NOTE: This is a long, information-packed article on Natural Treatments to Help Relieve Pain – Chronic and Acute. To make it easier to navigate, use the Table of Contents button to your right!
Acute and chronic pain affects over 100 million people in the United States each year. While pain is best known and characterized as subjective, meaning only the person who is experiencing it can explain what it feels like, pain is often called the Universal equalizer. Pain affects people differently. What may be perceived as only a minor nuisance to one person, may be completely debilitating to someone else.
Pain is a warning that something isn't quite right. Pain is not a disease in itself but the result of an underlying condition or due to injury. Pain is not just a physical sensation or psychological event, but a combination of these and other components.
Pain can be caused by a variety of situations such as accidents, musculoskeletal disorders, improper lifting, bending, sports activities, misalignment of the vertebrae of the spine and disease. It can also appear out of nowhere with no obvious cause.
A viral illness may possibly be a cause, or emotional trauma, such as fear or resentment. n the vast majority of cases, pain is caused by stasis of blood and or our body's energy resulting in muscle spasm, trauma, and immobility.
From a healthy heart to a good sex life, the proper flow and circulation of blood in our arteries is one of the most important things we can do to maintain good health, a pain-free life and push back the aging process.
There is a common denominator between good arterial health and pain disorders such as heart attack, obesity, diabetes and high glucose levels, as well as sexual health. That common denominator is blood.
Pain is a vicious cycle: spasm and inflammation lead to more spasm and inflammation. Although the cycle can develop due to injury, the ultimate cause is often in the brain, which can interfere with muscle physiology through the spinal cord.
Chronic (long-term) and acute back (and neck) pain are common expressions of stress and emotional stress. This demonstrates the true complexity of the mind/body interaction. Many times it is the brain's distortion of muscle function that sets us up for pain by preventing muscles from responding freely to physical stresses.
Acute pain can result from disease, inflammation, or injury to tissues. This type of pain generally comes on suddenly, for example, after trauma or surgery, and may be accompanied by anxiety or emotional distress.
The cause of acute pain can usually be diagnosed and treated, and the pain is self-limiting, that is, it is confined to a given period of time and severity. In some rare instances, it can become chronic.
Chronic pain is widely believed to represent disease itself. It can be made much worse by environmental and psychological factors. Chronic pain persists over a longer period of time than acute pain and is resistant to most medical treatments. It can often cause severe problems for patients.
In assessing pain, a useful approach is to assess pain intensity (sensory), pain relief (cognitive), pain location, pain distress (affective), behavioral patterns or other similar sensory aspects of pain.
Without a doubt, added stress and strains can take its toll on your spinal and nervous system. Maintaining a physically fit body, awareness of body positions, a clean and detoxified internal system, keeping fears, stress and insecurities in check and careful execution physically, through each day are all great ways to avoid daily aches and pains.
Common Pain Syndromes
1. Inflammation can be caused by injury, joint diseases, tumors, infection, abscesses, misalignment. The cause is usually clearly defined and is medically classified as Calor, dolor, rubor, and tumor: Heat, pain, redness, and swelling. The four classical signs of inflammation.
2. Physical Injury is defined as cuts, broken bones, sprains and strains and can manifest as intense burning pain or deep aching pain.
3. Widened Inflamed Blood Vessels is considered migraines, headaches or temporal arteritis. This is defined as pulsing, throbbing intense pain and localized to the area of inflamed blood vessels.
4. Insufficient Blood Flow is considered angina, leg pain, pain from exercise or in some cultures the definition of pain itself; blood stagnation.
6. Toxemia is caused by the ingestion and accumulation of substances which are foreign to the body and toxic in nature such as chemicals, drugs, etc. These produce irritation, inflammation, and pathology in bodily organs and systems. Toxemia, which is also due to the accumulation of toxic wastes resulting from the food and beverages we eat and drink; unnatural food or natural food in excess beyond what the body can use at the moment.
7. Deficiencies: The insufficiency of necessary food substances, such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, enzymes etc., lead to the breakdown of cells, tissues, and organs which are given names of diseases, according to its location.
8. Enervation is the reduction or loss of energy due to the lack of rest or sleep, or the excessive use of emotion, negative thoughts, worry, stress, or the overdoing of physical actions, overeating etc. Enervation leads to a reduction of the body's ability to digest, absorb, assimilate and excrete body wastes – thus leading to a retention of wastes in the cells and tissues and thereby causing disease.
For some people, pain can be tolerated at high levels; this is someone who has a high tolerance for pain, and others have a very low tolerance. For most people, pain is cyclical. Pain produces anxiety and this can intensify the pain. Fear and anticipation of physical problems can also heighten the pain leading to feelings of depression and helplessness.
When one experiences this pain, we tend to limit our activities which can lead to a chronic “pain cycle”. This will adversely affect one's confidence and self-esteem. Being aware of a chronic pain cycle and understanding its psychological effects, can help you avoid being drawn into the cycle.
In this cycle, which tends to begin with long periods of rest and inactivity, this causes a loss of physical strength, flexibility and endurance. As a result, you begin to lose confidence in your ability to do things, which causes you to lower your personal goals.
The inability to do your usual activities then allows feelings of frustration as you see yourself now as being unproductive which in turn, lowers your self-esteem and may further lead to depression.
When the lower end of the cycle comes around and you are feeling the pain less than usual, we then have a tendency to overexert ourselves in an effort to prove to ourselves and others that we are still capable of doing the things we could do before we had the pain.
As a result of the overexertion, the pain tends to return more severe than before. Discouraged and in pain, you begin limiting your activity again, therefore the cycle begins once more.
Natural Pain Relief Therapies
Many people today shy away from regular over-the-counter or prescription pain medication for a variety of reasons. Maybe you want to stray from negative side effects, or maybe you’re worried about relying on something that contains chemicals and ingredients that you find it hard to even pronounce. One thing is for sure, if you’re looking for more natural ways to relive pain, there is a world of opportunity at your fingertips.
You might be squeamish before you’ve tried it, but millions of people swear by acupuncture, and as long as you have it done by a professional with years of experience, it’s definitely something that you shouldn’t shy away from. Acupuncture is a process where tiny needles are inserted into your skin, depending on where you’re experiencing pain and discomfort.
The belief is that your body has natural energy pathways that can be interrupted. Acupuncture can be one way to re-establish these pathways and help your body to release serotonin, which is a natural chemical your body uses to reduce pain. People who often suffer migraines, headaches, osteoarthritis and chronic pain can be greatly helped by this treatment.
From aspirin to herbal compresses using anti-inflammatory herbs, anti-inflammatory applications can reduce the recovery time by half if done within the first 24-48 hours of an injury or painful attack. Anti-inflammatory foods can also be of benefit.
Massage to Relieve Pain
Massage can be a wonderful and relaxing way to relieve pain, although you may feel stiff or a bit sore the day after, depending on how deep the masseuse applied pressure and also by how well you stayed hydrated. If you suffer from soreness or an ache, a Swedish or traditional massage that is gentle but works out knots can help your body relax. If you have specific areas that need work, talk to your massage therapist about where you’d like him or her to focus their energies. The use of certain warming oils can also help clear away tension and the atmosphere of the spa itself can help alleviate pain brought on by stress.
Baths for Pain Relief
It might seem too simple, but a warm bath can have a big effect on pain relief, especially if you create an atmosphere around it in which you can have quiet relaxation. Epsom salts can ease tired muscles and reduce tension, and the warmth from the water will help alleviate any aches. Light some candles or at least lower the lights, turn on the fan for white noise, and then either read or simply focus on some quiet music and feel your stress melt away.
Exercise! If your muscles and joints are underused, you may suffer from pain that could easily be dispensed with through a good and regular exercise routine. Join a yoga class to stretch everything out, or walk or jog through a pretty area in your location. You can have lots of fun and gain pain relief at a boot camp or by having regular sessions with a trainer.
If you find your joints can’t take a lot of pressure in the beginning, start with something super low impact like swimming. You don’t have to do lanes if you find that unappealing; most pools offer a wide range of pool exercises. The water will support any aches you experience and still allow for a full body workout. You can also benefit from a post pool session in the hot tub!
Lancing or Draining Abscesses
Reducing swelling from painful sprains and strains and toxic swellings from insect bites are all very important reasons for lancing and draining an injured area. In Chinese Medicine, cupping is done after the lancing to draw out the blood from the area. This is a very effective method used to decrease the amount of time it takes for the area to heal.
