Almost every person with fibromyalgia describes their muscles as tight and full of painful muscle knots called trigger points. After I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia during medical school, I tried many different styles of massage, but got no benefit until I found a specialized technique called myofascial release pioneered by John Barnes, PT. This form of massage therapy involves using very slow but sustained gentle pressure to separate tiny adhesions in the muscle tissue and fascia, and this lessens muscle tension and gently breaks up knots in the connective tissue (to learn more about the vital importance of fascia in fibromyalgia, read my previous blog post). Two European studies found that myofascial release therapy was effective for reducing fibromyalgia pain, and that it gave long-lasting pain relief even at one month and six months after the last session. To find a John Barnes-trained therapist skilled in this technique go to www.mfrtherapists.com.
Zeng C, Wei J, Persson MS, et al. Relative efficacy and safety of topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for osteoarthritis: a systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials and observational studies. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Feb. PubMed #29436380. “Topical NSAIDs were effective and safe for OA. Diclofenac patches may be the most effective topical NSAID for pain relief. No serious gastrointestinal and renal AEs were observed in trials or the general population.” BACK TO TEXT
This herb has been shown to prevent the activation of the transcriptional factor NF-kB and it directly inhibits TNF-α production by up to 65-85%. It inhibits the expression of inducible genes associated with inflammation, specifically negating the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase, and hence attenuates nitrous oxide production. Side effects may include nausea, although it has shown an impressive protective effect on indomethacin-induced enteritis in laboratory studies.
"My go-to muscle soothing product is Topricin Pain Relief Cream ($17; topicrin.com) as it is a combination of 11 homeopathic ingredients proven to be safe for your skin. I typically apply it to my lower back (where I've had trauma) before I go running and again before bed. I'm a believer!" —Kira Stokes, creator of The Stoked Method (Try her 30-day plank challenge to score tighter abs, faster.)
15. Bromelain – This natural pain-reducer comes from the enzymes present in pineapple stems. Research shows that it reduces levels of prostaglandins, which are hormones that induce inflammation. Bromelain may benefit people with arthritis and conditions marked by musculoskeletal tension (like TMJ syndrome), in addition to those suffering trauma-related inflammation. The enzyme also promotes healing in muscles and connective tissues.
It may be tempting to quit exercising when you're suffering from back pain, but it's essential to keep yourself moving. Pilates is one great option. In a 2014 European Journal of Physical Rehabilitation Medicine study, researchers found an improvement in pain, disability, and psychological health in chronic low-back pain patients who took five hourlong Pilates classes a week for six months. Meanwhile, people who remained inactive experienced further worsening of their pain. Similarly, a Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise study revealed that taking either Pilates or a general exercise class twice a week for six weeks both improved pain and quality of life.
"I love Elemental Herbs All Good Herbal Freeze with Arnica ($20; allgoodproducts.com) because the combination of menthol and arnica is incredibly cooling. Also, it's all-natural and super easy to just spray onto my sore areas. I also like Arnica Muscle and Joint Gel by Naturopathica ($28; naturopathica.com), which is a gel. You can rub it in and it really targets the sore muscles and joints." —Holly Rilinger, master Flywheel instructor, creator of LIFTED
Could you find pain relief through a method that focuses on soft tissue manipulation and your psyche? The answer is yes. Rolfing, also known as structural integration, involves soft tissue work and movement education to realign your body’s myofascial structure with gravity. (8) (Think of your body’s fascia as the “netting” that encases your muscles and organs.)
This US-made pain relieving gel comes in a 16-ounce jar, meaning it doesn’t run out fast and is there when you need it. It provides an immediate cooling sensation as soon as it is applied, but it’s what happens next that makes it stand out. The cooling relief intensifies over the next 10 minutes while the ingredients are working together, until it reaches the maximum level of ultra freeze pain relief. This sensation is maintained for the next 30 minutes or more.
“I use Relief cream on every client who comes in with any type of pain, and they all say they absolutely love the fragrance (as do I) and how it feels on their skin—in addition to how well it relieves their pain. It is the ONLY topical pain cream I would even think of using (and having on my hands) all day long, and with its non-irritating ingredients I can do so worry free. I have never had anyone I have used it on or sold it to complain of any type of negative skin reaction to the product, which I find amazing since with most ever other product of its kind you run a significant risk of experiencing secondary skin irritation. As you can imagine I couldn't be happier with Relief's amazing formulation and superior results!” *
I will admit I wasn't a believer. I have torn my knees all up and have had surgery. Surgery fixed the torn meniscus but the pain didn't stop. So I got on the pain pill routine. I hate taking the pills they make me feel fuzzy. A friend recommended Topricin to me. I got some and used it. Within days I noticed I needed less pills. It really does help the pain. I love it IT WORKS! I still have the pills in case it gets really bad but most of the time the pain can be managed by using the cream. I even keep a small tube in my purse just in case I need it. It also helps to show people what I am using. An added benefit is that it doesn't smell.
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Since herbal therapies for pain management have yet to be thoroughly studied, be careful when embarking on this treatment path. Regardless of the herb you try, remember that they're not benign. Research into their safety and efficacy is still limited, and the government doesn't regulate herbal products for quality. The best course is to talk to a health-care professional before testing out a herbal remedy.
