oil. (She uses jojoba oil, but baby oil will work as well.)
Then, rub the concoction in your temples, and work inward along your brow bone. Peppermint oil contains menthol, which will help clear your sinuses.
3. Cure another headache with acupressure.
A friend taught me this one in law school, and it works perfectly if you can apply the pressure correctly. Find the spot on your left hand where the bone from your thumb meets the bone from your index finger. Press firmly on that spot, using both the thumb and forefinger from your right hand. Then, slowly rotate in small circles.
It takes a few minutes, but you should feel relief. The explanation is that the nerves that signal headache pain are associated with the nerves in that spot on your hand.
Watch the video below for all three headache fixes--then read on for the rest of the quick cures.
4. Clear a stuffy nose with your tongue.
If you've got a stuffy nose, rather than trying a bunch of medicines, all you have to do is gently rock a bone in your skull back and forth.
OK, I know this sounds crazy--not to mention kind of gross and maybe even dangerous. But it's perfectly safe, and it works. Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and then press your fingers against your skull, basically between your eyebrows. Alternating like this for about 20 seconds will rock push the vomer bone in your skull back and forth, which will help dislodge whatever's stuffing up your nose.
5. If that doesn't work, hold your breath.
Yep. Tip your head back, take a deep breath, pinch your nose, and hold it as long as you can, until you can't stand it and have to exhale. Voilà: Instant unstuffed nose. Why? Basically you're tricking your brain into thinking that there's some kind of emergency preventing you from getting enough oxygen. Its response? Unstuff your nose.
Left for discussion elsewhere: Why your brain doesn't just unstuff your nose in the first place. But if it works, it's probably better not to argue.
Watch the video below to see both stuffy nose fixes demonstrated--then read on for the back pain cures.
There are also a few quick fixes for back pain in the video series. These aren't quite as miraculous--more like exercises and stretches--but they're still designed to make discomfort go away.
6. Ease back pain by relaxing muscles.
Back pain can come about in an office environment because you've unintentionally clenched the muscles in your back while sitting scrunched over a computer all day.
So, make a fist with one hand in front of you and wrap your other hand around it. Roll your shoulder blades toward each other for five seconds, and then shake it out. "Your muscles will be completely relaxed," Rushlow says.
7. Stretch your pecs.
According to Rushlow, you can also wind up with back pain in the office because your pectoral muscles contract--again from being hunched all day long.
Her solution: stretch your pectoral muscles--30 seconds on each side--by using a doorframe as a brace.
8. Make a Y and a W.
The last stretch involves standing with your back against a wall and elevating your hands over your head until you're basically making a Y with your body. Then, slide your arms downward and bend at the elbow, until you've mimicked a W.
The key is to make sure your back, shoulder blades, and arms all stay in contact with the wall.
"Do that 10 times, and do it once a day for the best results," Rushlow advises.
Here's the video describing all three back pain fixes: