Match the Pain Reliever to the Pain

You may be a pro multitasker, but few can juggle work, family and other responsibilities when in physical pain. And with so many people relying on you, you don’t have time to get sidelined by a headache or other aches and pains. You just need relief. 

The trouble is, with all the over-the-counter pain relievers available, deciding which is best can be, well, a major pain. But it doesn’t have to be. Find your ailment below, then the treatment that experts say is most effective so you can get a grip on pain and get on with your life. (If you have health problems or a medical condition, however, consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter drugs.)

1. Headache
Whether you have a tension headache or a migraine, look for a pain reliever that combines acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. “The meds block pain at different levels, so the combination tends to be more effective than any one alone,” says Dr. ­Vincent Martin, an internist and headache expert who teaches at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

How they work: When you have a headache, blood vessels in the brain dilate. Caffeine constricts those vessels, easing pain, explains Martin. Meanwhile, aspirin helps block pain-provoking chemicals in the brain called prostaglandins and improves the pain-relieving effects of acetaminophen.

See a doctor if:
You have frequent headaches. Also, consult a medical doctor if you have liver problems, because you may not be able to take acetaminophen.

2. Heartburn
For occasional heartburn, any chewable or liquid antacid will quickly neutralize stomach acid to provide relief, says Dr. Charlene Prather, a gastroenterologist with a master’s in public health, and an associate professor at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

If you’re prone to diarrhea, choose an antacid with aluminum hydroxide or calcium rather than magnesium. Vice versa if you tend to get constipated.

For persistent heartburn, take a tablet that combines both an antacid and an acid blocker (such as famotidine or ranitidine) instead. “You’ll get immediate relief from the antacid, then more sustained relief from the acid-blocking drug,” says Prather. Acid-blocking drugs can last up to 12 hours.

See a doctor if: You get heartburn more than a few times a week or your symptoms worsen.

3. Back pain or strained muscles

Ibuprofen and naproxen (aka non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs) are stronger and will last longer than other pain relievers, says Dr. Dana S. Simpler, an attending physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. They block the production of pain-causing prostaglandins and reduce inflammation in the strained muscles.

If you have high blood pressure or stomach or kidney problems, however, NSAIDs may not be an option. Acetaminophen is the next best thing. It targets the part of the brain that receives and processes pain messages from the injured area.  

Whichever pill you take, you can also rub on a topical pain-relieving gel containing menthol or salicylate, says Simpler. The anti-inflammatory agents “are absorbed through the skin, so the majority of the medicine goes directly into the muscles,” she explains.

See a doctor if:
Your back pain or muscle strain persists or worsens after a few days.

4. Flu aches and fever
Reach for either an NSAID (ibuprofen or naproxen) or acetaminophen, says Simpler. Both reduce your fever and alleviate achiness by affecting the brain’s ability to receive pain messages. NSAIDs also calm inflammation.

NSAIDs are stronger and work longer, but they can upset your stomach. So if you are nauseated or susceptible to stomach problems, you may be better off with acetaminophen.

Either way, avoid aspirin or medications containing aspirin. Ingesting it when you have the flu can trigger a rare but dangerous condition called Reye’s Syndrome.

See a doctor if:
You get chest pain, shortness of breath, a seriously phlegm-y cough or fever that lasts longer than a week.  

5. Menstrual cramps
Surveys suggest the majority of women experience some degree of menstrual pain. In this case, NSAIDs are usually your best bet. They block the production of prostaglandins that cause muscle cramps and spasms in the uterus.

Take ibuprofen or naproxen around the time you expect your period to start or at the first twinge of pain. Doing so will keep you ahead of the hurt, says Dr. Jill Maura Rabin, head of urogynecology at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

See a doctor if: NSAIDs don’t offer sufficient relief and you can’t function or if your cramps are accompanied by unusually heavy bleeding.

Your Best 20-Minute Workout

Ready to get in shape but not sure you’ve got the time? Between long workdays, packed weekends and family obligations, it can seem impossible to fit in an hour of exercise several times a week. Fortunately, there are a variety of routines you can add to your schedule that will help you get (or stay!) in shape in just 20 minutes. Bonus: You can do them anywhere.