The benefits of heat therapy are twofold: it increases the flow of healing oxygen and nutrients to the damaged area, and it suppresses pain signals. Some find that wearing a heat wrap, such as those from ThermaCare, is best because it releases a low level heat for several hours and can be worn under clothes so you can remain mobile. You can also combine the benefits of aromatherapy and a heat by adding an essential oil to the hot pack; you can experiment by making your own microwaveable heating pad at home and adding different essential oils to see what works best for you.
1., 2., and 3. Ginger, Turmeric, & Holy Basil – This set of herbs forms a sort of trinity in Ayurvedic medicine. All of them have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric (a curry ingredient) contains curcumins which ease inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, according to the Methodist Research Institute in Indianapolis. “Each herb has its own scientific database of evidence,” says James Dillard, MD, author of The Chronic Pain Solution.
Although it is difficult to establish the mechanism of action of a plant due to the variety of its components, in vitro clinical trials have shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of arnica are based mainly on the inhibition of NF-kappa B transcription factor, which is a key part of the immunological and anti-inflammatory processes. This protein regulates the transcription of various inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukins, as well as that of the genes encoding COX-2 (an enzyme which favours inflammation).
When sudden changes occur in the weather or we overexert ourselves during physical activity, those of us who experience, or who already had, muscle and/or joint pain treat ourselves with the traditional prescriptions of conventional anti-inflammatories. There is a general tendency for us to take anti-inflammatories every time something hurts, as if they were water. Nevertheless, the damage caused to our bodies (liver, stomach, etc.) by anti-inflammatories is highly significant if these are abused. Symptomatic use of analgesics, such as paracetamol, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is almost always the first treatment option, and ibuprofen is one of the most widely used anti-rheumatic drugs.
“When I was pregnant two years ago with my daughter I had extreme pain in my right shoulder. It went on for months. They did cortisone shots, prescribed Loratab (Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen), and were ready to operate on a pregnant gal the pain was so severe. Eventually the cortisone shots worked and the pain went away. I am now pregnant again and at about 28 weeks the pain was back. This time the pain was worse. The joint hurt so bad I couldn't pull the covers over me in bed. I could only sleep on one side, and NOTHING worked. My chiropractor recommended Relief cream. I was skeptical that a cream could ease my pain when the medical community had nothing that worked. In a total act of desperation I had my husband rub it into the shoulder one night. I slept better than I had in weeks. He rubbed it in the next night and the pain was completely gone. Here I am now 34 weeks pregnant and the pain has been completely gone for 6 weeks. My husband has also used it on his back (after trying everything else under the sun) with similar results. Thank you for a truly amazing product. We have shared this info with our family and friends!” *
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.”
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage have several health benefits. They naturally support detox organs like the liver and kidneys, and they contain plenty of natural fiber, folate, and vitamin C. But they can also help to regulate inflammatory bacteria within the digestive tract, especially H. pylori, which is implicated in ulcers and other chronic digestive conditions. (25) Since the body obtains all of its nutrients via digestion, an inflamed digestive system will contribute to inflammation throughout the rest of the body. Eating cruciferous vegetables daily can help to promote the healthy elimination of toxins as well as the proper regulation of the digestive system.
Turmeric can be consumed in a variety of forms, including as a spice added to foods or drinks and encapsulated for those who are not tolerant of the signature spicy taste. Two to three teaspoons of turmeric daily can help to provide therapeutic levels of relief and preventive benefits with little side effects. Note: Turmeric absorbs best when taken in combination with black pepper (approximately 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper for every 1 teaspoon of turmeric). (17)
For example, water therapy is gentle on your body because the water supports the weight of your body and provides gentle resistance. The exercise is done in warm water, which is also soothing. There are many land-based exercise programs that can provide a gentle, endorphin-producing form of exercise, such as tai chi, or yoga programs designed for people with chronic pain conditions.
Apply to the affected area and massage into the skin gently. Always wash your hands after you have finished rubbing the cream, gel or spray into the skin. This is to make sure that you avoid rubbing this medicine into sensitive areas of the body such as the eyes. Do not apply to skin that is broken, or near the eyes, nose, mouth, genital or bottom (anal) areas. Do not use plasters or bandages (dressings) on top of these medicines. Generally these medicines are applied to the skin 2-4 times a day. However, for specific advice for your medicine, see the leaflet that comes inside the packet.
Most of these gels and creams won’t cure your ailment. You’ll probably run into countless negative reviews of products from people that complain that their pain is not gone. These types of products are not a cure. Pain relief creams and gels are a helpful way to reduce pain. With acute pain, these gels and creams help users get relief until treatment can occur. In the case of a sprained ankle or torn muscle, for instance, using this kind of medicine can be a good alternative to NSAIDs to help reduce pain. For chronic ailments like arthritis, these substances are merely a way to help sufferers cope with pain. They are a band-aid. Some aches and pains may be helped with further treatment but don’t expect miracles with these types of products. Just because they don’t completely remove pain doesn’t mean they aren’t helpful in some instances and for some people.
Even as you practice patience, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) can help ease the pain you're pushing through. The research behind medicine guidelines for lower back pain finds that these may give slightly better relief than acetaminophen (Tylenol). Over long periods, NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal problems, so don't take them for more than 10 days without consulting your doctor.
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