29 August 2019
The Natural Pain Remedies Already at Your Fingertips
While it may be tempting to just pop a paracetamol and get on with your day when you're in pain, sometimes Mother Nature can do just as good a job - if not better.
As anyone that's ever pushed themselves too hard in a workout and lived to regret it will be able to testify, there's nothing more irritating and life-distracting than being in pain. In fact, it's ironic that you never notice how much you don't notice your body, until you can't ignore it. But while it may be tempting to just pop a paracetamol and get on with your day, sometimes Mother Nature can do just as good a job - if not better.
Hands up who’s jumped aboard the turmeric train within the last couple of years? Also known as curcumin, this vibrant yellow plant has been used for centuries as a digestive aid, as well as to enhance wound healing and boost mood. Yet, repeated studies have also shown it to be an effective pain-relief tool, thanks to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. One 2016 study, for example, which looked directly at the impact of turmeric on patients with osteoarthritis concluded that that it led to “improvement in pain, physical function, and quality of life" (1).
You’ve almost certainly heard by now how beneficial the omega 3s found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are for you, helping to protect heart health and improve the condition of hair, skin and nails. However, they also have a significant role to play in the reduction of pain, with studies finding that a supplement can be as effective as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory approaches, including the one you likely usually turn to, ibuprofen (2).
It's estimated that more than half of women of reproductive age experience primary dysmenorrhea – better known as period pain – on a regular basis. Although numerous studies have indicated that ginger may have pain relieving properties, a review of literature that took seven studies in which ginger was the lead treatment for this particular issue found that a dose of 750-2000mg ginger powder during the first four days of the menstrual cycle could be highly beneficial in treating the symptoms (3).
Having needles stuck into your body, no matter how carefully, may not sound like everybody’s cup of tea, but this ancient Chinese medicine works by stimulating the sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles. Already prescribed by the NHS for the treatment of chronic tension-type headaches and migraines, studies on patients with chronic back pain also found that those who receive acupuncture "experienced clinically relevant benefits compared with patients receiving no acupuncture treatment” (4).
A 2011 study from researchers at the University of York, in partnership with Arthritis Research UK, which focused on people’s ability to undertake activities without being limited by back pain, found that those who undertook a specially designed 12-week yoga programme saw greater improvement in their mobility than those offered conventional forms of care (5). It's not only arthritis that yoga can have a difference on, however. Studies conducted in Thailand found that pregnant women prescribed a yoga programme in the weeks leading up to their delivery reported higher levels of maternal comfort during birth than those who did not (6).
1. Chin K. Y. (2016). The spice for joint inflammation: anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in treating osteoarthritis. Drug design, development and therapy, 10, 3029–3042.
2. Maroon JC1, Bost JW. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surg Neurol. 2006 Apr
3. James W. Daily, Xin Zhang, Da Sol Kim, Sunmin Park, Efficacy of Ginger for Alleviating the Symptoms of Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials, Pain Medicine, Volume 16, Issue 12, December 2015
4. Brinkhaus B, Witt CM, Jena S, et al. Acupuncture in Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Intern Med. 2006
6. Songporn Chuntharapat, Wongchan Petpichetchian, Urai Hatthakitc. Yoga during pregnancy: Effects on maternal comfort, labor pain and birth outcomes. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice Volume 14, Issue 2, May 2008.