We’ve asked Lesley Mettler-Auld, a running, triathlon and fitness coach in Seattle, to share a 20-minute workout she does. The exercise routine she gave us can be used as a supplement to your current routine or as a primary workout if you’re crunched for time. “It’s designed to use all the major muscles of the body in a different way [and is] very efficient,” she says. “Start with light weights until you get the motion down, then increase weight as your muscles are ready.”

Repeat each exercise for 50 seconds, taking 10 seconds to move on to the next exercise. Repeat the entire circuit twice.

Get Started:

Equipment needed: one set of dumbbells or a resistance band

  • Burpies: Begin in a plank position, with legs extended and feet hip-width apart. Rest your weight on your hands or forearms. Jump to a squat position. From there, reach your hands over your head and jump as high as you can. Return to a squat, step or jump back into plank pose and repeat.
  • Squat Combination: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart and weight on your heels. Lower into a squat while keeping your knees behind your toes. As you rise, curl the dumbbells into a biceps curl, then extend your arms and press the weights over your head with your palms facing inward. Lower and repeat.
  • Mountain Climbers: Begin in a plank position with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your right knee to touch your left elbow, then return to plank position and repeat with your right knee to left elbow. Continue alternating sides.
  • Narrow Hand Push-Up: Begin in a plank position on your feet or with your knees bent on the ground. Lower your body down into a push-up while keeping your elbows in and along your sides. Return to plank and repeat.
  • Boat Pose: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Raise legs to a 45-degree angle from your torso. Keeping your back straight, lean back slightly, forming a “V” shape with your body. Bring your arms out in a straight line, parallel to your legs, and hold this position.
  • Bicycle Crunch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and abs pulled tight toward your spine. With your hands behind your head, extend one leg out while lifting your shoulders off the floor and bringing the opposite knee toward the opposite shoulder. Switch sides and repeat.
  • Shoulder Press with Leg Extension: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend your elbows to hold the weights at shoulder height. Raise your right leg to 90 degrees and, with your leg raised, exhale and extend your arms up with palms facing inward. Lower your arms and leg at the same time and repeat on the other side.
  • Bent-Over Fly: Bend at the waist, letting your arms hang down with a dumbbell in each hand. With a straight back and moving only your shoulders, lift the dumbbells up and out to the side until they’re even with your back. Slowly lower and repeat. 
  • Biceps Hammer Curl with band or dumbbell: Keeping your arms at your sides and bent at the elbows, raise and lower your arms into a curl.
  • Crunches: Lying on the floor with a flat back and bent knees, place your hands behind your head and use your abs to lift and lower your head and shoulders.

Got an exercise ball? You can incorporate it into your quick workout with exercises such as crunches and the “Superman” stretch (lying face-down on the ball, lift your right arm and left leg; hold and switch to your left arm/right leg).

Completing exercises like these in a circuit format allows you to do more with your workout in the same period of time, making the most of your routine.

Stay Healthy the Easy Way

Sure, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are two of the best ways to stay healthy. But doing them isn’t always easy. Stop beating yourself up if that fast food drive-through was just too tempting or you fell off the workout wagon. There are plenty of other ways to help protect and maintain your health -- and they’re a lot easier than you may think. Adopt these habits today and start feeling your healthy best tomorrow.

1. Floss daily to save your heart.

With this one simple daily ritual, you can keep both your smile and your ticker in tip-top shape. Bacteria from gum disease can trigger an overproduction of C-reactive protein, a substance that leads to inflammation and is tightly linked to heart disease, according to the Journal of Periodontology. Flossing helps remove the plaque that breeds the bacteria, so no plaque means no bacteria -- and no disease-causing compounds.

2. Kiss more to control cholesterol and stress.

Couples who smooched more often over a six-week period lowered their cholesterol and reported feeling less stressed, according to a study from Arizona State University. Because stress is tied to higher cholesterol, the relaxing effect of affection can thwart heart-clogging molecules, researchers say.

