Treating Aches and Pains

No matter how great a shape we’re in, chances are we all will experience minor aches and pains over our lifetime. Strain, arthritis, repetitive stress and plain old aging are all common causes. While most of us simply reach for the painkillers, there are other just as effective ways to treat these common causes of minor pain. Painkillers can cause health problems of their own if not taken properly, but many other methods of treating pain can be used as often as necessary with no side effects or harm.

One very effective remedy is hot and cold therapy. Cold is very effective for immediately soothing pain and reducing swelling. This is why ice packs are recommended immediately after an injury. After 24-48 hours however, heat therapy is preferred. Heat increases blood flow, which speeds healing, and relaxes muscles, easing pain and stiffness. Cold therapy can be provided with ice packs, special wraps, and even a bag of frozen vegetables! Peas are best. You can even make your own pack by filling a sturdy freezer bag with water and 1-2 parts rubbing alcohol, then sealing and freezing. The alcohol will keep the water from freezing completely so the pack will be moldable. When using any ice pack, you should always wrap in in a soft towel or cloth, never apply directly to skin. Ice packs also shouldn’t be used if you have nerve damage resulting in loss of feeling, since you won’t be able to tell if you’re getting too much cold.

For heat therapy it’s much the same. There are a wide variety of heating pads, wraps, and stick on patches that provide heat therapy. Never sleep on a heating pad or use it on areas with open wounds or nerve damage as burns could result. For acute injuries, it’s helpful to alternate heat and cold therapy. Start with an ice pack on the area for 20 minutes, then nothing for 10, then heat for 20, and repeat. This is particularly useful for pain caused by muscle spasms.

Believe it or not, exercise is also an effective pain relief method. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers. Gentle exercise stretches and works muscles, making them stronger, increasing blood flow and speeding healing. Your doctor can instruct you on which exercises are safe to do and which ones would be the most helpful for your specific issue, so follow their advice for best results.