RICE is the acronym used for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. It is used as the best initial treatment of soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains, and contusions. The combination of RICE helps reduce inflammation that occurs after acute injury. It is important to remember that the earlier this treatment is put into place, the more effective it is.
This can be the best medicine for any condition from a cold to a broken bone. Rest rejuvenates, repairs and reassembles. For acute injury, rest and protect the injured area. If it hurts to bear weight on the injury, use crutches, if it hurts to move the area immobilize it with a splint.
Cold and Heat for Pain Relief
Heat and cold are great ways to provide immediate relief from some types of pain, although it helps to identify whether heat or cold is best for specific conditions.
This application often feels best on acute injuries, where the pain is often hot to the touch or has a feeling of heat radiating from it. Ice numbs the area, reducing pain. It also constricts blood vessels, limiting blood supply to the injured site.
This action decreases swelling. Ice can also decrease muscle spasms. If an area is painful to move or swells after exercise, use ice. Apply ice or a frozen object, such as a bag of corn from the freezer, to the injury. Be sure the area is protected from the cold application and not applied directly to the skin. The cold will reduce swelling and pain at the injured site.
If you have a strained muscle, ligament or tendon, it will feel much better the sooner you can get an ice pack on it. This will help with the swelling and any inflammation and redness. A cold pack can also help with fever, headaches or migraines when applied to the forehead or temples.
This step should be done as soon as possible. Apply the frozen object to the area for 20 minutes, every two to three hours for the first 48 hours.
This application is often most effective for chronic injuries or pain that is cold to the touch or has cold radiating from it. It is very useful with injuries agitate by cold or damp weather.
Heat increases local blood supply, bringing healing cells to the area and potentially relaxing tight muscles. Use moist, hot towels or microwavable heat packs for no more than 10 to 15 minutes several times a day. Never sleep on a heating pad.
If you have arthritis, however, heat is the way to go. A moist heat pack can be heated up in the microwave and then applied to the injured area, being careful of the temperature to avoid burns. Heat is also wonderful when applied to your feet in the event that you catch a cold, and using a heat bag in your bed before going to sleep can take the edge off your chill. It’s also interesting to note that heat may be helpful after you’ve iced a strain or sprain to alleviate stiffness.
Compression and Elevation
Compression and elevation tend to go hand in hand. Compress the injured site by applying an Ace bandage. This will decrease swelling of the injured region. Although the wrap should be snug, make sure it is not too tight as this can cause numbness, tingling, or increased pain.
Elevate the injured area above the level of the heart as much as possible. This technique will also assist in reducing the amount of swelling to the injured site.
Root Cause Treatment
Pain is the result of injury or disease. With acute pain, the cause is often obvious. A fall resulting in a painful scrape or twisted ankle. In chronic pain, often the pain has been with you for so long, it is hard to pinpoint the real cause or root cause of the disorder.
Most alternative health therapies see the occurrence of disease as the results from an imbalance. Treating the primary cause of a disease is what makes a root cause treatment very effective in the long term. It does not just treat the symptoms of that disease.
Essential Oils to Relieve Pain
Some of the best remedies for pain are in the form of essential oils! Helpful are essential oils of basil, clove, camphor, menthol, eucalyptus, ginger, black pepper, wintergreen and peppermint, rosemary oils, and are all beneficial for pain management.
Essential oils also lend themselves well to pain relief, either applied directly to the skin or inhaled. You can use them in a diffuser or inhale by placing them on linens before you sleep. Different oils offer a different range of health benefits and pain relief, so do some research and find what works best for you.
Some of them can even be taken internally (although be cautious with this as some will cause adverse affects). If you suffer from pain delivered with a cold, try unblocking sinuses with eucalyptus. If you have a headache, try dabbing a little calming lavender on your temples or even your wrists. If your pain stems from a sore throat or sore muscles, rub cooling peppermint into the area for instant relief.
Single Essential Oils for Pain
- Basil: contains several antioxidants in its volatile oils that act just like some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and Celebrex. When isolated at high enough concentrations these oils worked as well as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin in research trials.
