Alternative remedies that may help with pain management include:
Heat and/or Cold Therapy - Treating pain with heat and/or cold can be effective for a number of conditions and injuries. The hard part is knowing which conditions call for heat, cold, or a combination of both. Typically, ice is used for acute injuries or pain that are accompanied by inflammation and swelling and heat is used for muscle pain or stiffness. Check with your doctor to determine which regimen is right for your specific situation.
- Cold therapy reduces blood flow to a particular area, which helps to decrease pain and swelling, especially around a tendon or joint. It can also decrease nerve activity temporarily, which can also help to relieve pain. It is recommended to apply an ice pack (or frozen vegetables) wrapped in a towel, for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
- Heat therapy improves circulation and blood flow to a particular area. This can help to soothe discomfort and increase muscle flexibility. It can also relax and soothe muscles and heal damaged tissue. You can use a hot packs, a heat lamp or a heating pad on the lowest setting. Minor stiffness or tension can often be relieved with about 15-20 minutes of therapy, while moderate to severe pain may benefit from longer sessions (30 minutes to two hours).
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Therapy – TENS units deliver mild electric pulses through electrodes placed directly to the site of pain to override pain signals, trigger the release of endorphins and improve blood flow to the area. This therapy is used for back pain, arthritis, sciatica, and sports injuries, among others.
Kinesiology Tape - Some people, usually athletes, choose to wear kinesiology tape during exercise. It is applied directly over and around the borders of an injured muscle group or joint using unique placement techniques. When used correctly, it is believed to help reduce pressure, provide support and prevent over-extension/over-contraction of the muscle, which may decrease discomfort while allowing free range of motion.
Depending on your type of pain (i.e. arthritis, back pain, etc.), alternative supplements may be helpful. It is important to remember that the FDA doesn't regulate supplements; therefore, the dose and purity of these substances can vary. How well these products work and how safe they are isn't well understood. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before adding any of these products to your current therapy.
Some supplements thought to be possibly effective and possibly safe include:
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin are natural compounds found in healthy cartilage—the connective tissue that cushions the joints. These are two of the most commonly used supplements for arthritis.Ɨ
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) taken by mouth either alone or in combination with glucosamine, in two to three divided doses daily, may slightly decrease pain and inflammation and improve function in people with osteoarthritis.Ɨ
- S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM-e) is a molecule formed naturally in the body. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Preliminary evidence also suggests that SAMe may stimulate articular cartilage growth and repair. In studies, it was about as good at relieving osteoarthritis pain as aspirin and similar medications. Most people with arthritis need to take SAMe for about a month before feeling better.Ɨ
- Turmeric is commonly used for conditions involving pain and inflammation. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is a staple of Indian curries and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent in the body. Some research indicates that taking turmeric extracts, either alone or in combination with other ingredients, can decrease pain and improve function in people with knee osteoarthritis.Ɨ
- Arnica seems to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Early research shows that applying arnica gel twice daily for 3 weeks may decrease pain and stiffness and increase function in people with knee or hand osteoarthritis.Ɨ
- Capsaicin depletes the nerve cells of a chemical called substance P that is a pain messenger in the body. These products may temporarily relieve pain from arthritis, simple back pain, and strains and sprains. Please note that it may take up to 14 days to achieve the full analgesic effect.
- CBD (canabidiol) has been shown to relieve pain and inflammation in animal studies, but there are no quality studies in humans to validate these findings. A topical oil, balm, cream or gel that can be applied directly to the site of pain may be helpful. Many remedies also include ingredients such as menthol, camphor, peppermint, eucalyptus and rosemary oils for additional pain relief.Ɨ
Treatments can differ for each individual and depend on the cause and type of pain. Make sure to consult with your physician if:
- home treatments aren't working after a few weeks
- pain is sharp, stabbing and constant
- you experience weakness, numbness or tingling in the affected area or in one or both legs
- pain is accompanied by unexplained weight loss
- you have extreme swelling, bruising, or an obvious deformity
Ɨ These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. Common Sports Injuries. https://familydoctor.org/common-sports-injuries/?adfree=true. Last Updated June 3, 2019. Accessed November 25, 2020.
- Arthritis Foundation. Anti-Inflammatory Diet Do's and Dont’s. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/anti-inflammatory/anti-inflammatory-diet. Accessed December 3, 2020.
- Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation CBD Guidance for Adults with Arthritis. https://www.arthritis.org/advocate/issue-briefs/cbd-guidance-adults-arthritis. Accessed December 17, 2020.
- Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Pain. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-pain/pain-relief-solutions/electrical-nerve-stimulation-for-arthritis-pain. Accessed December 17, 2020.
- Arthritis Foundation. CBD for Arthritis Pain: What You Should Know. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-pain/pain-relief-solutions/cbd-for-arthritis-pain. Accessed December 17, 2020.
- Arthritis Foundation. Popular Supplements for Arthritis: What You Need to Know. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/supplements-and-vitamins/vitamins-supplements-arthritis. Accessed November 25, 2020.
- Athletic Tape Info Center. Kinesiology Tape or Athletic Tape. https://www.athletictapeinfo.com/kinesiology-tape-information/kinesiology-tape-or-athletic-tape/. Accessed December 10, 2020.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis Basics. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/faqs.htm. Last reviewed January 10, 2019. Accessed November 25, 2020.
- Cleveland Clinic. How an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Can Relieve Pain as You Age. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/anti-inflammatory-diet-can-relieve-pain-age/. Written September 27, 2019. Accessed December 3, 2020.
- Clinical Resource, Topicals for Pain Relief. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter. April 2020.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard School of Medicine. Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476. Accessed December 17, 2020.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard School of Medicine. Exercising to relax. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax. Accessed November 25, 2020.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard School of Medicine. Why weight matters when it comes to joint pain. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/why-weight-matters-when-it-comes-to-joint-pain. Accessed December 3, 2020.
- Healthline. Treating Pain with Heat and Cold. https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain/treating-pain-with-heat-and-cold#applying-cold-therapy. Last reviewed February 2, 2017. Accessed January 12, 2021.
- Healthline. Using CBD Oil for Pain Management: Does It Work? https://www.healthline.com/health/cbd-oil-for-pain. Accessed December 17, 2020.
- Healthline. What Causes Chronic Pain? https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain. Accessed November 24, 2020.
- Healthline. What is Pain? https://www.healthline.com/health/dull-pain#definition. Accessed November 24, 2020.
- KT Tape. What is KT Tape? https://www.kttape.com/what-is-kt-tape. Accessed December 10, 2020.
- Mayo Clinic. Lifestyle Strategies for Pain Management. https://www.mayoclinic.org/lifestyle-strategies-for-pain-management/art-20367321. Written October 28, 2017. Accessed November 24, 2020.
- Medical News Today. Can CBD oil relieve arthritis pain? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319796. Accessed December 17, 2020.
- Medline Plus. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Pain. https://medlineplus.gov/pain.html#summary. Accessed November 24, 2020.
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Sprains and Strains. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/sprains-and-strains. Last Reviewed January 2015. Accessed November 25, 2020.
- Omron Healthcare. Pain management. https://omronhealthcare.com/tens-units/how-tens-works. Accessed December 17, 2020.
- Therapeutics Research Center. Effectiveness Checker. Arthritis. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/tools/effectiveness-checker.aspx?q=arthritis&page=2. Accessed December 1, 2020.
- Therapeutics Research Center. Effectiveness Checker. Back Pain. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/tools/effectiveness-checker.aspx?q=back+pain&page=2. Accessed December 1, 2020.