And that’s not the only antistress benefit to kissing. A Rutgers University study found that when couples kissed, levels of the stress hormone cortisol instantly dropped. That’s good news since less cortisol has been associated with better sleep, improved immune function and other markers of good health, says Claire Kruppe, a pathologist and wellness coach in Palm Desert, Calif.

3. Laugh it up to lower blood pressure and boost immunity.

When people say laughter is the best medicine, they aren’t far off. Watching a funny video can actually lower your blood pressure, reveals a study from Loma Linda University in California. But that’s not all: Simply anticipating a funny experience increases hormones that aid your immune system and reduces those associated with stress, research from the same university shows.

So look for and think about opportunities to have a chuckle, whether by filling your DVR queue with comedies or setting up a night out with a hilarious friend. You’ll have fun while blunting the dangerous effects of chronic stress.

4. Cook with garlic to protect against cancer.

The more garlic you eat, the lower your chances of developing cancer, say researchers from Pennsylvania State University. Scientists speculate that an element in the bulb inhibits the formation of toxic compounds that may lead to the disease.

Add your garlic to salad dressings, pasta and stir-fry for a tasty and beneficial meal. Just be sure to use fresh cloves; you’ll get a more potent health effect than from the dried version.

5. Have a drink and toast to overall health and longevity.
Sipping one alcoholic drink a day could help you live longer and healthier. Ladies who drink moderately have the lowest mortality rates of all women, reports the New England Journal of Medicine. They’re also less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes and depression.

Drinking moderate amounts of beer, wine or liquor is also associated with less weight gain when compared to excessive drinking and even abstaining, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. In turn, keeping the scale in check helps ward off diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, Kruppe says. Cheers to that!

Of course, don’t give up on healthy eating and exercise, not to mention regular doctor visits. But adopting these incredibly simple healthy habits will keep you feeling your best yet.
 

The Best Exercises to Boost Your Metabolism

Can’t seem to lose those last few pounds, even with diet and exercise? Your metabolism could be to blame. Not all of us are blessed with a high metabolic rate, but by making some simple changes to your exercise routine, you can boost your metabolism and help your body burn more calories, even when you’re resting.

“You absolutely can increase your metabolic rate with exercise,” says fitness expert Cindy Whitmarsh, a trainer on ExerciseTV and author of 101 Ways to Work out With Weights. “Muscle burns more calories than fat does, so the more muscle you build, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be. Every muscle cell you gain is like a little internal fire that burns calories, even while you’re sleeping.” Here are Whitmarsh’s top tips for revving up your routine, plus the best exercises to boost your metabolism.

Get Cross-training
If you’ve fallen into a predictable pattern of biking or walking every day, try cross-training to get your body out of its rut and stimulate more muscle growth. Try running on Monday, stair-climbing on Tuesday, weight training on Wednesday, boxing on Thursday, cycling on Friday and jumping rope on Saturday.

Pump up Your Heart Rate
Keeping your heart rate elevated for at least 30 minutes during your cardio routine will boost your metabolism and help your body burn fat faster. Whitmarsh recommends keeping your heart rate within 65 to 85 percent of your heart rate maximum, which you can find by subtracting your age from 220. Multiply that number by 0.65 and then by 0.85 to find this magic fat-burning range. Then, use a heart rate monitor while exercising to help stay in that range.

Try Interval Training
Interval training -- alternating high-intensity exercise bursts with lower-intensity activities -- will break up a stale workout and boost your metabolism. “You’re building muscle and increasing your heart rate so it will stay elevated for a longer time after your workout, and you’ll burn calories longer,” says Whitmarsh.

Keep It Up
The last secret to boosting your metabolism is to choose multifunctional exercises that maximize your muscle gain by working many body parts at once. Whitmarsh’s top five exercises to boost your metabolism can all be done easily at home:

1. Mountain-climbers: Start on the floor in a hands-and-knees position. Lift one bent knee close to your chest. Alternate your knees into your chest by tapping your toes to the floor and back. Repeat 20 to 50 times without stopping.

2. Eight-count Body-builder With Push-up: Start at standing pose. Bring hands to the floor, jump feet back into a high plank. Jump feet out wide, do a push-up, jump feet back together, jump feet back to hands and stand up. Repeat five to 15 times.

