Pain comes to us all
I’ve reached that age when everything hurts.
Age, overuse, less-than-perfect posture and a family history of arthritis have resulted in a variety of aches and pains: stiff neck, sore knees, carpal tunnel, stiff shoulders, foot pain, headaches, and so on.
These are the common miseries to which we all fall victim at one time or another. Occasional use of over-the-counter pain remedies such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen is fine. But when the need becomes more frequent, or chronic, it’s time to start looking for other forms of relief.
I can only take ibuprofen for a day or two before it hurts my stomach. And long-term use of ibuprofen (or naproxen) leads to kidney damage. One of my best friends is a nephrologist (a kidney specialist) and she refuses to use ibuprofen at all. Being around broken kidneys all day has made her overly cautious, but I agree with her that most people aren’t careful enough when it comes to drugs, especially those available without a prescription.
Always read the labels and follow the dosing directions!
Anyway, I ran across some helpful pain relief tips from Prevention’s online magazine and YouTube. Some I have tried and can attest to their effectiveness; others I will be adding into my daily activities and will let you know if they work, as well.
Pain relief tips
Prevention offers the following “tricks” in 5 Almost-Instant Fixes for Pain Relief:
Learn DIY acupressure: Good for muscle pain, acupressure involves finding a “trigger point” on the muscle and putting pressure on that point to release built-up tension. I often have a sore neck and shoulders; using the flats of my fingers, I can find an exceptionally tender or “trigger” point in the muscle. Then I apply firm pressure with my finger or thumb for about 30 to 45 seconds. It hurts at first, but afterwards the pain is less. It’s kind of like a mini massage.
Listen to music: Music is about distraction, not focusing on the pain. Music can also help you relax, which can lessen some forms of tension-induced pain like headaches.
Take a warm bath: I remember my mother swearing by Epsom salt soaks for her arthritis. I’ve tried it for restless leg syndrome, and it does provide some relief. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, and magnesium is an important mineral in nerve and muscle function. You can buy it at any drug store and it’s really cheap. Pour 2 cups into a warm bath (or foot bath for foot pain) and soak for 15 minutes. And make sure you are getting enough magnesium, calcium and potassium in your diet!
Use over-the-counter topical creams: I don’t like the smell of BenGay (methyl salicylate) but odorless Aspercreme (trolamine) has worked for arthritis pain in my hands. Read my post about topical pain relievers for more information. By the way, avoid these creams if you are allergic to aspirin, as the salicylates they use are related to aspirin.
Exercise: It seems counter-intuitive to move your body to relieve pain, but studies have shown that people with arthritis or muscle pain do better when they stay active. Low-impact exercise such as walking, yoga and tai chi are especially helpful.
Knee pain? Try yoga for that, as well. Or this really simple exercise from Prevention:
Use cold or warm compresses: In addition to the above tips from Prevention, I always try ice and heat. Ice is best for inflammation, such as arthritis or sprains. Heat is better for relaxing tense muscles, which commonly result in headaches, sore necks and back pain.
Find a gel ice pack that is flexible and can be molded around the injured body part. You can make your own, too, with water and rubbing alcohol. These bags can be kept in the freezer and used again and again. I know people have recommended using a bag of frozen peas, but I think the peas warm up too quickly.
Contrast baths—alternating hot and cold water soaks—are another home remedy for arthritis pain.
For heat, I like my homemade rice bag—a cotton bag filled with uncooked rice. There are many simple instructions online to make your own. These bags can be heated in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds.
Whether you use ice or heat, apply the compress for 15 minutes every hour, as frequently as you need for relief.
For minor aches and pains, I definitely recommend trying these simple and inexpensive remedies before spending large amounts of money on doctors’ visits, physical therapy and prescription meds. You can always resort to those later, if necessary.
Here are more of my past posts on pain relief (obviously a favorite topic of mine):
- Save money on over-the-counter pain relievers
- Turmeric for arthritis pain
- Pain management apps
- Yoga for neck pain
- Improve your posture
- Home remedies for headaches