26th March 2019
Natural ways are quite effective to manage pain at home. Anti-inflammatories and painkillers are great for short term use. Especially when it means we get more function. However, there are side effects with long term use. I want to share some tips for pain relief that are natural and without any side effects. These are my go to tools for myself as well as when I am treating clients.
Heat packs relieve pain associated with muscle tension / tightness well. The correct application is important. I often find clients use gel / wheat bags which only gives a maximum of 20 minutes of heat. This is not enough to provide effective relief. The most effective low cost option is a hot water bottle. Always check the bottle and use it correctly. Use the heat pack for at least an hour for effective relief. Heat changes the muscle tension at a tissue level so you are also treating the pain as well as relieving it.
Ice packs are excellent for acute pain and swelling. Use an ice pack if pain is more at night (often related to tendon inflammation) or if it is burning in nature. Frozen peas, gel packs, ice blocks are all suitable ice packs. Wrap in a wet towel to conduct better. I prefer to use frozen peas and gel packs as they conform around the body part better. Use ice for at least 30 minutes at a time for as long as needed.
Using Magnesium oil is another natural way of managing pain. Magnesium is an important nutrient in the body. Each cell uses for function and repair. Apply Magnesium topically to relieve muscle tightness and stiffness. You can also apply it at night to assist the body in recovery during sleep. Topical application is better than taking a supplement orally for relieving muscle tightness. The body absorbs it better and it is more localised to the tissue.
Essential oils are very vesatile. They are a good natural way of managing pain as they have anti inflammatory properties as well as pain relieving. Some essential oils are more specific for pain. These are Kunzea oil, Copaiba, Blue Cypress and the all rounder Lavender. These can be applied topically 1 drop to 1 tsp of a carrier oil such as olive oil (which is also anti-inflammatory), coconut, almond, jojoba oil etc. Essential oils have the added benefit of relaxing the mind which alters the perceived pain. They also activate the parasympathetic nervous system for healing and recovery.
Stretching is a great natural way of managing pain and creating balance in the body. Muscles have pain receptors. If the muscle is tight, then this triggers the pain receptors causing pain in the area. Sometimes tight muscles can also refer pain to other areas. Always stretch to address any muscle imbalances. Use a stretching aid, such as a roller or a spikey ball for a deeper stretch. They also target the area better and give immediate pain relief.
Tight and stiff joints will contribute to pain. Gentle movements or low impact exercises especially in water / hydrotherapy can reduce joint stiffness, improve circulation and immediately reduce pain. However, movement should be done which is supportive to the body and not aggravate symptoms further.
Exhaling slowly intercepts neural pathways to the brain reducing perceived pain. Breathing yogas such as pranayama are excellent adjunct to pain management as they influence the parasympathetic nervous system. This promotes relaxation and the body’s healing response. We often get stuck in a fight / flight state. This releases more adrenaline and cortisol in the body, impairing the healing or recovery. Use essential oils with the breathing exercises to further promote relaxation.
Seek Help Early
All of the above are strategies to manage pain on your own. More input is sometimes needed. Get treatment early when the symptoms are less, as the body can restore itself much easier. When pain persists for more than six months, then the changes become hard to reverse as the tissue structure begins to change.
Dry Needling is an excellent natural pain relieving technique. Acupuncture needles are placed on certain parts of the muscle to relieve tight muscles. Dry needling also promotes circulation and releases natural endorphins in the body, the body’s natural pain killers. Please contact 1300 439 034 to find out more, about dry needling or if this is suitable for you.
Simran Choudhary (Senior Physiotherapist, Ergonomist, Passionate about Mindfulness)
Simran is an experienced holistic Physiotherapist incorporating mindfulness techniques to treat in a holistic manner.