Pain is a massive problem that affects 125 million Americans who are spending close to $300 billion on pills, pot, procedures and natural remedies to find relief. These numbers are fueling a national conversation about pain relief and how it should be addressed.
With September being Pain Awareness Month, it’s a good time to exam why our bodies experience pain and other options for relief.
When you are in pain, the normal reaction for most people is to reach for the first thing that can help make that pain dissipate. Patients in pain are often looking for quick relief and frequently ask their doctor for a painkiller. It’s really important that doctors take the time to assess the root cause of the patient’s pain and explore the best protocol for immediate and long-term relief.
Pain is your body’s way of alerting you to an underlying problem that needs to be resolved, not masked. There are diet and lifestyle changes as well as natural remedies that can help pain sufferers get relief from some of the three most common pain complaints and reduce reliance on certain medications that have potential side effects.
Tension, stress, overuse and minor injuries are the most common causes of muscle pain. Muscle pain is usually localized, affecting just a few muscles or a small part of your body with some of the most common complaint areas being the neck, back and shoulders. Causes of muscle pain include injuries, poor posture, sitting or standing for too long without movement and repetitive movements or overuse of certain muscles. In addition to pain, many sufferers feel fatigue and have trouble sleeping. A JAMA study reported the diseases with the largest number of years lived with disability in 2010 were low back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders including neck pain.
Diet Fixes: Eat more foods that can help ease muscle pain like Indian foods that have superpower spice turmeric. If magnesium is low in the body, it can cause muscle aches and pains so be sure to eat plenty of pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, black beans, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, cocoa powder, Swiss chard and spinach. Staying hydrated is also important.
Relief Remedies: Arnica montana (which is Latin for Mountain daisy) is one of the most popular homeopathic medicines. For all-over aches, it can be taken orally in the form of pellets that dissolve under the tongue. For spot relief, a topical gel or cream such as Arnicare helps muscle pain and stiffness. The active ingredient found in Arnicare can also relieve swelling from injuries and reduce discoloration from bruises (one of its more popular features among women); and unlike menthol rubs, Arnicare’s topicals are odorless.
Lifestyle Changes: Warm baths or showers can help relax muscles. Add Epsom salts to a hot bath for an added benefit. Gentle stretching can help along with and keeping the muscles strong and conditioned to meet the demands of the day.
Damage to the joints from disease or injury can cause pain in the form of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, gout, strains, sprains and other injuries. Joint pain can affect any part of your body but knee pain is the most common complaint. In one national study, one-third of all adults reported having joint pain within the past 30 days. Age and injuries increase your risk.
Changes that help relieve joint pain include:
Diet Fixes: Limit foods that trigger joint pain to reduce inflammation including processed foods; dairy products; sodas, sugars and refined carbohydrates (gluten sensitivities); and salty foods.
Relief Remedies: Since natural glucosamine levels drop as you age, supplementing with it helps keep the cartilage in joints healthy. Check your vitamin D levels to see if you need to supplement with more D. Research shows that people with low levels of vitamin D may have more joint pain.
Lifestyle Changes: Weight loss is highly effective because every pound you lose equals four pounds less pressure on your knees. Practicing good posture and strengthening the muscles around the joints to support the joints, as well as low-impact exercise can help reduce pain and contribute to weight loss.
Pain to the head can come in the form of migraines, tension-type and cluster headaches. Frequent headaches can affect relationships, employment and put you at risk of depression. Causes of headaches can be a result of poor posture, sleep deprivation, stress, side effects of medications, dehydration, common colds, hormonal changes and digestive issues. About half of all adults have a headache in a given year.
Changes that help relieve head pain include:
Diet Fixes: Stick with a plant-based diet and avoid foods that increase frequency and severity of headaches including dairy, chocolate, aged cheeses, meats with nitrates, foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG), and alcohol (especially red wine).
Relief Remedies: Feverfew, an herb derived from a bushy aromatic Eurasian plant of the daisy family with feathery leaves and daisy-like flowers, is frequently used in herbal medicine to treat headaches. Lavender and peppermint oils along with do-it-yourself scalp massage can work for migraine and tension headache pain.
Lifestyle Changes: Osteopathic manipulation treatment is helpful along with a gentle walking program, meditation and setting a routine sleep schedule while also limiting screen time.