Taking a natural approach to pain relief can be a relief in and of itself, and it’s a welcome trend for active families. Why? Because alternative therapy works and there is no need to worry about side effects that come with pharmaceuticals. Yes, prescription and over-the-counter pain relief can cause big problems over time, such as pain-med addiction, liver problems and stomach ulcers. Pain meds also make you drowsy, which is not helpful when working, studying or driving.
Luckily, recent research points to the lasting effects of natural pain relief, especially for people with chronic pain, and the tide has turned so both Western and alternative medicine rely heavily on natural treatments. So when my son twists his ankle at soccer or I have a neck spasm from working too long or grandma needs relief from the arthritis in her knee, I can relax and keep my own stress at bay because I know I can provide healthy pain relief.
Western medicine embraces alternative integrative approaches such as yoga, acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic care, herbal remedies, essential oils, massage and more, and when combined with an array of simple options to empower you at home — such as nutrition, exercise, hot and cold treatments and even drinking tea — the results are stellar.
Here are a few favorites of the natural pain-relief trend that you can easily incorporate. Enjoy them fully because they’ll let you sleep at night, literally, and because they are safe and healthy for your family, easy and affordable for you, and they work!
Heat treatment – Hot pads and other heat therapies are ideal for sore muscles, joint pain, chronic arthritis as well as warming up your body before exercise. Heat soothes and relieves pain by improving circulation, which helps both in relaxation and increasing healing in the same way as exercise, dilating the blood vessels and bringing the good fluids to the rescue. Personally, I like the all-natural heating pads with natural herbs and grains that also give you a nice calming aroma. This is great for my active kid too, and he responds well to heat before bed. Also, it’s great for any tight muscles or spasms, which for me are often stress related. But hands down, heating pads are my favorite and work every time. The muscles in my neck are guaranteed to relax and faster than anything else, even massage.
Cold treatment – All-natural cold presses and other cold therapies provide an effective natural pain-relief solution. They numb with the cold and decrease circulation by constricting blood vessels, which reduces swelling. Swelling can cause pain when the extra fluid puts pressure on nerve endings. Cold is best for more acute pain and injury, like when you sprain an ankle or get a bruise or sunburn. Five to 15 minutes every few hours is ideal. All-natural cold packs have been my saving grace with my own knee swelling after sports. The pain relief comes after only a few minutes. I keep mine in the freezer so it’s ready whenever I need it. It just lies nicely on my knee (unlike frozen peas) and stays dry (unlike ice).
Exercise – Exercise as natural pain relief may seem counterintuitive for chronic pain such as arthritis, but the blood flow can nourish remaining cartilage and help speed healing. A little bit of movement goes a long way, even if it’s just walking around the block daily. Exercise gets the blood flowing which assists healing by bringing in nutrients, oxygen and white blood cells. It also strengthens muscles, which helps support joints and promotes fluid movement. Always check with your physician first though! What works for me, personally, is a jog or walk first thing in the morning. It starts the day off on the right foot with a nice endorphin rush to boost my mood and warms my muscles. It also keeps my quads and hams strong which keeps my knee strong and the pain in check after multiple knee injuries and surgeries from playing junior and college tennis, including meniscus and ACL tears.
Green Tea – Green tea suppresses inflammation and thus helps with arthritis and other pain from swelling. And who doesn’t love a nice hot cup of tea for the ritual and soothing flavor? A nice added bonus! Enjoy a cuppa while you listen to your favorite tunes, watch your favorite guilty-pleasure TV show (that maybe relaxes you more than anything else and cures any painful headache!) and mellow out with a heating pad on your neck. Cheers!