- Camphor is a white transparent waxy crystalline solid with a strong penetrating pungent aromatic odor. As an antimicrobial substance, camphor is readily absorbed through the skin and produces a feeling of cooling similar to that of menthol and acts as slight local anesthetic. In larger quantities, it is poisonous when ingested and can cause seizures, confusion, irritability, and neuromuscular hyperactivity. Found in our Muscular/Pain Remedy Blend.
- Clove: This intense oil, most commonly used to relieve dental pain and infection, is also used to dissolve the eggs deposited by intestinal worms. It is delicious, but overwhelming in both smell and taste. It is an antiseptic, carminative, warming, and very aromatic oil.
- Eucalyptus: Reduces pain, spasms and inflammation, and stimulates local blood circulation and the removal of waste products and toxins from the tissues. It is used to treat muscular aches and pains, strains, sprains, and other traumatic injuries of the muscles, ligaments and tendons. It also helps to reduce nerve inflammation and pain and is useful for the treatment of the various kinds of neuralgia such as sciatica. Eucalyptus reduces pain and inflammation due to chronic arthritic conditions. It also has a mild clearing and stimulating effect on the mind which helps to reduce fatigue.
- Ginger: This rich, spicy oil so often used for nausea also helps normalize blood pressure either by raises blood pressure by restricting external blood flow, or lowers it by dilating surface blood vessels. This oil is warming and an antiseptic.
- Menthol is actually a compound obtained from peppermint oil or other mint oils or made synthetically. Menthol has local anesthetic and counter-irritant qualities. It is contained in non-prescription products for short-term relief of minor sore throat and minor mouth or throat irritation. Menthol is also contained in combination products used for relief of muscle aches, sprains, and similar conditions. Menthol is often used with other ingredients such as camphor and eucalyptus for pain relief. Menthol is considered an antidote for many homeopathic remedies and should be avoided by people taking them.
- Peppermint: Acts as a muscle relaxant, particularly in the digestive tract, and it can also reduce the inflammation of nasal passages and relieve muscle pains. When massaged into the skin, peppermint oil plays an innocuous trick on the nerves: It stimulates those that produce a cool, soothing sensation and desensitizes those that pick up pain messages.
- Rosemary: Studies show that this oil improves general circulation.
- Tea Tree: Tea Tree has a wide range of topical applications and is commonly used to treat skin and respiratory infections. Surprisingly, the oil is active against all three categories of infectious organisms: bacteria, viruses and fungi. Tea tree oil is an effective treatment for many skin conditions, such as cold sores, the blisters of shingles and chicken pox, verrucae, warts, acne, large inflamed spots and nappy rash. It is also effective against fungal infections such as ringworm, athlete's foot and thrush, as well as dandruff — a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis.
Relieving Pain with Diet, Hydration
One of the best ways you can stave off aches and pain is to keep fit and stick to a good diet and hydration. Keeping your weight at optimal levels will reduce undue pressure on joints and muscles, and allow for your body to have greater flexibility and movement.
Supplements for Pain Relief
If you are struggling with chronic pain, you might not always want to load up on harsh pain killers, some of which are highly addictive. A better option is to look at the natural options available, such as taking supplements. There are a variety of supplements you can take to ease your chronic pain, include those listed here.
Believe it or not, taking a probiotic supplement every day can be extremely useful. Probiotics include good bacteria and yeast that are meant to help with digestion and bloating. This is great for digestion issues that might cause pain on a regular basis, such as in the cases of severe irritable bowel syndrome.
Not only that, probitoics can also help reduce inflammation in your body, which also helps to reduce pain in other parts of your body. Probiotic supplements don’t cost a lot and have loads of health benefits, so it is good to add to your daily vitamin regimen.
Another supplement you may want to take for chronic pain is glucosamine. This is recommended if your pain is related to your joints, such as in the case of arthritis or a previous injury to your joints. Glucosamine is a type of amino sugar that helps with the cartilage and joints in your body.
It is not uncommon to also get a glucosamine supplement that comes with chondroitin, which is going to help your joints move a little better, another problem for people with arthritis.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
While not really a vitamin or mineral, this is a good supplement to take if you have pain from inflammation, stiffness, or even back pain from various conditions. Omega 3 fatty acids of course are in eggs, spinach, and fatty fish, but you can also just take a daily supplement of omega 3.
