Thousands (if not millions) of Canadians suffer from pain every day. Pain can be acute and a result of something like a scraped knee, sprained or broken bone, which will get better over time, or can be chronic and much more severe – such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraines, or other pain disorders. Regardless of the cause, the goal is to find relief. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen are typically the go-to medications of choice when it comes to those that are seeking pain relief. However, too much of these medications over a prolonged period of time can lead to other health complications such as kidney and liver problems, ulcers, and more. In addition, opioids are also problematic when it comes to pain relief, as they are not meant to be used long-term. Prolonged use of opioids can result in the body becoming dependent on the drug, in addition to the drug itself becoming less successful in treating the pain, therefore requiring more which can then lead to addiction. As a result, family physicians across Canada like Dr. Ali Ghahary, as well as across the United States and other parts of the world, are working diligently to warn patients about the dangers of long-term use of opioids, and are instead helping patients find healthier ways to help relieve pain.
When it comes to chronic pain, it is generally broken down into two categories: Nociceptive or Neuropathic. Nociceptive pain is the result of damage being done to body tissue, and is usually described as an aching, sharp or throbbing pain; whereas Neuropathic pain occurs when there has been damage done to the nerves. Chronic pain can affect any area of the body, and it can so debilitating to the point where it may affect your ability to carry out your day to day activities, in addition to requiring you to take time off school or work, as well as affect your ability to socialize and keep personal relationships. Because pain can be so complex, finding relief is often a matter of trial and error. While doctors won’t shy away from prescribing patients medications when it is absolutely necessary, Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends introducing certain changes in lifestyle – such as regular, low-impact physical activity, healthy eating, and reducing stress – as part of their pain management plan.
Aside from medication and breaking certain unhealthy habits, finding relief from pain might actually be right under your fingertips through certain items you already own. For example, if you suffer from body aches or sprains/other related injuries, applying a cold compress to the affected area(s) for 10 minutes at a time can be significantly effective. Cold not only has an anesthetizing effect, but it can also reduce swelling and inflammation, as well as temporarily reduces nerve activity which results in a reduced level of pain. Alternatively, heat (from a heating pad or warm towel) can also reduce things like painful muscle spasms and joint stiffness. However, heat should not be applied to an injury for at least 48 hours. When applying heat directly to the skin, you should also make sure it’s not too hot so that you can avoid burning the skin. Certain essential oils are also great, natural ways of finding pain relief – especially lavender and peppermint oils. If the cause of your pain is due to underlying inflammation, lavender can help relieve this thanks to its analgesic properties. Similarly, peppermint oil can also treat pain caused by inflammation as well as a variety of other ailments including nausea and vomiting. The great thing about essential oils is that they can be used in many different ways. You can find relief by placing a few drops in your bathwater or shower (inhaling oil-infused steam can not only relieve pain, but is also found to be quite soothing and can even help with sleep), or gently massaging the oil directly onto the areas of your body that you find affected by pain. You can also relieve muscle and joint pain by soaking in an epsom salt bath for approximately 20 minutes. Epsom salt has been used as natural pain reliever for many, many decades as it contains exceptional anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also not uncommon to find certain brands of epsom salt infused with essential oils like the ones already mentioned.
Sometimes finding pain relief can also be a matter of simply opening up your cupboards, fridge, or taking a trip to the local grocery or fruit and vegetable store. Ginger is one of the most natural and healthiest remedies when it comes to not just treating pain and inflammation, but a wide range of other ailments such as nausea, indigestion, and high cholesterol…and it can even reduce the risk of things like heart disease and cancer. While raw ginger is the best and most effective way to go, ginger also comes in tea and candy form – though beware of the sugar! Adding a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon to your tea or to a glass of warm water and honey can also help to relieve pain and improve your overall health. Green, leafy vegetables (spinach or kale) or fruits (cherries) are also some of the top foods that can fight pain and inflammation.