Natural pain relief - no pills required

Experiencing acute or chronic pain? Before you pop your next painkiller, consider trying one of these natural ways to take the edge off

What do green apples, looking at photos and swearing have in common? They’re surprisingly effective at easing aches and pains, discovers Erin Kisby.

We need to feel pain – it protects us. It’s the body's way of letting us know that what we are doing is harmful, or a warning to seek help. Generally, acute (short-term) pain is experienced after an accident or injury and once you’ve healed, your pain disappears.

However, an estimated one in five Aussies experience persistent, long-term, chronic pain, according to the University of Sydney's Pain Management Research Institute. Whether you’re experiencing acute or chronic pain, relief is at hand. But before you pop your next painkiller, consider trying one of these natural ways to take the edge off.

1. Enjoy the sun
Do you love the feeling of sunshine warming your skin? Here’s a good reason to savour that feeling: soaking up the sun’s rays and getting a healthy dose of vitamin D may help protect you against pain, according to a Mayo Clinic study of chronic pain sufferers.

2. Inhale the aroma of green apples
Certain fragrances, such as the scent of green apples may reduce the severity of a migraine, found Dr Alan Hirsch of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. “The scent seems to reduce muscle contractions, which are the main cause of pain in migraines,” says Dr Hirsch. He suggests eating a green apple or burning a candle with a similar scent if you feel a headache coming on.

3. Look at photos of your loved one 
It’s old news that being in love makes you feel great. What is surprising, though, is simply looking at a picture of your sweetheart can significantly dull activity in the pain-processing areas of the brain, to the same degree as painkillers or illicit drugs, according to a study from Stanford University.

4. Practise Tai Chi 
According to the Tai Chi for Health Institute, performing tai chi may help ease pain by increasing muscular strength, which helps protect joints and improves flexibility, thus allowing for better blood and joint fluid circulation. What’s more, tai chi is a mind body exercise, which improves the serenity and relaxation of your mind, further reducing pain and stress.

5. Make time for meditation 
Managing pain may be a case of mind over matter. Research from the University of North Carolina found that just a single hour of simple mindfulness meditation training spread over three days may have a positive effect on pain management. Researchers suggest meditation may work to manage pain as mindfulness training may help you acknowledge the pain, realise what it is, but just let it go, helping you bring your attention back to the present. 

6. Give acupuncture a go
New research may have discovered how acupuncture can relieve everything from migraines to sciatica. Using brain imaging, a University of Michigan study revealed acupuncture works by affecting specific receptors in the brain that help process and suppress pain signals. Better still, if you’re taking pain medication, the study also found that after receiving acupuncture you may be more responsive to your medicine, which means it may help you reduce the amount of pain medication required.
7. Go ahead and swear
Researchers from Keele University believe swearing has a pain reducing effect because it triggers the body's natural fight-or-flight response.

8. Sip a coffee 
Overdone it at the gym? Before you skip your next gym session on account of aching muscles, pour yourself a coffee. A University of Georgia study discovered caffeine – equivalent to two cups of coffee – may cut post workout pain by nearly 50 per cent. However, the researchers recommend you use caution when drinking caffeine before a workout. For some, too much caffeine can produce side effects such as jitteriness, heart palpitations and sleep disturbances.

9. Add olive oil to your diet
Extra virgin olive oil, a key component of the diet, may contain a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent called oleocanthal, claim researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center. This compound works in a similar way to the painkiller ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by inhibiting the enzymes that may cause inflammation, pain and chronic diseases.

10. Listen to music
Music has long been recognised for its ability to influence mood and energy levels, and now it seems if you’re in pain the best thing to do is turn up the volume. That’s because listening to music daily may reduce pain by up to 21 per cent, reports a study cited in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

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The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical treatment or diagnosis. Read our Medical Notice.