S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) possesses anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and tissue-healing properties that may help protect the health of joints.SAM-e is derived from methionine, an essential amino acid; it may promote cartilage formation and repair.
Herbs for Pain
The medicinal benefits of herbs have been recorded for centuries. Herbs were extensively used to cure practically every known illness and have been documented by Egyptian, Roman, Native American, Persians and Hebrews alike.
Many herbs contain powerful ingredients that, if used correctly, can help heal the body. By using herbs in their complete form, the body's healing process utilizes a balance of the ingredients provided by nature.
Herbs and herbal formulas can be taken in a variety of ways:
- You may steep herbs as teas in order to release their healing properties.
- Herbal supplements in pills and capsules are another form. These are herbs ground into powder. Herbal formulas tend to be created for a single problem or nest of related problems and their specific pattern of disharmony.
- Tinctures. Herbal remedies are also prescribed in tincture form and are the previously fresh herb in well preserved, highly concentrated form. This liquid, as well as, concentrated forms of extracted herbs, are preserved in their freshest form.
- Steam distillation or cold pressing results in herbs as essential oils.
- Plasters are ingredients such as oils, herbs, and other pain-relieving herbs combined into an easy to use stick on strip or patch.
- Poultices are macerated or chopped herbs that are placed directly on the skin and a hot, moist bandage is applied.
- Infusions are used when you are working with the most delicate part of the herb-the leaves flowers, fruits, and seeds.
- Decoction is used to extract the tougher part of the herb-bark, berries, and roots.
White Willow Bark
This is a supplement you may have never heard of, but it is actually a type of herb that occurs in nature. White willow bark is often referred to as nature’s aspirin, because it provides a lot of the same health benefits as aspirin, including relieving pain.
While you can try it for any type of pain, white willow bark is going to work best if you have lower back pain from your occupation or conditions like sciatica, as well as for chronic headaches and migraines. White willow bark can be taken as a supplement capsule or in tea.
If you love adding cinnamon to your coffee or treats, then you’re in luck because it is wonderful for chronic pain! Cinnamon is one of the more delicious spices that can be used to help with chronic pain, thanks to how it it has anti-inflammatory properties. This means not only will it not cause or trigger inflammation and the resulting pain, but it can actually help to reduce inflammation from other sources. It is often recommended to people with Crohn’s or Fibromyalgia, both of which can be worsened with inflammation. The same can be said for people with ulcers or other digestive pain sources.
Ginger is a superfood, so not only is it ideal when you have chronic pain, but it also contains a lot of important nutrients. Now is a great time to start discovering ginger and how it can add more flavor to your dishes, while providing loads of health benefits at the same time. Ginger has a bit of a bite, so it is good with your savory dishes like rice, soup, and chili. It is easy to find fresh ginger root, which you can zest with a regular zester, or you can get it in powdered form. It helps with different types of pain, from migraines to digestive pain.
If you like your food spicy, it is time to start using more cayenne pepper. Chili peppers have excellent health benefits, even though it might seem like they would do harm to your body. But chili peppers have capsaicinoids, a natural compound that provides anti-inflammatory benefits for you. So while you should limit the amount if they cause stomach upset, it is safe to use them as long as you feel okay with the amount of spice.
An anti-inflammatory. Long-term use can elevate blood pressure and increase potassium loss. Dosage: one-eighth to one-quarter teaspoon of a 5: 1 solid extract up to three times daily.
Just about everyone loves garlic, so this should be easy to add to your diet. Garlic is also an anti-inflammatory spice, adding tons of flavor and the added health benefits. In fact, it is good for you, garlic is also considered a superfood. Add it to your cauliflower rice, season chicken breasts or fish, or use garlic to add flavor to your roasted veggies.
Boswellia has unique anti-inflammatory action, much like the conventional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used by many for inflammatory conditions. Unlike NSAIDs, however, long-term use of Boswellia does not lead to irritation or ulceration of the stomach.
Bromelain is a plant enzyme. Bromelain is not actually a single substance, but a group of protein-digesting enzymes found in pineapple juice and in the stem of pineapple plants. Local swelling is the releasing of histamines in a localized area causes the vasodilation and increased permeability of blood vessels.
