Topical anti-inflammatories work in the same way but, instead of having an effect on all of the body, they only work on the area to which you have applied them. When they are applied they are taken into (absorbed into) your skin. They then move deeper into areas of the body where there is inflammation (for example, your muscle). They relieve pain and reduce swelling affecting joints and muscles when rubbed into the skin over the affected area. Using a topical preparation means that the total amount of anti-inflammatory in your body is very low. This in turn means that you are much less likely to have a side-effect to this medicine.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) machines are small, battery-powered devices that transmit low-voltage electrical currents through electrodes that are attached to your skin. Considered very safe, TENS machines, according to one theory, work by scrambling the message of pain to the brain — literally blocking it. Another theory suggests that the electrical impulses cause a release of endorphins that override the sensation of pain. Many back pain patients have had success with TENS machines, though their effectiveness has not been clearly proven in controlled studies. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if this therapy might be right for you.


I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter.
Reduce the inflammation that's contributing to your pain. It may seem obvious but it bears repeating; inflammation is a contributor to most forms of chronic pain, and reducing the inflammation will help reduce your pain. A simple way to address inflammation is to regularly apply a cold pack or ice to the local area of pain. Ice also helps by acting as a local anesthetic and by slowing nerve impulses, which in turn can interrupts the pain signals generated in the affected area.
People who used an ointment that contains this plant-based extract for 5 days reduced the intensity of lower back pain by 95%, according to a 2009 study conducted by Merck (which manufactures the ointment). In comparison, a placebo group had a 38% reduction in pain during that same time, according to the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Look for comfrey root ointment in health food stores or online. Just don't use it for more than 10 days at a time—it can be toxic.
To avoid unwanted weight gain, consuming inflammatory ingredients or complications due to nutrient deficiencies, reduce or eliminate the following foods: added sugar, sweetened beverages or snacks, refined vegetable oils, refined grain products, too much alcohol and tobacco products (smoking impairs blood flow and adds to nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues).
The most common cause of anemia is not getting enough iron in your diet but luckily, iron deficiencies are treatable. With an iron supplement for anemia, you can build your body’s iron levels and raise its red blood cell production over time. Not only can it relieve short-term symptoms like dizziness or lethargy, but the right iron supplement can treat anemia and prevent your body from developing it in the future.
While most people are only looking to relieve the immediate symptoms of the pain, this will only provide temporary relief.  Addressing the underlying mental/emotional, chemical and physical stressors that are causing the chronic inflammation and pain is the ultimate goal.  This process takes time and deep introspection along with trusted holistic health care providers.
Meditation and mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation, which focuses on awareness of the present moment, can reduce the way we perceive pain. In one study, only four days of training led to a 40% reduction in pain rating and a 57% reduction in pain-unpleasantness.[14] This kind of meditation can help you to control back pain, fibromyalgia, and migraines. Read more about meditation and mindfulness for pain control here.
Pain is a leading cause of insomnia—difficulty with falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Approximately two-thirds of people with chronic back pain suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Paradoxically, inadequate sleep can make your back pain worse. This vicious cycle makes it ineffective to treat just the pain. If you have sleep problems, you need to get the sleep problems addressed too.
Although it is fine to try these herbs while also taking a prescription arthritis or pain medication, if you go that route, Dr. Teitelbaum suggests using both the herb and medication for six weeks to reach the full effect of the herb. Then try tapering off the conventional pain medication to see if the herb alone can do the trick. Skip turmeric if you have gallstones.
Hi Carol, Sorry to hear you are in such pain. Hopefully the results of the x-ray will show a way forward to solve the problem. You may benefit from physiotherapy to prevent frozen shoulder, or gentle chiropractic manipulation to correct misalignments of tiny joints – this certainly helped my other half who experienced a similar problem. A topical treatment containing capsaicin may help by damping down nerve generated pain. Magnetic therapy and using a heatlamp are other non-drug approaches which have been shown to improve circulation and boost healing of shoulder problems. Anti-inflammatories such as omega-3, turmeric or rosehip are other options. I hope you feel more comfortable soon. Best wishes, Sarah B
Arnica, also commonly known as mountain tobacco, is a plant that is defined as an ideal medicinal plant for “individuals who have suffered a significant fall or have injured themselves at work” in botanical texts dating as far back as the 17th century. It has many qualities from a topical perspective. First and foremost, it provides rapid relief from discomfort in the joints (including knees, elbows, shoulders and hands) and in individuals who suffer from arthrosis and live with chronic pain, and also for muscle cramps, blows, bumps, rheumatism, sprains, frostbite, etc. So what is the reason for this? As it happens, it causes an immediate calm in bruises from bumps and contusions thanks to localised reactivation of blood vessel circulation which reduces inflammation.
Not as popular as many other essential oils, arnica oil belongs in every medicine cabinet. Considered generally safe for topical use, arnica oil used on the skin helps ease inflammatory pain associated with insect bites, bruises and even arthritis flare-ups. (5, 6) To treat bruises, applying arnica oil twice daily (as long as the skin is not broken) helps reduce bruising inflammation even better than low-concentration vitamin K formulations. (3)

Schematic showing another inflammatory pathway that is activated by tissue injury. This is the NF-kB activation, in which once the protein is free as a result of tissue injury, it can enter the cell nucleus and activate the DNA to enhance the inflammatory response further by the production of additional cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules (IKKB = IkB kinase)


Capsaicin creams are another topical option for pain relief. These contain the active component in chili peppers that cause a burning sensation. I know its sounds like this would cause more pain, but in fact the low levels of capsaicin in these creams block pain by temporarily depleting the nerves of certain chemicals that transmit pain impulses. Application of this cream three times daily was shown to significantly improve pain scores for fibromyalgia in one study done in Spain.

You are older than 65. “A lot of elderly patients can’t take oral NSAIDs because they have stomach or heart risk factors, and they can’t take narcotic analgesics because they could become so drowsy they could fall and break a bone,” says Roy D. Altman, MD, professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology and immunology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
A combination of Boswellia and curcumin showed superior efficacy and tolerability compared with nonsteroidal diclofenac for treating active osteoarthritis. Boswellia typically is given as an extract standardized to contain 30-40% boswellic acids (300-500 mg two or three times/day). Boswellia has been well tolerated in most studies, although some people may experience stomach discomfort, including nausea, acid reflux, or diarrhea.[1–10,42,48,56,62,103,104]

Are you in pain? You don’t have to reach for over-the -counter pain killers, or even the heavy pharmaceutical hitters prescribed by your doctor; there are literally hundreds of natural pain killers waiting for you in the abundance of nature. You can count on plants and herbs to alleviate everything from arthritis pain, to headaches, to burns – read on to find out more.
Vitamins are essential to health. Every natural thing that you eat contains the vitamins needed for growth, repair, bone density, pH balance and hormone regulation. The problem is that many people don’t have access to organic whole foods, so vitamin supplementation is important. When suffering from inflammation, pain and arthritis, the following vitamins may help.
Biofeedback. You can learn to control your body’s responses to pain triggers. In biofeedback, through sensors connected to your body, a machine will show how thoughts and actions can affect your autonomic nervous system. This controls the heart, lungs, stomach and intestines, as well as the release of stress hormones. Learning how to control breathing and heart rate will allow you to control other physical reactions, such as pain.
Turmeric. This spice has been used to relieve arthritis pain and heartburn, and to reduce inflammation. It's unclear how turmeric works against pain or inflammation, but its activity may be due to a chemical called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is usually safe to use, but high doses or long-term use may cause indigestion. Also, people with gallbladder disease should avoid using turmeric.
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