Natural Pain Relief - Nature & Health March 2015
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Natural Pain Relief - Nature & Health March 2015
Feature Special report
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We live in a fortunate age where we have easy
access to pain-relieving pills; however, they do
have side effects. Naturopath Tania Flack
explores safer alternatives.
opping a tablet for a headache or
period pain is so commonplace
we don’t really think about it;
after all, pain medication is safe,
right? Common pain medication
may be safe when taken as directed; however,
they can have harmful effects on the body. For
example, paracetamol directly depletes the
action of glutathione in the liver and can cause
liver damage when taken in high doses.
Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen
can cause significant disruption to the delicate
lining of the digestive tract, while stronger
over-the-counter pain medications containing
codeine are also often misused, some people
may even develop a physical dependence,
due to its opiate-like effects.
Pain comes in many guises: the continuous
ache of arthritis, the low-grade throb of a dull
headache, or the cramping pain that some
women experience with their period.
Obviously the best way to address pain is to
try to address its cause, but this can take time
or may just not be possible, as in the case of
chronic degenerative conditions. Natural
medicines can provide relief for acute pain and
can be used to help manage chronic pain.
Sprains and strains
Whether it’s a twisted ankle, a sporting
injury or you’ve knocked your shin on the
car bumper bar, sprains, strains and bruises
are common injuries that fall into the
category of acute pain. First aid for these
types of injuries should always start with
rest, ice, compression, and elevation. These
all minimise inflammation and pain and
allow the body to begin the repair process.
Ice numbs the pain, however, so never apply
ice directly from the freezer to the skin -
always wrap it in a damp cloth to prevent
ice burn. Once this has been done use these
options to reduce pain and speed healing.
Arnica: This herbal remedy has been used
through the ages to treat swelling, bruising,
and inflammation. Research shows that it
selectively inhibits inflammatory mediators.
It can be taken orally as a homeopathic or
used in a topical cream applied directly to
the bruise. Clinical trials show that using the
homeopathic and topical preparations
together significantly reduces pain.
VitaminCandbioflavonoids: Vitamin C and
bioflavonoids, such as quercetin and bromelain,
are nutrients found in citrus fruit and pineapple.
They have significant anti-inflammatory
properties and, when taken together, help to
mop up inflammation, reduce pain, and
promote healing in soft tissue.
This is a common problem and can be due
to postural imbalance, muscle strain or an
underlying structural problem. If
backache is a regular occurrence, it must
be assessed by a practitioner specialising
in spinal health.
Spinal care: Although it’s hard to group
three distinctly different modalities
together, it is safe to say that osteopathy,
physiotherapy, and chiropractic care are all
excellent therapies for backache. Gently
manipulating the spine and mobilising soft
tissues can be the fastest way to get relief.
This type of care also provides the benefit
of thorough assessment, which can prevent
further pain and injury.
decrease in reported
acute back pain by
patients who regularly
used comfrey cream.
Paracetamol, the most widely used over-the-counter pain
medication in Australia, is responsible for more overdose-
related hospital admissions than any other drug.
acting on opioid pathways. St John’s wort
may interfere with some medications, so it
should be professionally prescribed.
Acupuncture: One of the oldest treatments
known to man, acupuncture is suitable for
many types of pain, including nerve pain.
Like acupressure, acupuncture stimulates
the flow of qi, or life force, rebalancing the
body and changing our perception of pain.
It stimulates endorphin release and is so
effective people have even used it to
undergo minor medical procedures.
This can be a common occurrence for
some women, especially in teenage girls,
perimenopausal women and any
woman suffering from endometriosis.
Homeopathy: There are several
excellent remedies: Caulophyllum is
useful for spasmodic, labour-like pains;
Cimicifuga is prescribed for sharp pain;
Belladonna can be used for congested
heavy pain, which starts before the
period; and Pulsatilla and Sepia can help
to regulate the cycle. A qualified
practitioner will prescribe the most
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Massage: The healing touch of a remedial
massage therapist can provide significant
pain relief, particularly in the case of
muscle tension. Massage relieves pain by
increasing blood flow, reducing congestion
in soft tissue, and releasing muscle tension.
Yoga and Pilates: While yoga and Pilates
may not be the ideal therapy for acute back
pain, there is no question that, under the
supervision of a qualified instructor, both
forms of movement can relieve chronic back
pain and help to prevent recurrence.
Comfrey: Once known as ‘boneset’, comfrey
has been traditionally used to ease pain and
promote healing. It contains a compound
that simultaneously stimulates tissue repair
and decreases inflammation. Several clinical
trials have investigated its effects: in one
study, it was reported to be as effective as
Voltaren (Diclofenac) gel for
Meditation: Meditation, mindfulness and
relaxation techniques can be used by anyone
to help control pain and are especially
useful for treating and preventing headaches
and migraine. Meditation alters our
perception of pain and can significantly
decrease stress hormones and inflammatory
mediators that contribute to pain. Plus, once
you learn it, you can meditate anywhere, so
you’ll have a pain-relieving technique to
employ at the first sign of a headache.
Local anaesthetic is without a doubt a
blessing when it comes to undergoing
invasive dental procedures. However, that
nagging pain that you may experience while
waiting for your next dental appointment
can be significantly relieved with some
simple natural medicine strategies.