3. Squat Into Bicep Curls and Overhead Shoulder Press: Stand holding weights by your sides. Squat down. Stand back up while doing a bicep curl. Perform overhead shoulder press, bring weights back to sides. Repeat eight to 15 times.

4. Walking Lunges While Alternating Bicep Curls and Lateral Shoulder Raises: Stand with weights in each hand. Lunge forward with right leg while doing a bicep curl with right arm. Repeat with left side. Then, lunge forward with right leg while lifting your right arm out to the side. Repeat with left side. Repeat 10 times.

5. Medicine Ball Drop-catch and Overhead Lift: Hold a medicine ball in front of your body with arms straight and legs slightly wider than shoulder width. Lift the ball overhead, keeping arms straight and engaging your core. Then, drop the ball down to the floor as you squat so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Catch the ball at the deepest part of your squat with your arms straight. Lift ball as you stand. Repeat 10 to 20 times.


Photo: @iStockphoto.com/aabejona

Eight Fitness Tips to Get in Shape for Summer

Does the thought of slipping into shorts or a swimsuit leave you panicked? No sweat. With these easy fitness tips, there’s still time to get in summer-ready shape without going on a crash diet.

Taking small steps will put you in the right direction, says Heidi Powell, personal trainer, life coach and co-transformation specialist (with husband Chris Powell) on Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. Here are her eight best fitness tips to get you ready for the season:

1. Make a Small Change -- And Stick To It

“Make one goal to yourself at a time,” says Powell. “Maybe it's removing soda from your lunch or moving for five minutes a day. Just make it attainable and commit to it.”

Once you master that first goal, you can add another to it, and so on. “When you do what you say you're going to do, the scale will follow,” says Powell.

2. Be Realistic

As much as we’d all love to drop 10 pounds in a week -- especially as summer approaches -- it's not very doable without going to extreme measures.

“Instead, strive to lose one percent of your body weight a week,” says Powell. “That's a healthy goal.” 

3. Watch Your Calories

Nutrition is more than half the battle in weight loss. And while you don’t have to obsess over every bite, you do need to be aware of how many calories you’re taking in. The average woman should aim for 1,500 calories a day.


4. Eat Real Food

Forget the packaged diet dinners and low-fat snacks. “You can’t out-train bad food,” says Powell.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are higher in nutrients than processed meals -- plus, they’re rich in fiber, which will keep you feeling fuller longer. Lean meats like turkey are high in protein and will help you burn more fat while building muscle mass. And yes, you can put some steak on the grill -- just eat it in moderation. “The calorie count is higher in red meat, so opt for three-ounce portions instead of the four ounces you would eat of chicken or fish,” Powell says.


5. Don’t Skip Carbs

“Chris and I both have wristbands that say I <3 carbs!” says Powell. “Carbs fuel the body for weight loss.” Just remember that not all carbohydrates are created equal: White bread, rice and sweets are nutritionally poor, but sweet potatoes, brown rice, steel-cut oats and whole-grain bread are both delicious and healthy.


6. Work Out at Home

You don’t have to commit to a gym to get your exercise. Powell, a busy mom of three, says she’s lucky if she goes to the gym once a month. Instead, she focuses on fat-blasting moves she can do from the comfort of her home…which is where her next two tips come in!

7. Learn to Love the Burpee

“I have a love-hate relationship with burpees,” admits Powell. They’re tough, but “they hit nearly every muscle in the body and get your heart rate up.”

To perform this whole-body exercise, start by squatting with your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick your legs back into a push-up position, jump back into the squat, and then jump to a standing position. You can modify the move by doing the push-up on your knees or going directly from the push-up to a standing position. 

8. Try Interval Training

For the optimal metabolism-boosting workout, sprint on a track or treadmill as fast as you can for 30 seconds, rest for 90 seconds, and then sprint again. Ten sets of sprints will give you a heart-thumping 20-minute workout -- plus your body will continue to burn calories at a higher rate for the rest of the day. “You put your body in an oxygen debt, so the body has to overcompensate and work harder to oxygenate the body,” says Powell.

By making easy changes and following these fitness tips, you’ll be confident and beach-ready before