16 Nov Pain and Pain Treatments, Part 3: At-Home and DIY
We all deal with pain, in one form or another, throughout our lives. Joint aches, headaches, stomach aches — at times, it can feel as though pain comes from everywhere and nowhere at once.
In this, the final part of our mini-series Pain and Pain Treatments, we’ll dive into the at-home DIY methods of treating pain.
Cold and heat
An ice pack or hot compress is an easy way to relieve minor pain. The question is, which one should you use?
Cold therapy narrows blood vessels. This reduces inflammation and swelling and numbs pain. It works best right after an injury or during a flare-up of a painful condition, like gouty arthritis.
Heat therapy works by increasing blood flow to the injured area. This relaxes tight muscles. It comes in two forms: dry heat from a heating pad or pack, or moist heat from a warm wet washcloth or bath. Use heat for pain that’s lasting more than a few weeks.
Apply heat or cold for about 15 minutes at a time, several times a day.
Use caution if you have diabetes or another condition that affects your circulation or ability to feel pain. Here are a few other reasons to avoid hot or cold therapy.
When you’re in pain, you might be tempted to take it easy until the soreness goes away. That’s why doctors used to recommend rest for people in pain. Yet newer research suggests otherwise.
A 2017 review of studies suggests exercise is an effective way to ease pain. It may also improve physical function and quality of life. Moreover, exercise causes only a few side effects, aside from muscle soreness.
Researchers do note many of the studies on exercise for chronic pain are of poor quality, but point out the overall research does suggest physical activity can reduce the severity of pain.
Aerobic exercise also promotes weight loss. This could take some of the strain off painful joints if you have osteoarthritis. Resistance training might help your body heal injured spinal discs. Here are a few of the other ways exercise can help you feel better.
Physical therapy (PT) combines exercise with hands-on manipulation and education. Experts prefer PT over prescription pain pills. This is because it can reduce pain without medication side effects and the potential for addiction.
A physical therapist will work with you to improve your strength and flexibility so you can move more easily. PT sessions can also help relax tight muscles and improve your tolerance to pain.
Some of the painful conditions physical therapy can help with are:
- postsurgical pain
- nerve pain
Yoga combines poses with deep breathing and meditation. It’s been practiced for thousands of years. Yet only recently have researchers begun to discover yoga’s full potential as a health intervention.
In addition to improving strength, balance, and flexibility, yoga improves posture. Better posture can bring relief from many of the aches and pains linked to muscle tension.
Yoga can also relieve pain and improve function in people with chronic conditions like arthritis, back pain, and fibromyalgia.
How exactly it helps with pain isn’t clear. It may work by triggering the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins or by promoting a state of relaxation.
Yoga comes in many styles and intensities. Explore the different practices to see which one is the best fit for you.
Music has the power to move us and transport us back in time. Listening to music could also help relieve pain — in part by reducing stress and helping us cope more effectively with discomfort.
In one small study of people with pain caused by nerve damage, listening to classical (Turkish) music reduced pain scores. The longer participants listened, the more their pain receded.
A 2018 review of more than 90 studies found that listening to music eases anxiety and pain before, during, and after surgery. Listening to music every dayTrusted Source could help people with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia or arthritis feel more comfortable and less anxious.
During a massage, a therapist uses rubbing and pressure to loosen up tight muscles and tendons and help you relax. The practice could help ease aches by blocking pain signals and relieving stress. Massage generally also soothes tight muscles by improving blood flow to them.
Another upside to massage is its lack of side effects. Unless you have a skin rash, certain types of cardiovascular disease, or infection, there are virtually no risks.
Just check with your doctor first if you have any chronic conditions that might make the experience uncomfortable or less recommended. If so, your massage therapist can modify their technique.
Massage therapists use varying amounts of pressure, from light touch to deep muscle massage techniques. Which one you choose depends on your tolerance and personal preference. Learn about some of the most common types of massage used in the United States.
Outlook for pain relief
Chronic pain is a major health issue. It’s one of the most common reasonsTrusted Source why adults see a doctor in the United States. Up to 40 percentTrusted Source of Americans live with chronic pain.
Although some pain-relieving drugs can be addictive, there are a number of nonaddictive medications available today. Work with your doctor to find the best one for you.
There’s also a range of nondrug therapies available to ease chronic pain. Interventions like exercise, massage, and yoga can improve quality of life without causing harmful side effects in the process.