Pain and chronic pain can really lower one’s quality of life, but there are many natural and complementary ways that you can use to relieve bodily aches and pains. Here are just a few.
In this article, we’ll start by looking at some of the herbs, spices, and other natural ingredients that can be used for pain relief. Then we’ll have a look at essential oils and the help and relief that they can bring. Lastly we’ll look at complementary therapies that can help with pain relief.
Natural ingredients and pain relief
If you’ve ever taken honey for a sore throat when you’ve had a cold or the flu, then you know how soothing it can be!
Indeed, honey is well-known for its multiple health benefits and these include being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant. The 2013 paper Evidence for Clinical Use of Honey in Wound Healing as an Anti-bacterial, Anti-inflammatory Anti-oxidant and Anti-viral Agent: A Review, showed that “honey leads to improved wound healing in acute cases, pain relief in burn patients and decreased inflammatory response in such patients”. The same study goes on to advise that different types of honey be tested to ensure that the best outcomes are reached.
Another 2013 study showed that the administration of honey after a tonsillectomy significantly reduced postoperative pain and the need for as many painkillers as the control group of the study. The study found the best outcomes in those patients who used both honey and other analgesics.
Used especially for bruising and stiffness, Arnica gels and oils have been shown to also reduce pain. A study, showed that using an arnica gel twice daily for 3 weeks reduces pain and stiffness, as well as improving function, for people with osteoarthritis in the hand or knee. Other research have shown that arnica works as well as ibuprofen in some cases. The Arnica gel is usually available as an OTC remedy, although arnica tablets are also available.
Most of us know turmeric as the yellow spice that gives colour to curries and other foods, but turmeric can also be used for pain relief. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric.
The Arthritis Foundation states that: “Reduces pain, inflammation and stiffness related to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA); treats bursitis. Known as a cleansing agent, turmeric often is used as a digestive aid in India.”
Turmeric can be taken as capsules or as a tea.
Did you know that ginger can also be used for pain and inflammation, not just nausea or as relief from colds and flu?
A study at the University of Georgia found that daily supplementation “reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by 25%”. Ginger can also reduce pain during menstruation.
Ginger can be taken as lozenges, candied, raw, or as a tea. You can even make a turmeric and ginger tea to give your pain a double knockout!
Essential oils and pain relief
5. Lavender essential oil
The smell of lavender definitely makes for a good night’s sleep, but studies, like this 2015 study, showed that lavender essential oil also has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
The oil should be applied topically, not ingested, although you do get lavender tea that contains some of the lavender flowers.
You can also make a soothing epsom salts soak with lavender, marjoram, and frankincense essential oils mixed with epsom salts and added to warm bath water.
6. Rosemary essential oil
According to Medical News Today, “Some researchers state that the rosemary plant, Rosmarinus officinalis L., may help treat headache, muscle and bone pain, and seizures. Rosemary may also reduce inflammation, relax smooth muscles, and boost memory.”
Less pain and a boost to our memories? Yes, thanks!
7. Peppermint essential oil
Peppermint oil comes from the plant Mentha piperita L and research shows that the peppermint plant has anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and anti-microbial effects. This is because the oil contains carvacrol, menthol, and limonene. Peppermint oil can even be used topically for arthritis pain.
The diluted peppermind oil can be applied topically onto the area that is painful — as long as the skin is not broken. Peppermint oil should, however, not be used around children.
Peppermint can also be taken as a tea, but the essential oil should never be ingested.
Other natural ways of relieving pain
8. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation
People suffering from chronic pain are more and more turning to mindfulness and meditation as a complementary way to ease not only their pain, but also strengthen their coping abilities with the toll pain and related symptoms takes on them.
A study in The Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, found that mindfulness meditation can improve not only quality of life, but also relieve pain and aid in relieving depression.
There are many guided meditations currently available online that can help you to get started with mindfulness meditation.
While there are many different schools of Yoga, Yoga is, in essence, a mind and body practice with its origins in ancient Indian philosophy. The National Centre of Complementary and Integrative Medicine notes that the “various styles of yoga typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation”.
The yoga practised most in Europe and the US is Hatha yoga, which emphasizes postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama).
The amount of people using yoga for wellness is growing year on year, and about 16% of people do yoga to treat a specific illness or condition. Yoga has also become one of the top ten complementary health approaches and more doctors are starting to advise their patients to take part in yoga for their wellbeing.
Yoga can help people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, lower-back pain, and many other chronic pain conditions. Indeed, a study found that patients with chronic lower-back pain increased their mobility when they took a weekly yoga class. Yoga postures can also be changed to accommodate people’s mobility problems.
Used in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is a technique in which the practitioners stimulate specific points on the body, usually through inserting thin needles through the skin.
The results from a number of studies, including Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis, have shown that acupuncture may ease types of pain and even chronic pain, including lower-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis or knee pain.
The National Centre of Complementary and Integrative Medicine however also warns that there can be side-effects to acupuncture, so always be sure that you go to an experienced and trusted practitioner.
11. Hot and cold therapies
Using heat or cold can also ease pain, for example muscle pain and pain from sprains. Heat works better to soothe joints and muscles, while cold works for acute pain and swelling. A warm bath or shower or a heat pack should make you feel better in no time, especially if you combine them with essential oils. The same goes for cold packs.
As you can see, there are many different options for pain relief that are natural. However, before taking any supplements, it’s best to make sure that there won’t be any side-effects with any medication that you are currently taking. It is also important not to just outright stop the treatment plan that you are currently on. Rather consult with your physician to integrate complementary or natural medicine with your current treatment plan.