Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn) can help reduce back pain. Acetaminophen (Actamin, Panadol, Tylenol) is another over-the-counter option for pain management. Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist about any interactions over-the-counter pain relievers may have with other medications you are taking. People with a history of certain medical conditions (such as ulcers, kidney disease, and liver disease) should avoid some medicines.
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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.
Massage. Various forms of body work can provide temporary pain relief. You can try full-body Swedish massage for  stress relief and relaxation; deep-tissue massage, which uses pressure and slow strokes on deeper muscle tissue to release knots and relieve tension; or myofascial release, which uses long, stretching strokes to relieve tension around the connective tissue of the muscles.
Did you know that the sensation of pain actually originates in your brain? Fortunately, we can actively alter the way our brain evaluates painful stimuli, helping to increase our pain tolerance and decrease painful symptoms.[12,13] Several techniques that aim to take more control over our minds and that relax the body can work wonders for pain control. Here are a few good examples:
Nearly everyone suffers from some type of back pain at some point in their lives. But no matter when it appears or what may have caused it, back pain can be a real, well … pain to deal with. The good news? There are several simple things you can do to ease pain and keep your back in good condition. The following tips can help you get on the way toward feeling better.
As I write in this month’s Harvard Men’s Health Watch, these so-called topical analgesics work best for more superficial joints like the knees, ankles, feet, elbows, and hands. “In those areas, the medication can penetrate closer to the joint,” says Dr. Rosalyn Nguyen, a clinical instructor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.
The original Aspirin, white willow bark contains salicin which, in the stomach, converts to salicylic acid—the primary component of Aspirin. Synthetically, it can irritate the stomach, but naturally through white willow bark, it is effective in relieving pain, inflammation and fever. The recommended dose is 1 to 2 dropperfuls of white willow bark tincture daily.
For natural headache relief, two essential oils team up for natural pain relief. Peppermint oil improves circulation and lavender reduces muscle tension — two ways to quickly stop a headache in its tracks. Try placing a few drops of peppermint or lavender oil into your hands and then rubbing the blend on your forehead, temples and back of neck. You can also dilute a few drops down by mixing the essential oils with almond, grapeseed or coconut oil.
SAMe is one of the natural chemicals made within the body that science has been able to duplicate in a lab, and make into a supplement. Studies have shown SAMe supplementation to be comparable to the pain-relieving effects of Celebrex by the second month of taking the product, without the side effects. The SAMe chemical has a role in pain, depression, liver disease and has been shown effective when used for relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, bursitis, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), migraine headache, depression and more, making it a great natural remedy for inflammation.
Note: The cream is hot to your skin and should be used with caution. The heat comes from capsicum (capsicum annuum) oleoresin a hot pepper. Try a small amount the first time at your inside wrist and wait a half hour to see how it feels. Do not bathe or shower after putting it on because that will only make you feel hotter. Let your body cool down first. Never put the cream near your eyes or mucous membranes such at the lower nose. Do not use on your private area. Wash your hands after you have rubbed the cream into your skin.
A 2008 study published in the journal Spine found "strong evidence that acupuncture can be a useful supplement to other forms of conventional therapy" for low back pain. After analyzing 23 clinical trials with a total of 6,359 patients, the study authors also found "moderate evidence that acupuncture is more effective than no treatment" in relief of back pain.
Research suggests that topical medications may be just as effective as oral ones. Many of them worked significantly better than placebo. These medications can come in the form of gels, creams, patches, and more. One study also saw decrease in pain when people applied lavender essential oil or ointments prepared with cayenne peppers with acupressure.
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.
As I write in this month’s Harvard Men’s Health Watch, these so-called topical analgesics work best for more superficial joints like the knees, ankles, feet, elbows, and hands. “In those areas, the medication can penetrate closer to the joint,” says Dr. Rosalyn Nguyen, a clinical instructor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.

Omega-3 EFA, found in fish oil, can directly reduce the degenerative enzymes, aggrecanase and matrix metalloproteinase, as well as IL-1, TNF-α, and COX-2, to reduce the inflammation in synovial cartilage. A recent study of 250 patients with cervical and lumbar disc disease, who were taking NSAIDs, revealed that 59% could substitute fish oil supplements as a natural anti-inflammatory agent for the NSAIDs.[71] The recommended dosage is a total of 1.5–5g of EPA and DHA per day, taken with meals.


Diclofenac is an extremely popular drug — again, we’re talking oral here — and it is associated with serious cardiovascular risks: “There is increasing regulatory concern about diclofenac. … Diclofenac has no advantage in terms of gastrointestinal safety and it has a clear cardiovascular disadvantage.”14 This has been in the news quite a bit, and NPR had a hit in 2013 with this headline: “World's Most Popular Painkiller Raises Heart Attack Risk.”
A type of enzyme extracted from pineapple stems, bromelain reduces levels of prostaglandins, which are hormones that induce inflammation. Bromelain may benefit people with arthritis and conditions associated with musculoskeletal tension (such as TMJ syndrome), as well as those suffering trauma-related inflammation. What's more, the enzyme may promote healing in muscles and connective tissues.
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