Bromelain has an anti-inflammatory effect and is a very effective treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is recommend taking 200 to 400 milligrams three times a day on an empty stomach at least ninety minutes before or three hours after eating. Discontinue use if you develop any itching or rash.
An effective anti-inflammatory. Dosage: 400 mg three times daily; take on an empty stomach and combine with 1,000 mg of bromelain.
Stretching for Pain Relief
Next to breathing and breath work, stretching is the most beneficial exercises we can do for better health.
Done in tandem, breath work and stretching are the best support for easing aches, pain, tension, headaches, tight muscles and unexplained pain elsewhere in the body.
The Different Types of Stretching
Just as there are different types of flexibility, there are also different types of stretching. Stretches are either dynamic (meaning they involve motion) or static (meaning they involve no motion).
Dynamic stretches affect dynamic flexibility and static stretches affect static flexibility (and dynamic flexibility to some degree).
When done properly, stretching can do more than just increase flexibility.
Benefits of Stretching Include:
- enhanced physical fitness
- enhanced ability to learn and perform skilled movements
- increased mental and physical relaxation
- enhanced development of body awareness
- reduced risk of injury to joints, muscles, and tendons
- reduced muscular soreness
- reduced muscular tension
- increased suppleness due to stimulation of the production of chemicals which, lubricate connective tissues
- reduced severity of painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) in females
Things to Remember When Beginning a Stretching Routine
- Wear comfortable clothes that won't restrict body movement
- Stretching should be pain free; don't force the body into difficult positions
- Move into each stretch slowly and avoid bouncing, which can actually tear muscles
- Stretch on a clean, flat surface which is large enough to move freely
- Hold stretches long enough (20-30 seconds) to allow muscles or joints to become loose
- Repeat the stretch, generally 5 – 10 times
The Most Effective Stretches
One good over all stretch for your body is to lie on the floor and gently bring your knees up to your chest. Once there, put a little pressure on your knees with two hands.
Gently raise your head up toward the knees. Breath, in, out, in out…..slowly. Stretch, then relax. Repeat.
The Effect of Stretching on Healing
Stretching your body's muscles will actually enhance the healing process. Long, slow static stretching will help to increase blood flow and circulation, eliminating stasis and help to warm and invigorate the muscles and in turn lubricate the ligaments and joints.
Stretching the whole body will help heal pain even if that pain is localized to one area. This is true because all areas of the body are connected through the fascia which is a sheath that covers and surrounds all of the musculature throughout the body. So, it's important to stretch the whole body.
One of the Best Overall Stretches is the Sun Salutation
Energy Technique for Pain Relief
Here’s an energy technique for pain relief you can try. Rub your hands together and then shake them off. Then place your left hand a few inches out from the painful area.
Make counterclockwise circles over the painful area (a few inches out – not actually touching) for up to about 3 minutes. The clock would be on the body part in pain, facing out, so that you could read the clock when looking at the painful body area.
Your left hand tends to draw energy to it, and counterclockwise circles tend to pull energy out. Let your right hand hang out from your body, so it is not touching you or the person in pain if you are treating someone else, because the energy you are pulling out will tend to go through you and exit out your right hand. After 2 or 3 minutes of counter-clockwise circles, shake your hands off to get rid of any energy stuck on them.
Now take your right hand, and make clockwise circles over the same area, for no more than half the time you spent going counterclockwise. Clockwise circles with the right hand are for delivering new, fresh energy to the area, and smoothing it over.
You don’t want to put too much energy in there, especially since pain is an indication of over-energy. You can also try drawing little sideways figure 8s in the air, all around the painful area, to see if that helps with pain relief.
Natural Treatment for Joint Pain, Stiffness and Inflammation
InflammaGo is a safe, non-addictive, FDA-registered natural remedy containing 100% homeopathic ingredients selected to relieve pain and stiffness in joints and muscles associated with arthritis.
InflammaGo can safely maintain joint health and support healthy tissues in the body, without harmful side effects. This remedy contains a selection of homeopathic ingredients known to address muscle and joint inflammation and fatigue.
It also helps provide relief for sports injuries, plus healing after over-exertion and physical stress.