What is your first thought when you wake up with a headache, have cramps, muscle stiffness or joint soreness, or even prepare for a run (or walk)? If you said Ibuprofen, you’re like most everyone else. One of the hardest things to break is a habit. One of those learned habits is turning to something like Ibuprofen to help alleviate the onset of most any sort of pain. However, there are a multitude of natural options that may give you pain relief or at the least, help you better manage pain so you can live each day to the fullest. I’ll share 13 natural pain management and relief remedies that you can start using today.
1. Do more yoga
Yoga has been found to help relieve chronic pain, back pain, migraines, and other causes of pain. Even in as little as 10-20 minutes a day! How? One study concluded that it was the mind-body connection that can be achieved through yoga. Yoga and meditation have been found to preserve white matter (white=good) in our brains, while decreasing the development of gray matter (gray=not good). In addition, yoga increases flexibility which can release muscle tightness and improve overall range of motion.
Fasting means not eating for an extended period of time. For some that may mean 10-12 hours, for others it can mean days. I try to intermittently fast every day, or at least 6 days of the week, by not eating for 12 consecutive hours. It sounds intense, but really it’s quite easy when done overnight during sleep. For example, try to stop eating around 7 pm and don’t eat again until 7 am the next day.
Fasting also enables a “cell cleanup” in our body, essentially cleaning up any bad cell/cell damage in our bodies. That cell damage=inflammation, and fasting helps with the recovery and rejuvenation in general.
3. Take a walk
A brisk walk has shown to relieve pain. Not only does it loosen the hips and cause our bodies to naturally release serotonin (which makes us feel happier), it also allows our legs, including our hip flexors to stretch out a bit.
Collagen has shown effective in pain management when taking 1200/mg per day over a 6 month period. The individuals in this study demonstrated a reduction of pain by 51%! I add collagen powder (this one is one my favorite collagen powders) directly to my coffee, blend it in with my shakes, or even add it to my keto cereal recipe.
Magnesium is one of the not-so-known-about gems in the world. Not only can it be used for pain relief, it helps promote calmness, reduce anxiety, improve bone and nerve function, support weight loss, improve muscle recovery, and has even found to reduce heart attacks. As an adult, I take 250-500 mg per day. It can also be found in lentils, leafy green vegetables, and beans.
6. Cold therapy (Cryotherapy)
Cold therapy, or cryotherapy, reduces blood flow to parts of the body that are being treated with cold, thus reducing inflammation (and lowering pain). Cold therapy should be used in spurts, for only short periods of time (10-15 minutes on, 10-15 minutes off, etc). Cold therapy works by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, and provides your body with a positive, beneficial “stresser”, the type that provides growth and benefit. People with poor circulation should not use cold therapy.
There are different methods of cold therapy…anything from a simple ice pack to an ice bath. You can even start during your normal shower routine by running cold water for 20 seconds, warm water for 20 seconds and repeat. Cold therapy has also been found to beneficial for weight loss.
Eating a diet low in inflammation-causing foods, and high in sulfuric foods is beneficial. See tips on food choices here. In addition, sulfur-rich foods like roasted broccoli, olive oil, avocado, and walnuts are excellent sources to reduce inflammation, thus reducing pain.
8. Foam Roll
Foam rolling is a form of deep tissue massage, and is a great, “free” alternative to getting an actual massage. It’s something I love, but often procrastinate doing each day and it typically hardly ever happens. When you first start out foam rolling, it can feel quite intense, but it really does make a difference preventing pain. For example, I experience knee pain from running and lifting weights, etc. I foam roll my shins and Achilles areas prior to long runs and it prevents some pretty severe pain that sets in around mile 3 (that occurs when I don’t pre-foam roll). Typically, it’s advised to foam roll after exercise, but I have found this 3-5 minute regimen very beneficial to my runs.