Ginger tea: This is one of the most effective
pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory herbs
we have, due to its effects on prostaglandin
release. Gently swirl the warm tea around
the mouth and across the affected area, and
pain will slowly start to ease. Keep sipping
the tea until pain is manageable. This is
also an excellent treatment for the pain of a
sore throat or sinus infection.
Clove oil: This old-fashioned remedy was once
all that we had to relieve toothache and it still
stands the test of time. Cloves contain eugenol,
which has proven analgesic and antiseptic
properties. A few drops of clove oil applied to
the affected area can relieve pain. If you don’t
have the oil handy, you could make clove tea.
Lightly crush whole cloves and add hot water,
allow it to steep for seven minutes, and then
swirl gently around your mouth.
Nerve pain can be excruciating, and it doesn’t
necessarily respond well to standard pain
medication. Nerve pain usually follows a
defined path across the body, be it the shooting
pain down the legs caused by sciatica or the
constant irritating pain around the side of the
body or face caused by an attack of shingles.
St John’s wort: Probably best known for its
antidepressant effects; however its effects on
the nervous system are more far-reaching.
Specialised compounds, namely hypericin
and hyperforin, provide relief from nerve
pain due to anti-inflammatory and direct
analgesic effect on the nervous system,
Ease the ache
Arthritis affects 3.85 million Australians and is one of the
leading causes of disability and chronic pain. Pain,
inflammation, and joint degeneration caused by arthritis
can lead to loss of mobility and a significant decrease in
quality of life, so managing pain and inflammation is crucial.
Natural medicine can be used alongside standard pain relief
medication under professional supervision if needed.
Fish oils: Omega-3 essential fatty acids are renowned for
their anti-inflammatory effects. Fish oils contain two main
constituents, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). EPA is the major anti-
inflammatory constituent and directly down-regulates
inflammation. Fish oils have been shown in clinical trials to
reduce pain, increase mobility and decrease the duration of
morning stiffness associated with arthritis. While it is
important to eat fresh fish, arthritis sufferers also need to
supplement; Arthritis Australia recommends 2.7 grams of fish
oil (containing both EPA and DHA) to manage the pain and
inflammation of arthritis.
Turmeric: Considered a sacred spice throughout Asia,
turmeric is used widely for culinary, medicinal and religious
purposes, and with good reason! The major therapeutic
constituents, curcuminoids, have remarkable health benefits
including potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Animal studies confirm turmeric is more effective than some
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and has direct
anti-arthritic effects. Professionally prescribed, high dose
turmeric supplements can be useful in
managing arthritic pain. Adding turmeric
to the daily diet will also down-regulate
Anti-inflammatory herbs: There are
a wealth of powerful anti-inflammatory
and pain-relieving herbal medicines
containing compounds that down-regulate
inflammatory pathways in the body, so relieving
pain and reducing joint damage. They include
boswellia, cat’s claw, willow bark and devil’s
claw. Herbal medicines should be
professionally prescribed for the individual.
Tai chi: Moving is often the last thing
arthritis sufferers feel like doing; pain,
stiffness and joint restriction can cause
them to avoid exercise. However,
controlled movement can make a big
impact on the level of pain experienced.
Tai chi is a gentle form of exercise based
on martial arts principles that involves
flowing movements which stimulate the
movement of qi, or life force, around the body. This
promotes relaxation, stimulates blood flow, releases
endorphins and helps maintain strength and flexibility.
Regular tai chi has been shown to help manage chronic
Tania’s pain-relieving tea
Take one large thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger. Grate it finely,
place it in a pot and pour over 500ml of boiling filtered water.
Steep for seven minutes. Sip tea until the pain starts to subside.
Feature Special report
Whether it’s the dull throb of a tension
headache or the blinding pain of a
migraine, headaches are a common reason
why people reach for pain medication.
Sufferers of regular headaches and
migraines often have a high intake of
painkillers, which over time may have a
negative effect on their health. There are
several effective natural remedies that can
help to relieve and prevent headaches.
Magnesium: Sometimes described as ‘the
miracle mineral’, this has significant
benefits for headache sufferers. Changes
in blood vessel diameter in the brain
cause the throbbing associated with
migraine and headache; magnesium helps
to control this while relaxing the muscles
around the head and neck. Magnesium
deficiency contributes to headaches and
migraines, and studies show that migraine
sufferers have low brain levels of
magnesium during an attack. Chronic
migraine sufferers who take regular
magnesium supplements can reduce the
frequency of attacks by 41 percent.
Acupressure: This ancient technique uses
gentle pressure applied to specific points,
which stimulate the release of the body’s
natural pain relieving neurochemicals,
endorphins (see box on top left of this
page “Acupressure points for headaches”).
Studies show that regular acupressure
provided better relief for headaches than
regular muscle relaxant medication.
Bonus: you can do it yourself at the onset
of a headache to control symptoms.
Lavender: Who doesn’t love the scent of
fresh lavender? Lavender essential oil has a
soothing effect on the nervous system and
is ideal for treating tension headaches.
Studies confirm its analgesic and anti-
inflammatory properties. A cloth dipped
into cool water with a few drops of
essential oil can be applied to the forehead
to help relieve headaches.
Tania Flack is a leading naturopath and
nutritionist with a special interest in hormonal
and reproductive health and immune system