Foam rolling decreases inflammation, which in turn reduces pain. One study even found that people suffering from fibromyalgia received pain relief from foam rolling for 20 weeks. There are also specific foam rolling exercises for back pain, for example placing the foam roller vertically along your spine and gently moving/rolling side to side just to each side of spine, which is reported to relieve back pain.
This article discusses the various types of foam rollers, which is important to think about when deciding which one is right for your needs.
According to Nutritionfacts.org, a mere 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger a day can help alleviate pain, similar to the relief you may get from taking NSAIDS. Ginger has phytochemicals that help alleviate pain from menstrual cramps, migraines, and even osteoarthritis. In addition, it also reduces our feeling of hunger so we may eat less (if you are looking to lose weight).
You do need to continue ingesting 1/4 teaspoon or so of ginger each day, as it builds up over time (studies show benefits in pain reduction when used for 6 consecutive weeks). Plus, you don’t get the stomach, kidney, or liver issues you do when taking NSAIDS. In actuality, ginger helps improve the lining of the stomach! Eat fresh or powdered ginger and easily add to smoothies or teas. Try my delicious Turmeric Ginger Tea recipe and get the benefits of Turmeric, Ginger, and other amazing ingredients.
Turmeric has phytochemicals that help alleviate pain from menstrual cramps, headaches and even osteoarthritis. Try my delicious Turmeric Ginger Tea recipe and get the benefits of Turmeric, Ginger, and other amazing ingredients.
CBD, or cannabidiol, although controversial, has provided pain relief, among other benefits, to many suffering from stress, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and a variety of other issues (including seizures, epilepsy, and schizophrenia). If you are looking into CBD use, please do your homework and do not buy online. Ask lots of questions and research the type of CBD you are interested in trying to relieve your pain or other ailment.
This may sound crazy, but more studies have shown that earthing (aka “grounding“), also known as standing barefoot on the grass, dirt, or concrete, can greatly reduce inflammation. Yep–just standing there for 20 minutes-1 hour charges your body with the Earth’s negative ions (which are good things) that our bodies currently lack. Furthermore, earthing proves positive for reducing pain and lowering stress.
13. Essential Oils
Peppermint essential oil in a roller ball applicator is one of my go-to pain management strategies, especially for my neck pain and headaches. Here I share my favorite essential oil recipes.
Why Ibuprofen isn’t the answer
In my recent post, “5+ Easy Habits to Stop Inflammation from Killing You“, I shared why Aspirin (Ibuprofen) and other non steroidal anti inflammatory (NSAIDS) medicines aren’t your best option for helping to relieve pain. Why? NSAIDS actually do the opposite of what you want them to do in regard to pain management. Not only can they cause intestinal irritation, stroke, and heart attack (even upon early use, with exception to aspirin), they can also cause joint and and bone issues. Furthermore, NSAIDS don’t help stop inflammation to the joints, which is likely the culprit of pain. To get to the root of the problem, which could be inflammation, it’s wise to pinpoint specific treatments that reduce inflammation, which I discuss below.
Inflammation can be the likely culprit of many ailments (even linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes!). In this recent posting, I share 5 tips to incorporate into your day that can reduce inflammation in your whole body, including dietary suggestions, exercise tips, grounding, and other factors that can help reduce the likelihood of suffering from inflammation.
Furthermore, NSAIDS like Ibuprofen may feel like they’re working for you but they’re not doing anything to help with the actual cell repair. Rather, they are masking the pain, which may actually do more damage when you’re popping them to “push through the pain”.
Another study showed that, while using NSAIDS, the body has decreased ability to regulate sodium and electrolytes during exercise, which is incredibly dangerous, especially when exercising in high heat since there’s already high amounts of stress put on the kidneys.
Finding the right balance of pain relief options is unique to you and your lifestyle and body. What may work for others may not work for you. Try adding one of these methods today to take a step closer to managing and possibly relieving your pain! Please consult your physician before changing your normal regimen of activity and intake.